It really was such a great experience! More than I expected, especially because I didn’t know what to expect in the first place (apart from the round red carpet that speakers stand on so they don’t move around the stage and make the public dizzy).
Lesson 1 – rehearse so you can prepare for surprising stress
I went to Chatham a day before the talk, so that I can go to the rehearsal that was scheduled that evening. It was also good for meeting the other speakers (or, at least, part of them) – so much better to know you are not alone, whatever it is you’re going through!
I can never say it enough: rehearsal is the queen of preparation, because no matter how well you think you are prepared, ‘taking the stage’ before you actually have your audience there doesn’t compare to anything. I went up on the stage and started to speak and go through my slides (which was good, because the last one was missing and we had time to add it). But what struck me was the light. When you go up on that stage, the light in your face is so bright that I could have really used a pair of sunglasses. I couldn’t see the audience, of course, but what also happened was I coudn’t remember my words – that light was an issue for me because I couldn’t focus on anything anymore. It was a new kind of stress I hadn’t prepared myself for.
So what I did was, when I went back to the hotel to prepare some more, I rehearsed with the light in my eyes – well, close enough to disturb me, so that I could re-focus on what I had to say and forget about the light altogether.
Lesson 2 – a good song in the morning really pumps you up
I woke up in the morning of the talk a bit tired – because I could hardly fall asleep the night before, with the speech continuously rolling in my head. I turned on the TV and there was an interview with Kelly Clarkson and I could hear the background song ‘Stronger’. Well, coincidence or not, it was all I needed, not that all the lyrics were a perfect match for me, but because the whole idea that ‘what doesn’t kills you makes you stronger, stronger’ – you get the idea. I listened to it all the way to the venue.
Lesson 3 – if you are there to enjoy it, you will
It was my first TedX talk, an old dream of mine that was coming true. So I was excited, anxious, happy, nervous, looking forward to start, curious, pumped up, adrenaline driven, counting my breaths and thirsty for more. I went backstage to get my mic and get ready and had a couple of precious seconds of actually noticing where I was, what I was doing and what was going on around me and just enjoying it. Anxiety before a speech is so normal and so good, because it makes you want to make it better each time. What would be the fun without it, the energy, the drive that come with it? But to have those few seconds of just enjoying that moment of your life, knowing this is finally going to happen and you’ll go there and make that speech – that, for me, was unexpected and welcome:)! It made me feel good about everything around me and forget my fears – or at least make them work with me, not against me.
Lesson 4 – be prepared to cry
I’m always prepared to cry when I hear speeches, because I know I usually get emotional in front of passions shared. But no matter how much I know that, it always takes me by surprise, because it’s a different feeling each time. Hearing those people share so many ideas and stories with such passion and talent and energy is almost overwhelming to me. That energy in the room can move mountains if anyone ever thinks to bottle it up!
Lesson 5 – it’s exhausting and rewarding
I felt so tired when the day was over – from the preparation, nerves, ideas that were now trying to fit in my head and the feeling that I didn’t want it to be over! I felt as if I’d just been at full-day a concert with all of my favourite bands and now, on my way home, I just wanted to hear them one more time, for the last time, and then one more time for the last time.
Looking forward to the next!
PS: my script in full. It’s the first time I’ve memorized a speech – God is it hard work, actors are my new heroes!