04 Apr 2016

Have you ever asked yourself, “What have I gotten myself into now?”

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By Linda Swindling on April 4, 2016

That and several other questions came to mind recently, right before I went on stage to audition for TEDxSMU. Appropriately, the title of my six minute talk was “The World Needs You to Ask Outrageously.” When I saw the format and speaker line up, my name was last.

Because I had never given such a short speech, my first thought was being last would be beneficial. I could watch the other speakers, see how they did and then be more prepared. WRONG! They were good. Their educational backgrounds and experiences are diverse and humbling. Featured in our eight speakers were college professors, a CEO, a brain injury survivor, as well as people who had experienced and overcome discrimination.

As I waited and questioned my decision to participate, I could check off many “outside my comfort zone” boxes:

_____  Calculated risk? Yes. There were judges for this program.

_____  Uncomfortable? Yep. There would be a surprise question at the end of your talk.

_____  Outrageous? Definitely. I invited people I know and respect to attend.

_____  Was there an exit I could sneak out without my family and friends noticing? Nope. Probably not.

Thanks to the support of my friends and family, I survived the experience and will move on to speak at the TEDxSMU event this fall. Since then several people have told me they want to do their own short talk. Here are some questions to ask in preparation.

What is it you want to tell the world?

Each speaker that night had a unique perspective and personal experience with a topic they felt passionate. The presenters shared stories of a brain injury, surviving discrimination, teaching children science, running a business and the importance of a diverse culture.

Can you be to the point?

If you haven’t seen them, TED and TEDx talks are much shorter than a typical speech. At six minutes, the talk was one-tenth the time of my usual hour speech. You only have a limited time. So pick the clearest point or idea you want to across. The speakers’ delivery style in this short time included reenacting a car accident, speaking in poetry/verse, telling stories and describing personal experiences.

What are the odds my topic will be selected?

Surprisingly, the topic and your experience may be more important than your delivery style. Depending on the theme of the talks, your title may fit (or not) with the subject of the speeches. My application wasn’t selected the first year. However, the topic of Asking Outrageously was a fit for this year.

Should you do it?

Of course you should. All of the speakers were approachable and authentic. And they all shared a passion to convey their message. Watch the videos of past presenters. There is coaching to help you prepare. Practice your talk to be succinct.

What’s the worst that can happen?

That was my outrageous question. I took a calculated risk and it paid off. And, know what? The world needs you to ask outrageously.


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