How to give a great TED Talk- TEDxFondduLac 2017, process & recap of an unforgettable experience

PHOTO: Giving my first TEDx Talk, "Performing Through Fear."

"Being on stage and performing brought out the best in me- even BETTER than what I could produce in the practice room." This is an excerpt from the TEDx Talk I gave, "Performing Through Fear," this past weekend at TEDxFondduLac, and I'm happy that this rang true for my talk when the moment came. It passed by with the blink of an eye and I can't say for certain that it was a great talk but I can say that it was one of the most incredible, thrilling, and challenging experiences I've ever had in my life. I want to write a quick recap while it's still fresh in my mind.


I've been accepted to give TEDx talks before but the challenge was always trying to get a piano to the venue. Most places get nervous about procuring and then moving such a big instrument on and off stage. I was excited to learn about TEDxFondduLac because it was to be held at a performing arts center which definitely would have a nice piano and excellent stage crew. I saw the call for speakers and applied in February, got through the 2nd round, and then got accepted! This is an article about the speaker selection process.

PHOTO: Speakers Swag Bag from TEDxFonddulac Team. Included a great book, "Talk Like Ted"by Carmine Gallo, which was tremendously helpful in getting me started.


I had been wanting to give a TED talk for so long and now that I had the chance to give one, I have to honestly say I didn't know where to even start or how to start preparing. The TEDxFondduLac Team gave us a great info packet and book that helped me a lot in getting me started. I carried around a notebook everywhere to jot down random ideas. As soon as I had my sh*tty first draft, I started working right away with my speaker coaches.

All the speakers had a speaker coach through TEDx. I can't thank my TEDx coach Lori Namur enough for being the most awesome support for me and for whom I couldn't do this without. I also got coaching from Liz Young in NYC whose pitching workshops I've previously taken and also my mentor Jade Simmons who helped me pare down my talk to ONE idea and meet the required 18-minute time limit which was one of my biggest challenges. I love Jade's outstanding TEDx talk, "Momentum: Maverick Style" which you can watch here.

TEDx Draft No. 7098162987463741

Photo: Marking up draft no. 20-something after a session with Jade.

I went through many, many drafts and also a cringe-worthy first run-through on Facebook Live in front of friends. After that latter experience, I kicked it into high gear. I practiced by myself and in front of a lot of generous friends and listened to their feedback (thank you!). It's amazing to learn what works and doesn't work only in front of a live audience. I was making edits up to 3 days before the event.


I wanted to wear something special for the occasion and enlisted the help of friend and fashion designer Jenny Lai who made this beautiful burgundy silk shirt and skirt set. My feet were very happy in brand-new Paul Smith Pom-Pom shoes that I got in London recently.


We arrived in Wisconsin on Thursday and I rehearsed at the venue on Friday. I spent time both days just relaxing and treating myself beautifully with light sight-seeing at Lakeside Park and trying out the local food and beer- the Fish Fry dinner by the lake and the Moon Man beer from New Glarus Brewery were awesome!

On Saturday, I was very nervous until right before going on stage. Even though I was giving a talk about getting over your nerves and trusting your audience at a TEDx event with the theme "Fear Forward" on how to move past your fears, I was nervous. Days leading up to the talk, I kept reminding myself that it takes great courage to even attempt this and told myself to just walk on stage as an ordinary person- don't try to be extraordinary or epic, just stay true and grounded. I meditated earlier in the day to help stay present and enjoyed watching the other speakers from the green room.

But the moment I took my first steps and opened my mouth to speak the first sentence, "Growing up, I loved to perform. Being on stage and performing felt like the most natural thing in the world," it all flowed and I felt like there was no other place I was meant to be than standing on that red dot sharing my story.

I think it went great! I felt so happy when it was over. The video will be made available on TED's website and YouTube channel in about a month. I'll post it later on this blog page as well. UPDATE 9/23/17- available to watch (below).

I can't wait to do this again. I plan on practicing more and honing my speaking skills by applying to do more TEDx Talks and continue speaking at colleges/universities and organizations.


I have to thank a LOT of people who supported me through this journey- people I practiced for, people who sent me good wishes leading up to it, the TEDxFondduLac Team who worked tirelessly and took care of all my accommodations and made sure I would have a great stay in FondduLac, my amazing and encouraging fiancé Austin who came on this trip to be a tremendous support to me, and more (below).

Photo: Group photos with all the speakers. I was in great company of dynamic, interesting, passionate people, ranging in age, background, industry. If I had just been an attendee at this event, it would still have been an incredible experience to just see and watch their talks!

Photo: THANK YOU to the incredible TEDxFondduLac Team of organizers, coaches, volunteers, stage crew, and more. Your joy was so infectious, and your passion and hard work made this event a success that ran without a hitch! Really remarkable group of people.


GALLERY- all photos by Brian Kolstad. You can see more photos from the entire event here-

#tedx #speaking #talk #performingthroughfear #fearforward

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