I failed my TEDx talk

Or at least that is one way to look at it.

On Saturday 23rd April 2022, I walked out on stage and stood on that famous red dot. The journey there had been long and uncertain but I had made it. I felt absolutely sure that I knew my talk inside out, I was going to smash this.

As I felt the bright lights and the eyes of the audience all on me, I began.

‘This is a story about 9 little words.’

Yes, I was really nailing this! I continued…

‘Adjectives, nouns and verbs.

This is a story about my shift,

And how words can be truly OUR gift.’

This is a story about 9 little words.’

I paused for dramatic effect and then with my fingers I counted the 9 words in question as I recited the David Orr Quote:

‘Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.’

I was on a roll!

Confidently I kept going until suddenly, and I don’t know when exactly, my mind went blank.

I had nailed this in the shower, in rehearsals, in the car park 5 minutes earlier, why was my mind blank now?

My internal monologue started to panic. I knew the hard work that the TEDx Northwich team had put into the event and us as speakers. They had put me on last because my message of hope was supposed to finish the show with a bang but now there I was.

Lost on stage and feeling hopeless.

I kept talking of course, trying to find my way but in all honesty I couldn’t tell you what I said at this point. All I remember is the self deprecating voice inside my head telling me I was letting everyone down, I was letting myself down.

This was my moment and I was fucking it up!

There was a wonderful woman at the front who had our talks printed out, she was ready to give us prompts if we lost our way but how could she help me?

I didn’t know where I was so how could she? I could see out of the corner of my eye she was shuffling paper trying to figure out what I needed. Eventually, in a panicked pause she threw me a life line (literally) and some how I was able to find my way back to my talk and finish as strong as I started.

‘Imagine,’ I said, relieved because I knew this was going to be over soon.

‘Imagine for one moment if business owners all over the world…’ (I was supposed to say country but never mind), ‘…just did one action of hope and then spoke about it. Inspiring others to do the same.

Imagine the change we could create.

Is this an idea you could entertain?’

And then, as planned I held up 9 fingers and prompted the audience to join in with me at the end repeating the quote I had already said a thousand times.

‘Hope is a verb with it’s sleeves rolled up.’

The audience played their part. They cheered and clapped and I left the stage with purpose, as if it had all gone perfectly to plan.

Of course it hadn’t and I felt sick.

The first person I saw was Sam Newey, the licence holder of TEDx Northwich and one of the most incredible humans I have ever met. The whole event was run my volunteers and during my time with them they all told me individually why they do it – because of Sam.

She is such a strong, quiet and compassionate presence in Northwich. Dedicating herself to her community, giving so much that people just want to show up and give back to her.

She held her arms open and gave me a big hug.

‘You did it!’ she said. ‘You were amazing!’

I know this isn’t a woman that bullshits but at that moment I didn’t believe her. I also didn’t believe all the others who told me the same thing afterwards.

But, with little time to wallow and the relief of it being over, I threw myself into celebrations. I went to the pub, met with friends who had traveled far to see the event and drank fizz with fellow speakers and organisers who were all so kind and supportive.

I had an absolute ball but when I was finally on my own again at 4am, in the darkness the dread came back.

It wasn’t until I was on the train on the way home that the good stuff finally started to sink in.

Later that evening I had the most incredible realisation.

My talk wasn’t perfect, It wasn’t what I had planned and it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

But it was good enough.

I am good enough.

What’s more, perfection is about control and ego. Actually what mattered to me more was the message.

Later that evening I had the most incredible realisation.

My talk wasn’t perfect, It wasn’t what I had planned and it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

But it was good enough.

I am good enough.

What’s more, perfection is about control and ego. Actually what mattered to me more was the message.

I wanted people to walk away from that TEDx talk inspired. I wanted them to feel hopeful. I wanted them to know that doing good things and talking about it isn’t showing off, it is being a role model and giving others ideas about how they can increase their impact.

I wanted people to know that what they say and do really matters.

I wanted people to understand the ripple effect of their actions and words go beyond what we could ever know.

I wanted people who felt stuck in the world, who felt the worlds problems were too big and scary to know that they can make a difference. It doesn’t matter how big or small just doing SOMETHING and talking about it will shift the energy, helping both them and those around them.

Despite not getting it perfect, I do believe I communicated that.

And nothing else matters.

My big TEDx takeaway

If you know your message in your bones and you know the point you want to communicate, you will do it.

It might not be as you planned, it might not be perfect but it will be enough.

This lesson can be applied to social media posts, blogs, videos, workshops, training sessions or even TEDx talks.

The most important thing is the impact we have. Not how we have it.

I am left with HOPE.

Hope that my message landed with at least one person in the audience.

Hope that the ripple effect would create positive change that I will never see or understand.

Hope that people didn’t really notice that I fucked up my lines.

Hope that TEDx will accept my talk, put it on their You Tube channel and I can officially call myself a TEDx speaker.

Right now, I only have hope and that is enough.

To all those who sent me beautiful messages of support or commented on my post, to the fellow speakers and organisers of the TEDx Northwich event, thank you!

I feel honoured to have been part of it and there is a part of me that knows the lesson I learnt that day was more valuable than being perfect.

I hope.

PS. If you are considering a TEDx talk, please look no further than Northwich. They offer the most incredible support and are the warmest people you could ever hope to meet. I am totally in love with all of them.

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