On January 28th, I stepped on a TEDx stage and delivered “an idea worth spreading”
What is TED and TEDx?
I found that many people that I shared my good news with had not heard of TED or TEDx. So here is a brief explanation I gathered from various sources on the web:
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.
The difference between TED and TEDx events are that the former takes more of a global approach while the latter typically focuses on a local community that concentrates on local voices. “Officially, the ‘x’ in TEDx stands for independently organized TED event – but it’s more of a TED multiplied.
TEDx Events are not Equal
I’ve learned not all TedX events are equal regarding quality.
I attended my first TEDx event in early 2016. It was hosted by a University. It was free. I could hardly sleep the night before, I SO excited to finally go to a TEDx event. Five speakers were scheduled on a variety of topics. It is important to know that I tend to judge such events from a fairly high standard, having been in Toastmasters for thirty years. Toastmasters focuses on all aspects of public speaking – speech preparation, delivery, stage presence, serving as a master of ceremony, introductions, lectern etiquette, use of PowerPoint, props, organizing contests, conferences, special events, and more.
I arrived early to make sure I could sit up close enough to read lips (due to my hearing loss) I expected there would be a line. It turns out seating was no problem because HARDLY ANYONE ATTENDED. I think there were maybe 30 people in the auditorium for this event. I couldn’t believe it.
That was the first disappointment.
The second disappointment was the way the speakers were introduced. Since this was a student-organized TEDx event, students had the honor of introducing the speakers. But they did not take that honor very seriously. The introductions were, well, casual and sloppy. Not what I would expect to set the stage for a TEDx speaker.
The third disappointment was the quality of the speakers and their topics. A couple of the speakers were truly good and talked about “ideas worth spreading.” But the others, I’ve heard better from fellow Toastmaster s. The speakers who used PowerPoint didn’t adhere to the finer principals of effective slides, and their manipulation of the slides wasn’t seamless.
The event was four hours. That included the mandatory showing of Ted speaker videos, which, of course, were outstanding. What I saw at this TEDx would NEVER happen on a TED stage. I left with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was excited because I realized I did have enough skill and an important enough message to be on a TEDx stage. On the other hand, I was disenchanted. TEDx lost its glamor after that event.
Still, I had hopes that maybe one day I could be on a TEDx stage, although I had no idea how that might happen.
Well, in August a fellow Toastmaster who lives in Ventura County posted that there was going to be a TEDx in Camarillo and that they were taking applications for speakers. The requirements to apply were easy to find (not the case for most TEDx events); They wanted a two minute video, exact, sharing why we felt our message was important. The deadline for the video submission was early November. I submitted the video in mid-October. You can see it here.
The decisions would be made and applicants informed the by the 3rd week in November. I received an email from the organizer asking me to phone him. With pounding heart, I waited to hear what he had to say, “I’d like to let you know we’d like to have you as one of our Speakers. “ I think my “yahoo” could be heard a mile away.
The first meeting with all the chosen speakers (twelve of us) was the following week at the Camarillo Library. I do not know how the organizer knew to do all the right things, but he did – beginning with the hiring of independent consults skilled in preparing speakers for the TED and TEDx stage. Husband and wife, both having appeared more than once on the TED and TEDx stages, brought their knowledge and expertise to this first-time Camarillo event. The results were stellar. And I mean stellar.
There were only 100 tickets up for sale, and they sold out in four days. $50.00 each, which included complimentary BBQ dinner with beer or wine following the event. People who attended said this was one of the best TEDx events they’d ever attended. The library conference room was transformed into a TEDx setting with stage, lighting, screens and logo. Just beautiful.
There were nine of us who were able to prepare “an idea worth sharing” and practice delivering it as to be effective and engaging. At the dress rehearsal, I was totally blown away at how INTERESTING each of the talks was. All truly provided food for thought. Very different from the more “informational” speeches at my first TEDx event. I was there that very first meeting when the twelve of us began the task of identifying our core idea. It was pretty vague for most of us. But now, the ideas were clearly defined and presented. The professional coaching by Ted experts paid off in a huge way.
I’ll be sharing specifics on my experience as a speaker – techniques, etc. in upcoming blog posts. But for this post, it suffices to say, not all TEDx events are equal, and I am so very, very grateful that my experience as a TEDx speaker was an event that was planned and executed with the high TED standards in place. It was truly a remarkable success – and experience.