Yeah, I did it…
Last saturday (September, 7th) I shared my Plan B story on the TEDx stage.

My process of getting there was hard.
I struggled. Big time.
Many times I was wondering
why delivering a TED talk felt like such a big thing.
It’s ‘just’ a talk and I’m on stage often, so why does this feel so different?

Now that it’s done, I know that I’m not alone.
Even for the most experienced speakers, delivering a TED(x) talk seem to be a big thing.
The preparation (for weeks, or even months) can be hard and difficult.
And to deliver it is scary and nerve-racking.
Many ‘guru’s and hot shots even seem to say no to TED, or withdraw prematurely…

Why is that?
Why is delivering a TED talk such a big thing?

Some quick & dirty personal thoughts.

The obvious stuff

Two more obvious things that probably will increase everyone’s stress level: the ‘name’ TED and the video.

The first: it’s in the name.
TED is about “Riveting talks by remarkable people”.
Only this quote sets the bar quite high…ow.
I’m a huge fan of TED since the beginning.
And many talks inspired me to the max (like the talks of Sinek and Sr Robinson).
Thereby, the TED slogan is ‘ideas worth spreading’.
So, you have to have an idea worth spreading and be a remarkable person.
Well, good luck…

Second: the video.
Your talk will be recorded, in one shot.
From the moment you step into the red circle until you step out, the camera is rolling.
Everything you do during your minutes on stage, will be put online at and youtube.
Accessible for everyone. For the rest of your life.

So, that explains something. These two thinks make that delivering a TED talk feels like something big.

Personal stressful stuff

For me, there are a couple of more reasons that increased my stress level.

I had to say it all in 10 minutes.
My main message was (and still is) a call to action;
a call to act different, to unscrew the system and make change happen.
This sounds easy, but the underlying research to come up with Plan B took me four+ years.
How could I show the need and value and make the sense of urgency tangible?
I could only tell a small part, so I had to search for one key message.
One, single big idea I would like to share.
I had to kill my darlings and try to come up with something simple
without leaving the value of complexity. Easy? Neh.

TED is about your personal story.
I could not use my ‘normal’ stories.
I could not stay in my comfort zone, using my ‘expertise’, mrs no-it-all stuff.
I had to come up with something totally different.
My own big idea that is worth sharing.
From the heart. Oh.

TED Talks have to be in English.
This is not my mother language and I don’t speak English very often
(I only write in English; I know that’s not error-free, but I do not mind…I am learning ; -)
So, I am definitely not confident about my English speaking skills…

The English language also forced me so memorize the talk in detail, almost by words.
When I’m presenting in Dutch,
I only prepare by defining global subjects and highlights,
and during the talk I improvise for the most part.
When you don’t own the language, this isn’t the way to go. Hmm…
Also, the time ticker forces you to memorize your talk in every tiny detail.
The time ticker is ruthless…

So I had to memorize a 10 minute talk; that is about 6-7 written pages.
Okay, that can be done.
But, the frightening thing is the fear of a blackout, or forgetting (some of) your words on stage.
In this strict format it’s difficult to switch to a Plan B and you cannot help yourself out by improvising,
so you are kind of stuck.

Another, minor thing: the limited use of visuals.
Normally, I use a lot of pictures and movies from the Internet.
I have a huge image library with the most amazing visuals.
At TEDx, copyright stuff is not allowed so you have to make your own visuals.
And you cannot use these visuals as a mnemonic (at least, in my case – see below).
So, all you have is: yourself
(as a remarkable person with a big idea worth spreading…aargghh).

Owh…additional stage stress


Also on stage, there are a view things that could increase your stress level.
At least; they increased mine.

There are heavy spotlights right into your face.
I could only see the first and second row.
I am used to monitor the audience and their response closely, while I speak.
Now, I had no idea how my words were landing.
Feels like navigating in the dark.

The ruthless time ticker.
All you see in front of you is a big screen with a stopwatch.
Time is ticking.
Not really a thing that calms you down.

When you have visuals (like I had)
in my case, I did not see the projections on the big screen.
So you don’t have support from your own visuals.
And you have to know exactly what is behind you and when to click to the next one (without looking).

Normally when I speak, I know stuff about the context and the audience.
So, you can make a suitable story.
With TED, the audience is everyone. Artists, managers, students…
They come from every corner of the world.
That’s one of the things that make TED so beautiful, but as a speaker it’s more difficult.
You don’t know your audience and you know that not everyone will be interested in your story.
My story was mainly focused on business and education.
Who cares…?
For sure, not everyone. Ay.

You have to stand into the red circle.
Normally, the whole stage is yours and you can walk around.
You can play with your place on stage and use the stage to strengthen your story.
Here, you cannot. You are stuck into a square metre.
No room for manoeuvre.

And the last one; maybe the biggest fear factor of all: the recordings. Again.
You know that everything you do at that moment, we’ll be online at public and popular platforms.
For the rest of your life.
And you know the cameras take close ups,
so every twitch, nerve and mistake will be seen…

And now what?

When I was invited to do a TED talk, I wanted it to be my greatest talk ever. I had ideas about adding music, movie shots and other entertaining stuff to make it huge and spectacular.
I ended up with none of this.
The process of getting there was hard (wrote a blog about this: losing my purpose) and I needed all my attention on the content and delivering my message in the most basic form.
Maybe it’s a pity that I ended up with a ‘normal’ talk, but hey, I did it! ; -)

My talk went fine. No blackouts, no mistakes. So, I’m happy.
In the video, you can see my struggle.
Not the best advertisement for my speaking performances.
But somehow, now, I think it’s kind of cool.
Because it’s not my usual confident speaking voice.
No words from a distance. Nothing to do with showing off, using my status.
It’s probably the most human I have ever been on stage.
And the most vulnerable I have ever been on stage.
And for me, that is something I could be proud of.
So, although it’s not my best performance, for me it is a victory.
I’m proud that I had the courage to let my professional walls down.
No hiding. No self protection.
Let’s enjoy that.

BTW 1. At diner, Marc de Hond shared his way of memorizing his TED Talk with me. I really hope he will share this ‘method’ with the rest of the world. Maybe in his third TED Talk? Could be a great help for next speakers!

BTW 2. Picture is made by Herma Goris ; shot 3 minutes before getting on stage.

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