Education

Two Things I Learned During my TEDx Experience

The first thing I learned during my TEDx experience is that I am not all that special or unique.

The second thing I learned is that I absolutely have an idea worth spreading. Maybe even a few of them. So do you.

Stepping out onto the stage at TEDxMcHenry, I was nervous. I am a speaker, and I love speaking to groups of people around the country. This was different because it had a once-in-a-lifetime feel, and there is a certain weight to stepping onto a TEDx stage. I had butterflies in my stomach and I wondered if the audience could tell that my hand was trembling a wee bit. I took a breath and I looked at their expectant faces and I told my story.

I told my story as if it were the last story I would be able to tell.

I told my story as if it were an idea worth spreading.

I told my story knowing that I am not all that special, that we all have stories that are worth sharing.

I told my story with a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity.


My journey to TEDxMcHenry started in November 2018 and culminated on Saturday, April 13, 2019. It was one of those things that sounded like an awesome idea five months out from the event, but as it got closer and closer, the “what have I gotten myself into?” thoughts started infiltrating my mind. I was excited, nervous, scared, intimidated, thrilled and overwhelmed at times. In the end, I would do it again over and over. It was an amazing experience in so many ways.

Here’s how it worked for me. Way back in November, I determined my topic and applied for TEDxMcHenry. I then refined my talk in preparation for a live audition. After I was chosen as a speaker, I was given feedback that helped me edit my talk even further. Over the course of the months of February and March, I was still editing what I wanted to say.

Finally, in the third week of March, I recorded what I determined was my final draft. I listened to that recording over and over, memorizing it in parts. For that last month before my talk, I would rehearse 20 minutes or so per day. I would rehearse in the car, in the bathroom getting ready in the morning, while doing laundry, etc. I recruited a friend who put up with me rehearsing to her over and over. I did exactly what we tell students to do when they are studying for final exams–I studied often, for short periods of time, and in different locations.

I practiced in a backwards fashion, I first memorized all the parts of the talk and then I formed a mental outline of the talk. As the event neared, in addition to rehearsing my entire talk each day, I would also run through my mental outline several times a day. Full disclosure, this was not a well-thought out strategy. It was just how it happened for me, and it worked.

In the week before my talk, I rehearsed in front of Quincy teachers. Other than my family, there are no opinions I value more than their opinions. I know that if I can do my talk in front of them, I can absolutely do it for a room full of strangers. They gave me positive feedback and great suggestions. It was so helpful to do the talk in front of a group because there are certain elements like how much space to leave for laughter that only come through that type of rehearsal.

All the while, as I was rehearsing my talk, I was also practicing some important self-talk. I continually reminded myself that all the other speakers were probably feeling the same nerves, apprehension, excitement, and self-doubt that I was feeling. I also told myself over and over to embrace this opportunity in the same way I would if it were my last day on this earth. It might sound morbid, but I often challenge myself to live out the day as if it were my last.

My husband took the road trip to McHenry with me and it was incredible to share the experience with him. There were thirteen speakers in total, and they were such lovely people to spend the day with and to learn from. The event organizers from McHenry were fantastic. I was the tenth talk of the day and the audience was incredibly engaged and responsive still, which added a special element of joy to the talk.

I was almost sad to finish my talk, to end the journey. Because the journey really is the destination, isn’t it? And, I can’t wait to do it again…in a year or so. Right now I am really enjoying listening to music or podcasts in the car rather than feeling pressure to rehearse all the time.

I can’t wait to share my talk with you when it comes out in a month or so…here are two hints in the meantime. First, my talk was called “Serendipity is Everywhere”. Second, despite what I might have said in my talk, I really truly only have one husband.

It is amazing how challenges allow us to develop new skills and new perceptions of ourselves. Whether your goal is to run a marathon, do a TEDx talk, act in a play…whatever it is, I encourage you to embrace it today.

Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew.

-Cicely Tyson

3 thoughts on “Two Things I Learned During my TEDx Experience”

  1. I volunteered at the TEDx McHenry event, and had the pleasure of getting to see you talk. Congratulations on conquering your fears! Don’t ever stop, Allyson Apsey.

    Liked by 1 person

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