05/18/2016 11:34 EDT | Updated 05/19/2017 05:12 EDT

What It Is Like To Be A TEDx Speaker


Dec. 28, 2015 - TEDx Organizer: "Does this sound interesting? Would you like to be part of our TEDx family."

Me: YES YES... my goodness YES (said the voice in my mind). As I collected my thoughts, I calmly replied, "It would be my pleasure and I look forward to contributing to this event."

I was stunned -- I was going to be a TEDx speaker! After a few days of letting it all sink it, I started to think (and worry). It had slightly slipped my mind that being a speaker meant I had to actually write a speech! These pesky details!

Every TEDx event has a theme. This events' theme was "Innovating Our Future." Every speaker will talk about what that general theme means to them or how they interpret the concept. Initially I had NO clue where I fit. I haven't developed a swanky new app that is going to make a real difference for humanity or I haven't found a cure for cancer or done anything that I deemed remotely "innovative."

I was rather confused -- why on earth did they want me to speak? After a further conversation with the organizer, I began to understand more about TEDx. She explained that I had an innovative approach to life. I was taken aback. Really? Who me!? I had a massive stroke when I was 29, emergency brain surgery and made a remarkable recovery. I didn't realize "innovation" can also mean reinventing yourself physically and emotionally after a major health/life event.

I started writing. Over a dozen drafts later, content was relatively complete. My speech was about 15 minutes long -- to me, that was a lot of content to have memorized! I started by dividing my speech into six sections (natural breaks) and kept reading it, trying to get the words in my brain. I'm a visual learner, so I colour coded my draft, had different symbols throughout the speech, had different mnemonics to help me visualize the speech in my mind.

Then it came time to say my speech without any papers -- so I'd turn my webcam on, say my speech and then play the webcam recording, making note of what I had forgotten to say, where I fumbled, which sentences that just didn't sound good. The more I said it out loud, the more confident I became.

Next up, saying it in front of family and friends. The first few times were SO nerve-racking. You would think that saying it in an intimate setting with friends and family that you love and respect would be easy, but it's not. I knew I had to bite the bullet and go out of my comfort zone because it would make me stronger and more confident.

I had a practice session with the organizers on March 22, 2016 -- which was one month away from the event day. I found it helped me to be in the event space, see the surroundings, which part of the stage I would stand and say the speech out loud. Over the next month, I continued practicing, saying it over and over either on my own or with friends/family.

April 20th - it was THE day! I had an odd mix of being insanely nervous (those butterflies in my stomach were having a field day) and crazy excited -- I couldn't wait to be on stage and share my story!

I initially had requested to speak in the morning sessions -- I wanted to get it over with and enjoy the day. But I was asked to be the final speaker -- I felt it was a tremendous honour. So, on event day, I had to wait. My speech was scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Every 5 minutes I'd look at my phone -- counting down the minutes until I would take the stage.

2 p.m. came -- the team backstage wired me up with my wireless microphone, gave me the clicker (I had two slides). The 10 minutes waiting for the speaker ahead of me was utterly agonizing. My heart was racing! I knew I just had to start strong and remember my first line, the rest would come (or that's what I told myself).

And so I began and I experienced something I had never experienced before. My speech came to me in these virtual cue cards. My first line would appear in my brain and after I said it, it would disappear and the next line would come up. I had to be in the moment because my brain would not allow me to think ahead. As I was speaking, it terrified me. What if I would forget my next line? But it was a blessing. I was forced to be present, in that moment and think about the emotions in my story.

When I finished and walked backstage, it was overwhelming -- I was shaking (couldn't even open my water bottle), but was so happy. The praise, compliments and hugs were incredible.

TEDx allowed me to learn more about myself, step outside my comfort zone but most importantly, share an idea with the world.


Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook