Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tedx Talk: The Lessons I Learned

Kiss and tell? You bet!

Doing a Tedx talk was the professional equivalent of having a crazy fling with a hot young thing. Or so I would imagine. How? Well, consider the similarities. It was so out of the ordinary it didn't seem tangible. I had to gossip to make it real! And when I did the reactions were priceless. But it wasn't all gushing and heart rush. I was really nervous! I lost my appetite and didn't sleep well. My Tedx talk was a 24/7 obsession. There were times I wished that handsome Tedx had never approached me, just left me to my happy everyday life with family and students.

But stress aside, after my Tedx talk on "How to Get a Mentor" the overriding emotion I felt was gratitude. The well known Tedx format forced me to condense 20 years of research about mentoring into a 15-minute hip and informative talk. What a challenge! I stretched my comfort zone and learned valuable lessons about public speaking. It gave me some insight into the pressures media figures must feel. I loved my time in the spotlight, but more than ever I am grateful to have my job as a Professor of Management surrounded by the best students a teacher could ask for.

The primary theme of my talk was about improving our careers by continuing to grow and learn. During my talk I got to walk the talk. Literally. Here is a review of what I learned, hopefully my experience will help you with your next important presentation.

Out with the Old in with the New
An entertaining presentation has to move beyond power point slides and talking points. I had to learn to add mystery and pacing to my talk, while at the same time sounding casual and conversational. I had to tell stories that met a clear learning objective with little repetition. I had to avoid the pitfalls of leaning on established expertise by taking a fresh approach to the subject of mentoring. If (like me) you are ever lucky enough to have a speaking coach take full advantage. Blakely Hull, my coach, was superstar!

Getting to know the other Tedx speakers was a great networking opportunity. And learning that they were also nervous and feeling a little out of their element was comforting. We bonded over our mutual insecurities. I also took the opportunity to schmooze with the audience beforehand, it made staring out at all those expectant faces less nerve-wracking. And of course I practiced, practiced, practiced. I did a practice pod cast, two speaker rehearsals, a run-through with a Ted coach and made my students listen to me at a pizza practice party. When it was time to present I was ready.

When Shit Happens Act Like it Didn't
Presentations are rarely perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes. Other times mistakes happen to us. Here is what happened to me. My talk was going great, just as I had visualized. The audience was into it, laughing when I wanted them to, nodding appreciatively when I wanted them to. And then the audio died. I waited a few moments for the tech-cavalry to arrive. Seeing that I was my own, I continued my presentation, albeit a little louder than before. Finally the MC joined me on stage and announced that we would have to take it again from the top. Yes, I felt a little awkward. Yes, I felt like some of the punch had been taken out of my presentation (the first part anyway). But, the audience quickly reengaged and show went on. In the end the audio snafu was just a small hiccup. And it reminded me how important it is to expect complications and to overcome those complications as seamlessly as possible.

My fifteen minutes are up (for now). I am prepping for tomorrow's class, grateful that there will no cameras and no chance for an audio oops. It will be me and my students and the mentoring and leadership topics we love. There is no place like home!

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