Indeed, “All it takes is 7.5 seconds of insane courage”
Oh, my isn’t this feeling freaking super! I was on a TEDx stage and no, not as an organizer but as a speaker. Still, hasn’t sunk in that I was an invitee and not an organizer. Feels so weird to see a car come to pick you up and when you need to wait in the lounge, with the Vice-Chancellor of the university, while the team is busy with the last minute preparations. After being on the other side of the table for so many events, it does feel weirdly awesome to be on the receiving end. There certainly were a few awkward moments during the event and I so wanted everything to be not as formal as it was. Surprisingly, probably for the first time in an event, I was being myself; I had a strange confidence and I was loving that. (Maybe I was just applying my talk on myself :P)
When I first entered the seminar hall to see the logo of TEDxNLUJAA put up on the stage, just as I had seen in all the TEDx videos online, my heart started to beat fast. I somehow couldn’t imagine myself up there talking. I tried to recall the starting of my talk to check if I was in my senses and I could not, my brain was completely blank. Pulling myself up, I took a moment to digest that it was actually happening and I was going to be up there with a camera pointed at me (more like a gun) and ran through my talk. I had a word with the other speakers and a few of them were very confident while others were literally sweating in that cold weather; that relieved me a bit.
After the inauguration and a traditional felicitation (Assamese gamucha and jaapi), it was my turn to go up there. Wooooo! I started off very enthusiastically, but somewhere in between, I did mess up with what I had actually planned to speak. Rest I would leave it up to you to decide once the video is up online. My talk was over in a flash before I could realize how it happened. I wasn’t very satisfied with it, anyways that was the best I could have done given all the preparations I had done.
The lunch break, which I preferred to skip the formal lunch with the speakers to have it with the audience, I got a few superb feedbacks (which I assumed to be genuine) and people did actually take up the 7.5-second challenge. When people said “Your talk was short but it hit our brain like a bullet” or “I could relate each and everything you told, and I tried to show that 7.5 seconds of insane courage by approaching a random girl and by approaching you”, I felt so satisfied and accomplished, I stopped thinking about how people would find it when the video was released. I couldn’t have asked for anything more! If that 10 minutes some seconds changed the mindset of four to five people that came up to me to talk, all my time invested was worth it. Their excitement had blown me apart and I was so glad to sacrifice my good food for those conversations.
All other speakers were way more qualified and had seen more hardships than I could even imagine. For the first time in an event, I was glued to my seat to find myself experience the ‘Paradigm Shift’. All in all, a day to remember for a long long time, and yes after the event while everyone was asking for selfies, when a girl came up to me with a broad smile and with a nervous voice asked, “Sir, can I have your autograph?” that just summed up the perfect day!
Thank you TEDxNLUJAA for this nerve wrecking, but a lifetime experience.
How did I prepare for my TEDx talk?
Had received a good bashing from my friends on the day I received the formal invitation letter from TEDxNLUJAA. I was going to the first from my college to go to that stage, so it was scary but very exciting. The event was earlier proposed in the month of the November, but later got postponed to March. So my preparation was divided into two parts and from the first part, I learned how not to prepare. Do read the summary of the book ‘Talk like TED’ I had written in another blog post for a for professional help to your question of, “How to give a presentation”.
Book. I was wanting to read the book “Talk like TED” (a good read for any presentation) for a while now but did not have the motivation to, but as soon as it sunk in that I was going to be on the TEDx stage I knew I had to read it seriously. So that is where my preparation for my first TEDx talk began. I used to hear the audiobook and note down the key points in Google Keep (I prefer audiobooks for self-help books).
Watching TED Talks. After reading the book, I made a list of TED talks to see online and observed how they delivered the information crisply. Each talk was different and had a different style of presentation, though the points mentioned in the book applied to almost all the talks.
Discussing with people. The next step was to think what I wanted to speak on and the idea I wanted to convey. I made a list of topics which made my heart sink but did not find any topic which was interesting or convincing. I could not filter and decide on one topic. Being in college, I could discuss with n number of people and take their inputs and suggestions. The key takeaways from them:
- The output and the ways to be successful is the same. Everyone talks about being different, having confidence -> good speakers have a different theory
- Suggested to read about James Altucher
- Answering the WHY? Could give a good idea about the topic
- Not to focus on the negatives, but on things, you like and believe in
- Another suggestion was to speak for the audience present there and not just for the online crowd. If I am not able to connect with the audience present it’s not possible to have a good talk. Makes sense.
But then everything has its cons: talking to so many people further confused me and made it difficult to narrow down to one topic. Though I realized that it is only when I talk to people I get new ideas and my brain works the best.
Jotting down. After running through my entire life, all I could think of for the content was how I changed from the silent, scared person to a bit confident one. The initiatives I took was the answer to this question. This is a very generic topic and thousands of talks have covered this. Time was short and my brain was getting saturated, so one day I just started to jot down the initiatives I had taken, and how that changed me. An ideal 18 min talk would have around 2500 words, and I had written only 700 words (nor was I satisfied with that content). During my evening walks, I used to practice those 700 words and tried to figure out the rest of the content.
Luckily or unluckily, the event got postponed indefinitely. That was a blow!
I received a notification that the event would be on the 11th of March. It was only 20 days to the event! I read the content I had written earlier, that was pure crap!
The Topic. I realized that randomly writing the content wasn’t the right way to proceed. I had to decide the main idea I wanted to convey. I was having a look at the topics of the various TEDx talks and realized that more interesting the topic the more possibility of the higher number of views. Sitting on the last bench in class, Vikrant (my crazy batch mate) and I were brainstorming on a few ideas when he came up with a few interesting ones including, “How starting up is easier than being in a relationship” and “All you need is 7.5 seconds of courage”.
My stories. Before I could finalize a topic, I had to see what I am credible enough to speak on. On a whiteboard, I made a list of all the stories starting from my school life. It was a list of about 30 stories and a few principles I believed in. Next, I tried to talk to a few people to figure out what which stories were interesting and which I could include.
Impromptu. I knew my brain works best when I talk, so I switched on the webcam on my laptop and started speaking. I talked for about 25mins and covered almost everything I could speak on and what I wanted to speak on. This gave me a good boost! I realized after this that “All it takes is 7.5 seconds of insane courage” suited who I was very well. Moreover, it was a message and a kind of a to-do to everyone. Everyone I discussed with found “7.5 seconds” catchy. My motive of an interesting topic, checked! Before finalizing on this topic I had a word with many, some found it nice, some did not. I did what my gut said!
The content. From the video recording, I wrote down the entire content and arranged it in a more systematic and structured way. I seemed to like it. It was covering everything I wanted and was relating to my topic. Somehow, I felt that it would be just another talk adding no value. I spent hours just sitting down with a whiteboard or roaming around the campus with instrumental music.
The start. Another important factor which I learned from the book was to include a vivid event, something which the audience will remember. Like starting the talk by smoking a cigarette or releasing a bunch of mosquitos to compare the situation in Africa. I wanted to do something like this, but what! I talk to a lot of my friends, some said to do something which everyone can relate to. Paper plane and an alarm clock were the two things that struck me. Snoozing an alarm clock and 7.5 seconds of insane courage! Oh yeah!
Polishing. Once I was done from my end I discussed my talk with 4-5 people I believed in and recorded the entire conversation. Each conversation would be around an hour and would have at least one or two things which would improve my talk drastically. Each of them saw a different perspective and that was the best part. Just before catching my train to Delhi I had a word with Achyut (my co-founder at Startify) and that was a conversation at another level. He put me in another direction altogether and gave a few super ideas of presenting in an interesting way. This is what I was lacking. It was his idea to relate the talk to the game of Tetris.
Practicing. Incorporated every suggestion and wrote the entire talk word to word. I was confused if I should write the content or just write the points and make the sentences on the spot. Later I realized that writing the content did help! This was my first talk with a so prepared content. I locked myself in an empty flat, switched on the video recording and practiced tens of times in the last couple of days. Content while giving a talk automatically changes and also you would realize when the flow breaks. Even after practicing it so much I did jumble up the content as my presenter had technical issues. The nervousness did play a role on the final day, but overall that was the best that I could do for my first time on that stage, given the time I had to prepare.
- Try to include a good starting event. Helps to engage the crowd for the entire talk.
- Writing all the topics you are good at or your stories really help to give a structure.
- Try to do a stage trial in front of a group of people prior to the final day (I missed this)
- Discuss with only a few people whom you believe in. Don’t get too carried away. It’s your talk, do it the way you want to! The gut feeling is always right.
- Be yourself, speak what you believe in. That shows in your talk.
- Don’t be scared of the camera. After you get on the stage it is all on auto-pilot
- I had done a lot of public speaking, but this was very different. Practice it as many times as possible.
- If it’s a TEDx, try to convey a message; just do not tell your story. Also, do not tell a story of someone else. They are there you hear you!
- Nervous? Spread your hands for 2mins in the washroom prior to the talk. This gives confidence.
- Drink lots of water 5mins prior to the talk so that you don’t feel thirsty during the talk.
Right from the start, I wanted to keep storing the memories, so tried to click a few images while I was preparing for the talk. Phew! It was indeed a long road.
Do not try to be unconventional or unique, try to be yourself. You are much better than what you believe.
All it takes is 7.5 seconds of insane courage!
Wrote this 35000ft above the ground when I was traveling from Guwahati to Pune for my graduation trip.