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  • Lenore Lambert

I'm up to TEDx talk version 7!!

It’s now less than four months until I take to the TEDx stage in the US. I thought you might like a peek into what this journey involves.

I’ve been working with an organisation that prepares you for TEDx talks and I’m learning that these are very particular animals.

Most weeks I sign up for a talk practice on Zoom – you can have a one minute slot, a five minute slot, or a keynote – that is, you get to practice your whole talk. The coach and other participants all give you feedback.

My first practise session taught me a couple of key things:

1)      Don’t memorise ANYTHING until you’ve finalised your talk because…

2)      You’ll rewrite it a stack of times

I’m now up to version SEVEN!

I have two primary challenges. First, I have two key messages I want to get across, and both of them could be entire talks themselves.

You might remember my draft title (which hasn’t changed yet) is:

Why chasing happiness is nuts, and what to do instead.

Within that context, my two messages are

1)      Aiming to have an all-happy life is delusional, aim to flourish instead. (Flourishing includes the bumpy bits as well as the pleasant stuff.)

2)      There is no one silver bullet that delivers flourishing. There are in fact nine planks to that raft (the Nine Elements of Human Flourishing).

My talk is only 15 minutes long, so I don’t have time to go through all Nine Elements, rather I’m honing in on two that are often under-nourished in our modern societies. Here are the Elements again. Which of them would you say are under-baked in this day and age?

My other primary challenge is, I’m realising an unanticipated symptom of my emphasis on living in the present. TEDx talks are stories worth sharing and so the key messages need to be embedded in story. They recommend brainstorming all the stories you enjoy telling and choosing from among them.

The problem is I spend almost no time thinking about my past. When I’m with others I hardly ever regale them with stories. I tend to ask questions and listen. If there are interesting issues of the day, I’ll get involved in discussions exploring them. But I rarely take up the oxygen in a room with story-telling about myself.

The net result of this is that I really struggle to think of engaging stories to tell!

I started by asking myself when I remember feeling inspired. I remembered the graduation dinners we used to have at the end of my leadership program which went for 3-6 months. The participants would give a 3–5-minute speech on what difference, if any, the program had made to them.

At the very first graduation dinner, a guy stood up and said:

My wife tells me she has a new husband. My kids tell me they have a new Dad. And they all tell me they like the new one better than the old one!

That still gives me goose bumps.

I’d sit there for the whole 90 minutes, feeling so fulfilled, and honoured to have been part of the growth journey for these people.

However, I was worried that it would sound like I was promoting my leadership program (you’re not allowed to promote any business through TEDx talks). I wasn’t, I closed the doors on that business last year so that I could focus on Flourish. But the audience wouldn’t know that. Nor would the moderators who approve or don’t approve your talk to go onto the TEDx YouTube channel.

At my next practice, the speaker coach agreed with this, so I was back to the drawing board, feeling a little bit of panic, because I find it so hard to think of more stories! Most of the ones I remember from my youth are painful rather than happy, funny or inspiring (the kind I'm short on), so I felt a bit stuck.

I finally remembered another one – a surprising instruction from a meditation teacher on one of my first retreats. I haven’t chucked that one out yet, so I can’t tell you what it is. But the more I practice the talk, the less interesting it seems. Last week I did another practice and the speaker coach hinted that I might be right.

Things are starting to move now - last week was the first deliverable on the road to the stage – I had to submit my first draft of the talk. It’s starting to feel real!

Now, if anyone who knows me can think of surprising, inspiring or funny stories that involve me, please share them with me! HELP!!!

And those of you who practise mindfulness, beware a possible symptom of dwelling in the present a lot – you may forget your historical stories! I’ve never found that to be a problem before but nevertheless…. it’s good to mindful of mindfulness. 😊

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