Over the weekend I finally got my talk for TEDx Whitehaven written and put together in final form and all the accompanying photos chosen.
You’d think that would be the point where I was relieved. Far from it. Since completing it I’ve been stressing over everything that could wrong.
Some of that is pure imagination. What if I trip over the steps leading to the stage (are there any steps? I don’t actually know) and fall flat on my nose, breaking it and bloodying my face? What if I have an accident the night before and end up giving my talk in a plaster-cast or sporting a ruddy great black eye?
Some of the fear is more real.
The talk, which is videoed, has to run from beginning to end without interruption according to the TEDx rules. So if, in the middle, I get lost and do a “oh bugger! Sorry, what I meant to say earlier was…” then that’s what gets recorded. If I accidentally let out a terrible spoonerism, suddenly develop a speech impediment, my voice starts to go or a wasp, sneakily having entered the auditorium, flies up my sleeve and stings me viciously – all this will be on the video.
Furthermore, there are strict rules on timing. At 18 minutes I can expect to be rugby-tackled off the stage – probably kicking and screaming the final parts of my talk because they’re most important and must be heard. I’ve worked like mad to reduce the script and get it to manageable proportions.
If I read from the full talk then I’m down to a good 17 minutes or less – great but I feel like a robot reciting words (remember Bob Hope? Think of him with autocues. Not good). I’ve made a notes sheet I intend to use which helps me be much more fluent – so much so that the talk is then a whopping great 21 minutes! Oh dear…
So I’m working hard to get the talk absolutely word perfect so I can be both natural and stick to time. Those who know me know this is not my forte.
The annoying thing is that it isn’t like I’m not used to speaking in front of others and sticking to a time limit. As a teacher I did it all the time in classes. Most of my lessons were like prepared shows – I thought it a bad lesson if I had not made a class roar with laughter at least once during the time with one of my anecdotes. I had those stories down to a tee. Over the last 15 years or so I’ve given countless after-dinner or evening talks in a variety of settings and countries. I like being in front of an audience and feel comfortable there even if I do get nervous.
But there’s no doubting TEDx is different, the main reason being that assuming my talk isn’t appalling in the end, it will go on to the internet and be there on YouTube and other sites “forever”. I could actually live with that even if it’s not so good; but this talk is important – and scary – for another reason. It comes with responsibility.
This is the one truly ‘international’ time I get to talk about my beloved Bangladesh. I will be using the country – which regular followers to this blog will know is dear to my heart – as a positive example of the importance of our ‘global village’. I’m going to talk about my experiences there and a little of the people I knew – one in particular.
What if I accidentally cause outrageous offence? After all, I’m a foreigner there and I’m far from knowledgeable about every aspect. What if I say something innocently that it turns out is misunderstood? What if I get some aspect wrong? I’ve checked and re-checked with Bangladeshi friends and others to make sure all is good…but still…what if I’ve missed something?
Well, if so, then I guess I need to follow the advice a good friend once gave me; someone who used to work in Bangladesh himself and, I believe, got this advice from a Bangladeshi friend in fact.
The advice is this: Do it, and ask forgiveness afterwards.
Sounds good to me.