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31 Jan 2014, by

TEDx Redux

TEDX Me Onstage

It’s been only a matter of weeks since I was lucky enough to see a big juicy dream of mine come true. And unlike much fleeting felicity in life, I have been able to savor the experience for the intervening weeks. (I’m still on a bit of a high, truth be told…)

One thing, though, I felt compelled to do: write down my moment by moment emotions on the day itself…to help me preserve the “memory mosaic”, with all its rich colors and hues.

So I thought, why not share it with you?

On the day of TEDxHomeBushRdWomen event, I was scheduled to speak last. That meant I sat on pins and needles for hours and clearly couldn’t allow myself to get carried away by all the inspiration that day – for fear I’d forget my own words! (More than a little difficult with all the wit and wisdom being shared onstage.)

Over the past few months we’d met and mingled, marvelled at each other’s expertise and inspiring stories…and then, finally relaxed into a comfortable rapport. We’d collaborated on crafting our messages and listened with satisfaction as various versions of each person’s presentation evolved. But on the day itself, there were still plenty of surprises: new words, new twists and fresh energy – combined with audience feedback – it all left me transfixed. So much for trying to stay un-carried away!

And it wasn’t just the speakers.

As I found myself gazing at the block letters, “TEDx”, directly  in front of me, something became instantly clear. The letters didn’t just spell out the name of the event, they articulated a dream I hardly dared to admit to myself. A dream I was about to see come true. Those four red letters symbolized so much, they made me as emotional as the day I got married! To my surprise (and certainly beyond my control) came tears, joy, excitement – one emotion welling up right after the other. I didn’t know if would burst out crying or in dissolve in nervous laughter! But I held it together. And, also just as the day of my wedding, I remembered to savor what was happening. I took a “heart picture”, as my grandmother used to call it, to help me remember the moment forever.

Finally, after four hours, it was my turn to step onto the stage.

Not just onto the stage, but onto the little round red TED Talk rug. The place where it would all come together or all fall apart.

It came together. That little spot of carpet became my source of strength…where I finally found my voice. The voice that’s tried to be heard since I was a young girl and wrote fanciful fairy stories; then as a philosophy student, striving to extract new meaning out of ancient texts; and later in life, edited to fit the clipped script of a new anchor. After more than four decades of hopeful expression, my voice finally emerged on my TEDx talk day, once again reinvented – but finally sounding real.

Then, in what seemed like just moments, it was over.

 

TEDxHomeBushRdWomen Post-TEDx Talk Pose

TEDxHomeBushRdWomen Post-TEDx Talk Pose

 

Posing for pictures with everyone afterward, I realised I had a “wedding headache”. You know the kind that spreads across the back of your head – that comes from wide smiles that last longer than usual? The TEDxHomeBushRdWomen crew was in celebration mode, as we moved onto the “reception” (a dinner at a local pub). There, we had a chance to exhale and deconstruct the day, weeks and months of meticulous planning and practicing and promoting required to pull this all together.

A coup, a triumph: the first TEDx Women event in New Zealand. Ever.

As always, just a few of us had the chance to shine in the spotlight that day onstage, while the many who made the dream real remained in the shadows, unsung but much appreciated. That night, we could properly acknowledge them. We thanked them, hugged them and toasted their talents: from the firecracker organizer (a dream-maker extraordinaire) to the cadre of committed volunteers, astute advisers, sponsors (better described as “believers”), down to the goodie bag fillers – whose job was for more important than they may even have realized.

Chocolate and coffee? Guaranteed to make any event better.

When the night finally ended and the party disbanded, once again I was surprised. I felt a little bereft. For a few brief months we’d created a “tribe” – women woven together by a common purpose, focus and strength. Not just sharing our beliefs but taking a shared risk: Would all this hard work make an impact? Would TEDXHomeBushRdWomen be successful?

It was.

And really, it wasn’t over. To counter the letdown that comes at the end of a wedding day, there is something called “the honeymoon”. Ours is seeing our “Ideas Worth Spreading” start to wend their way around the world online. That said, we aren’t content just to sit back and watch. We know this “basking in the afterglow” won’t sustain us for long. No, we’re already looking forward to our anniversary.

Next year?

All of us involved with TEDxHomeBushRdWomen hope we’ve earned the chance to put Wellington, New Zealand on the map once again. It will require even more commitment, planning and dreaming.

Believe me, it all began even before our very own TED Talk stage went dark…

Part of that process? Finding out exactly what impact we might have had. Watch – and let us know if and how any our words may have impacted your lives.

Unlike newlyweds, we aren’t all absorbed with ourselves. We want to see your dreams come true. And if they do, we’d love to hear about it…

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After first protesting that I don’t really have time to start networking online, with so little free time to spare in the real world, a few years ago I ventured into cyberspace anyway. I ended up embracing social media with arms open wide. At my core, I am a huge believer in connecting, building communities based on common interests and communicating…all positives. But today I have to admit two things: it really does take lots of time and sometimes online interactions aren’t so positive.

As you may be aware, I facebook live during our 5 and 10pm newscasts. I love the instant feedback! What I don’t love is some of the vicious responses I sometimes am forced to read. To be fair, those are in the minority but when commenters hide behind their online anonymity to lash out at others (or me), it makes me angry.

First, I think it’s cowardly. Second, I think it’s a wasted opportunity to really dissect issues with others who are trying to make it a worthwhile experience. Clearly, this doesn’t just happen on our web page. Recently the Modesto Bee had to shut down a blogsite it created because comments got so out of control. Vicious comments ruin the experience for everybody. Finally, I think it only proves naysayers have made a valid point about technology destroying people’s ability to connect and interact with civility. They warn more people eventually will find it easier and more freeing to face screens instead of each other in society.

I strongly disagree. Basic human instinct drives us to connect, and that means in person. Consider “tweet-ups” – a phenomenon I first discovered locally.. People who connect via Twitter decide to meet face to face once a month to mingle. Another phenomenon I learned about via NPR: box truck meet-ups at which groups of people who met online meet after-hours in West Oakland and create a real-world community, if only temporarily. The pop culture trend is apparently growing!

Remember when the online world of Second Life was first invented in 2003? Critics warned people would naturally prefer to choose ideal avatars and interact only online in an ideal world of their making. Again, I never bought into that as an endgame. Even though it’s proved to be popular as a game, 8 years later people still seem to have a built-in need to see each others faces, read each other’s body language, even look into each other’s eyes and reach out and touch someone physically.

Today we are working through the growing pains of integrating our online and real-world interactions and communities. On my facebook page, I’ve only had one really negative “friend” I felt I had to boot for rude comments and behavior. I have that right – to control my own wall. The friends who do post there are polite, positive and respectful. There is a clearly set tone we all choose to abide by. When I’m facebooking for the station, I don’t have the power to block mean comments but I try to confront the commenters when I can. What seems to work best is when it’s not just me, but others in the community who jump in to help draw the line. It takes time and effort most of would rather not have to expend but it’s necessary.

So, no, I do not think social media is making our society more anti-social. There are individuals (the ModBee referred to them as trolls) who do spew vitriol. They may be emboldened by their online masks, but don’t we all know they exist in the real world too? We’ve learned some effective ways to set boundaries for them in the real world, and as an online society, by working together, we can set the rules here too. The power of the human spirit can transcend the downsides of technology.

(originally published on cbssacramento.com)

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