This past weekend, TEDx Boulder happened. And it was amazing.
I had the honor of being a speaker coach to the presenters, helping them craft their messages and improve their stage delivery. I didn’t try to make them into flawless orators, but instead, helped them sift through their own thoughts, words, fears and ideas to identify their succinct message. Then I helped them work through anxieties and speak their truth.
And that’s exactly what they did. (You can read about the lineup and connect with them here.)
Shannon Paige (founder of OM Time Yoga) helped me get back into my body and feel gratitude for my health. Avery Bang (Executive Director of Bridges to Prosperity) made me thankful for bridges, and for failure as a path to success. Don Whittemore (Assistant Chief of the Rocky Mountain Fire department) shifted my mindset about unthinkable situations – now I’m an imaginist. Jen Rubio (Head of Social Media at Warby Parker) shared an honest perspective about world travel.
Hannah Nordhaus (national bestselling author of The Beekeeper’s Lament) reminded me to take what’s reported on the news with a grain of salt. Christin Myrick (a consultant and writer for good men wanting to be better men) reminded me to never stop chasing my dreams. Bella Hudson (a 13 year old bluegrass musician) was an adorable musical sensation who made me smile. Tim Shisler (a digital storyteller) made me think about using people’s stories for advertising purposes. Brady Robinson (Executive Director of the Access Fund) motivated me to get outdoors and play more.
Alena Grabowski (scientist who was on the team that helped double-amputee Oscar Pistorius run in able bodied Olympics) made me re-evaluate what it means to be “disabled”. Nathan Seidle (Founder of Spark Fun Electronics) explained the concept of intellectual property obesity (too many patents and idea protections stunt innovation) and the future of open source hardware. The whole shindig was emceed by the most connected man in Boulder, Andrew Hyde (who is simply a force of nature in general).
The person I spent the most time with was Erika Napoletano, author of The Power of Unpopular, columnist for Entrepreneur magazine and known online as Red Head Writing. We worked to streamline her content, delivery, voice and overall message. This woman is brilliant and hilarious.
Erika sucks at being unpopular.
A nice nudge out of my comfort zone, working with her was the first time I coached a client who insisted on dropping the f-bomb and showing a slide portraying Sarah Palin humping a polar bear. Now Erika isn’t a shock jock – she is authentically outrageous, blunt and ballsy. I don’t try to change my clients to fit some mold – far from it. It’s my job to make them look, sound and feel amazing while doing their thing in front of an audience. So we figured out a way to rock both the dreaded “F” word and polar porn – and the entire thing went down flawlessly, followed by a roar of applause. Success!
During her 14 minutes in the spotlight, I was waiting in the wings back stage. And I’m so glad I did, because I had the honor of watching the audience fly to their feet upon her conclusion. She wrote about the emotional experience on her blog here. (Thanks for the shout out, Erika – the feeling of appreciation is mutual.)
A few years ago I spoke on that very stage at Macky Auditorium to a packed house of CU sorority women. I know what it feels like to get a standing ovation from 2,000 people in that room. I remember thinking as I walked off-stage that night how great it could be if everyone felt that kind of appreciation at least once in their lifetime…
And maybe we all can, in some form or another. The world is our stage. We are all rock stars in our own right. You don’t need to wait to be asked to give a TEDx talk or a media interview. You can speak your truth starting now, simply by choosing to be the best version yourself each day, and having your words and choices reflect that.
The best speeches are the most authentic ones, the ones that push the envelope a little, the ones that are creative and honest and 100% FOR the people. It’s not about the speaker – it’s about the audience. Your perspective is a gift, and it can be wrapped up and given away in many different ways. But if the intention is to help people and the present is delivered with no expectations, you simply cannot fail.
Give the gift, and you have succeeded.