TED talks are fascinating and informative. I have long enjoyed them and appreciate the mission of TED to provide a forum for the spreading of fresh and progressive ideas and easy access to the thoughts of many bright and inspirational people. If you have never watched one of the many TED talks on an enormous range of subjects that live on YouTube, you should really take a look at them sometime. It is quite a repository of ideas and information.
Thus, when an old friend of mine called me about a year ago asking if I would like to give a TED talk about the Richmond SPCA’s role in the no-kill movement at the 2014 TEDx event in New Hampshire, I was honored and quickly said yes. Then, I thought as I hung up the phone “Oh gee, what have I committed myself to?!” A lot, as it turns out.
TEDx events occur all around the world and must meet a long list of requirements that bring consistency and quality to the events. There is a prescribed look to the dais, length and format for the talks and a process for ensuring that the talks and the videos meet TED’s standards. The talks are about 18 minutes in length, and as a TED speaker (talker?), you are told that the snipers will take up their positions if you go much past that time limit. You want your talk to be both consequential and also comprehensible to people who are not familiar with your field of work. It can be a real challenge to accomplish those goals in just 18 minutes or so.
So once I accepted, I was in the soup, and for months, I thought about the coming TEDx talk I had to give and got a chill when I did so. I speak fairly often to groups and to the news media so you might think that the TEDx talk prospect would not concern me too much. But, this seemed different from other things I had done in terms of public speaking. This had to fit a precise period of time, could not be done with notes, and would be put up for all the world to see on YouTube. Not only that, I had to go to New Hampshire to do it.
It took me a long time to distill what I wanted to say down to 18 minutes and then an even longer time to get it into my head well enough that I could deliver it smoothly without forgetting big and important parts of it. Sarah Babcock, our Chief of Education and Training, helped me to rehearse and gave me great advice to make it flow smoothly and convey the essential points with clarity. I could never thank Sarah enough for the time she generously put into helping me improve my talk. I also was connected by the TEDx organizers with Michelle Hamilton, who is a public speaking consultant, to give me some help with polishing my talk. Her advice was truly valuable.
By the time November rolled around, I felt pretty good about it but also nervous, which I suppose is natural. I was one of 12 speakers at that TEDxAmoskeagMillyard event, and at the dinner we had together the night before it, I was impressed with what a very smart and accomplished group of people it was. The next day seemed very long since my talk was not until the afternoon. I spent the morning watching the other speakers all do great jobs. My nervousness increased. However, once I was actually up there delivering the talk, it all felt fine and comfortable (well, except for the little microphone over my ear which was not comfortable at all). I really focused on the topic of the no-kill movement which means so much to me and remembered all of my points. I was so comfortable that I somehow went a little over the allotted 18 minutes even though I had hit that time length pretty consistently in rehearsals. No one shot me down, however, and the whole 19 minutes of it are now up on You Tube. Here is the link to it and I hope you enjoy it:
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.