What it’s like to give a TEDx talk—part two: the talk

The morning of TEDx started better than I could have hoped. For the first time in weeks, both of my kids slept through the night (win!). I had a healthy breakfast and then met a dear friend at the trails at 8:30 for a 5-mile hilly run. I’d been sick the week before and hadn’t gotten in a good run for days. Connecting with nature and spending time with my friend was just what I needed.

After heading home to shower and gather my things together, I was ready to go. Our family friend/babysitter arrived at 11:30, and my husband and I kissed our two little superheroes goodbye before heading the JUMP, where TEDxBoise was to be held.

JUMP is a new development in Boise. It’s one of the most creative spaces I’ve seen, with bright colors and interesting architecture. I’d been on a tour with the speakers and volunteers a few months back, but arriving to the actual event was another experience entirely.

We parked, and as I was grabbing my bag, I spotted my dad. The three of us headed to the elevator and hit 5 (speaker floor) and 6 (event floor). I kissed my husband goodbye, thanked my dad for arriving early to get good seats, and entered the fifth floor.

Our event planners did such a wonderful job. Everything was planned with the speakers in mind, from the yoga studio we could use to zen in preparation for our talks to the healthy food and drinks to the hair and makeup artists. We’d gotten to work with an incredible stylist, Laura Tully, so I had almost no concerns other than my talk.

If I so much as mentioned wanting something, our speaker liaison, Ashley, was on it. She’d even brought an electric kettle, tea, and honey for me when I’d mentioned the night before that my throat was bothering me.

Needless to say, everything was handled. I just needed to stay calm so I could accomplish my goal that day: to fully engage with my talk—to be present.

I’d left my notes at home that morning. After running through my talk twice (OK, maybe three or four times), I had decided not to focus on it anymore.

I greeted the volunteers and speakers on the fifth floor and then went up to the sixth floor to see my husband, dad, and mom. The event was in full force—the registration table was buzzing with activity, backpacks were being handed out, and people were heading into the event. I saw my husband in the lobby and ran into a couple of friends. As we made our way into the auditorium, I noticed the wall art. Didn’t the event crew do an incredible job putting this together?

Entering the JUMP auditorium brought everything home. The planning, preparation, practice—it was all for this. It was all to have a conversation with this audience, to connect with them, to share an idea.

I got to attend most of the first session. Watching my fellow speakers deliver their talks was surprisingly emotional for me. There were no tears, but I welled with pride as I watched them deliver their talks. I knew the work they’d put into those 18 or less minutes on stage. They were amazing. Here’s a photo of all of the speakers.

Before the final talk of the first session, I left to get ready. Around this time, I learned we had a live stream, so I excitedly called my sister and brother-in-law in Cincinnati to let them know. After that, I headed into the yoga studio to do some light yoga and, for some reason I can’t explain, a bunch of cartwheels.

Around this time, I headed over to get my hair done, change my clothes, and wait for the makeup artist. I started to grow anxious about time. As she did my makeup, my anxiety was peaking. I ate a protein bar, drank some water, and breathed. I knew I was pushing it time-wise, and my hair wasn’t done yet since the stylist wanted to touch it up before I went on stage.

Finally, I was ready. A few minutes later, I made my way to the six floor, headed to the green room, and got mic’d up. I started stretching—my stage warmup—and suddenly forgot the first sentence of my talk. No mental tricks could bring it back to me. Luckily, I’d taken the advice of another TEDx speaking coach, Kirsten Holmberg, and had recorded my talk. It was saved in an audio file on my phone, and I’d been listening to it in the car and sometimes as I went to sleep. I pulled up the file and played the first sentence.

I was ready.

I made my way out of the green room to wait behind the curtain I would be exiting to walk to the stage. I was excited. The last “talk”—an aerialist who gave a moving performance set to a poetic talk she’d written—was done, and the MC was about to announce my talk.

And that’s when the problems began.

The TEDx crew was unable to regather the fabric the aerlist, Mykelle Walton, had used for her performance. In a perfect world, they would have discretely pulled a rope to gather the fabric back to the ceiling with no issue. Something went wrong, and as they tried to deal with it, our MC, Justin Ness, told an impromptu story to the crowd. Quick thinking.

I wasn’t rattled, though. I saw the issue as extra time, and I knew they’d get it handled. By the time the fabric was returned to its proper spot on the ceiling, I was eagerly awaiting the words, “Please welcome Stacy Ennis.”

I walked to the stage and took my place on the red dot, looked out at the 450 people in the audience, and shared my idea.

Connecting with hundreds of people through a single conversation, maybe even shifting a few hearts to live brave lives and raise brave kids—that’s what I was put on this planet to do. There is something special about the interaction of one to many and many to one, of hundreds of brains connecting for a short period of time, joining together to contemplate something that matters.

I was present for every moment of that talk. I was there with the audience. I was in their seats, I was on the stage, I was connected to the words coming out of my mouth and at the same time, feeling what it’s like to hear the talk for the first time.

Look, I don’t want to over-romanticize the talk. I was one of many. There were other speakers that day whose messages likely resounded much more than mine. But I can say this: I gave it all I had.

The thing about a TEDx talk, if you do it right, is that it transcends self-interest. The talk was not about me.  As I looked at the crowd, at the young men and women, at the older adults, at the kids, I knew that for the first time in my life, I had an opportunity to change minds. I had the honor of maybe influencing another human to live bravely. I had the chance to accomplish something bigger than myself.

I walked off the stage with gratitude and a hope that perhaps a few people walked out braver than they were when they entered. Living bravely, raising our kids to be brave—that, to me, is an idea worth spreading.

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