The curtains are closed, the stage is dark and the audience has left. That’s it, over, done, finished, I’ve had my moment, panic over and time for reflection. I’ve just delivered a TED talk at TEDxTruro, not big TED, just his cuddly little nephew across the water but for me a big enough challenge to step into previously ‘Uncharted Waters’ for the day.

For those of you who haven’t bumped into TED, It stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is an American media organization that posts talks online for free distribution under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TED was conceived by Richard Saul Wurman in February 1984 as a conference; it has been held annually since 1990 and I must say that I really enjoy watching the talks myself.

Unchartered Waters the theme of TEDXTruro 2019

TEDx brings the spirit of TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading to local communities around the globe. TEDx events are organized by curious individuals who seek to discover ideas and spark conversations in their own community. According to their website  – ‘TEDxTruro is a place for thinkers and doers from all fields to share their ideas and their work, capturing the imagination, sparking conversation and encouraging discovery along the way. This year, 2019, TEDxTruro is inviting speakers to share their stories of making journeys into the unknown, both literally and figuratively.’

I was invited to submit an idea in the Spring of 2019 and was really excited to hear that I’d been chosen to present my talk at the end of May, something that I held as being quite an honour, notwithstanding that they had many other Environmental Activist Grandmas to choose from!

TED Talk. Pat Smith AKA Action Nan with other speakers from the event

The summer coasted along and ideas for subject matter came and went until I was galvanised into action by being called in to do a run through with the organisers, so a script was duly written and off I went, full of confidence and knowing that public speaking was quite a regular occurrence in my life. That all changed when I had to stand in a little office and start speaking in front of 3 very amicable and non-challenging ladies. I was terrified, shaking hands, dry mouth, feeling sick and completely lost for words. I had to read my script to get by and at this point, I wondered what I was letting myself in for! I realised that I needed to practise long and hard and there was no way that I could ‘wing it’ and get by.

So my Talk became part of everyday life, I rewrote it several times and honed it to my own high standards of perfection. I recorded it onto my phone and every car journey, morning walk, dentist appointment et al would find me listening in, over and over again. PowerPoint presentation perfected and every photograph accredited, it was time to practise on family and friends as the clock counted down to Rehearsal Day.

Hairdo booked, comfortable clothes with a clip-on waistband for the microphone, no clanking jewellery, no stripes (too blurry on video) relaxed poise, deep breathing to calm the nerves, no rushing, no pressure – OMG, what have I done? This was the list going over and over in my head together with mild panic in the final week. I knew the talk inside out and everyone kept saying, You’ll be fine, you do this all the time, why are you so worried about it? But this was different, I had a time limit, I had to keep to the script, I couldn’t see my audience and the passion that springs from within me when I talk seemed stifled. It was just me in the spotlight on the circle of red carpet and silence……………..

I rocked up for the rehearsal with my family’s words ringing in my ears, be yourself Mum, nobody else knows your script, speak from the heart and I just did it. The big day arrived and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. All my fellow speakers had such interesting and inspirational stories, yes we were all nervous but supportive of one another and I learned a lot from listening to them.

TED Talk finale

On reflection, I have been wondering what has made TED so successful over the years? I truly believe that we humans were designed to communicate by using the spoken word and in this age of global interconnection of minimal sound bytes, we are craving the comfort of listening to stories and wisdom unfold from our families and friends around the proverbial campfire. These stories awaken neurological pathways in our brains which stimulate our imagination and create empathy with the speaker, tapping into unconscious skills which allow us to be inspired, empowered and galvanised into action. Powerful stuff indeed and far too thin on the ground in our digital age.

So Long Live TED, keep encouraging us to share our knowledge and stories as only human beings can, rejoicing in the power of the spoken word which allows us to walk in other men’s shoes and brings us closer together.