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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I think it’s time to take a chill pill.

It’s 2am and I have to admit it’s not just the wild Wellington winds that have awakened me. Even though Wellington is, I think, the only place in the world where you wake up wondering “was that an earthquake or just a gale force gust?” because your bed can shake you awake during both.

And both happen pretty regularly.

No, the reason I’m conscious at the moment is that my subconscious is apparently on overdrive. It’s filled with words and some high level anticipation because in one week I’m taking the stage to give a TED talk. Well, a TEDx Women talk, to be precise. I describe it as a “baby TED” – just the very first rung of that ladder to the top, where you find the deepest insight and the most motivating inspiration.

I’ll bet even the big speakers have a few sleepless nights.

Speaking on a TED talk stage is a dream come true for me. And one I doubt I would have had if I hadn’t moved to New Zealand. There seem to be a few more ‘firsts’ to be claimed down here. This is the first TEDx Women event in the country.

No pressure.

There are several tickets left to sell. One of the big name speakers got cold feet. And there is of course a 12-13 minute speech to be able to share without notes – a first-ever for me! So, I’m sure I have a few raw nerves that are stirring my synapses at night. In the mornings, I keep waking up with the last few frames of dreams as wild as the winds outside playing in my head. Just one? Me asking President Obama if his kids eat fast food.

I don’t know where that last dream fits into the whole picture but thought I’d mention it in case anyone else has any insight.

When I woke up tonight, I went downstairs to get a glass of water and wash down a preventative vitamin supplement (to keep my immune system strong – it tends to flag when I am stressed), I had a fleeting thought: “I’m awake, so why not practice my speech again?”.

Hence the first line of my blog. Forget the vitamin, time to take a chill pill.

Yes, it’s a dream come true and likely a once in a lifetime opportunity. Yes, I read somewhere that ideally I should get about 50 hours of practice in before the big day. But really. There’s a limit. I must be a little more anxious than I realised.

It’s eye-opening, getting a brief peek behind the curtain of consciousness.

So maybe it’s a blessing that last gust and bed shake brought me to my senses. It’s better to be clear about what’s going on inside isn’t it? I’ll call it my own “stroke of insight” although, like my planned talk, nowhere near as deep and inspiring as Jill Bolte Taylor’s iconic TED talk.

But, also like what I plan to say on stage, this moment of insight opens to the door to some practical steps I will now take.

Taking a walk through the Botanic Garden can clear my mind faster than anything else I’ve tried, so I’ll aim for a stroll a day. And even though I haven’t mastered meditating, managing to quiet my chatterbox brain for just a few minutes is better than doing nothing. I should also probably cut back a little on the coffee – just in case that’s as much to blame for waking me up in the middle of the night… That will likely be my biggest challenge in this craft-coffee culture here in “the coolest little capital in the world“!

Also important to remember? One of my mantras: life is about enjoying the moment.

That means, I’ll go and see my friend perform in her play this weekend, enjoy the challenge of my new profession by focusing mainly on my work next week, and on the big day next Saturday I’ll relish the once-in-a-lifetime sensation of setting foot on the little round rug on a TED talk stage.

And I’ll have fun doing it, no matter what happens.

Which is pretty much “My idea worth spreading”, the TED Talk raison d’etre. Maybe I just had to prove it to myself once again before daring to share it on a Wellington – and maybe even a world -stage.

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