“I was invited to give the talk that very afternoon! I had four hours to prepare my talk,” he said. “I literally put my Keynote file into a Dropbox and text messaged the link to the organizers as I jumped in the shower. It was like this scene from The Brady Bunch.”
The opportunity to give a TEDx talk was a phenomenally fortuitous moment of chance. About a month ago, my wife and I were planning the remainder of our workday on a Friday afternoon and making plans for that evening. It was a little after 2 in the afternoon. The phone rang. It was a coordinator of TEDxHampshire College. They had a last minute cancellation and were wondering if I could fill in. Of course I would! I thought they were talking at least a week in the future … but they were talking about that evening! I had 4 hours to prep my talk, get presentable and get over there before the program began!
I give many talks to elementary schools each year. Not on the topic of my challenging childhood, but on the topic of getting that first book published and the creative process I take to create my books. So with that, I had a collection of slides that detail my growth as an artist. But that slideshow is for a 45-minute presentation and I knew that my TEDx talk could encompass so much more. I have never talked so openly and transparently about the circumstances surrounding my childhood. So I edited my school visit slideshow — deleting some slides, adding some other slides that could more fully tell my story even when I’m speaking. I’m obsessed with telling stories with words and pictures.
At the end of the day, it was far better to have four hours of anxiety than four months of anxiety. And with that, I think I was really able to shoot from the hip and candidly tell my story. The audience’s reaction was tremendous. Many folks congratulated me afterwards. The outpouring of support since the TEDx video has been released has been tremendous. Public sentiments have poured in from just about every means of communication but a carrier pigeon. Some private messages have been from aspiring artists who have lived through similar experiences and derived much hope from my story.
It’s proof that, yes, rehearsing and constantly reworking a talk is vital. But that, sometimes, just speaking from the heart is even more powerful.