Wednesday, 28 September 2016

TEDxDrogheda: The Full Story

Hi guys! I'm currently two days into my second week of college, and it's pretty intense but cool. So let's talk about another intense-but-cool thing I did recently -- speaking at TEDxDrogheda!


I spotted a callout on Twitter for speakers for TEDxDrogheda and, being me, applied for it. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say - the theme was "Future Wealth", which wasn't really my thing -- so I applied with a talk on making and finding opportunities, since I'm good at that and it was the most relevant thing I was interested in. 


I got an email saying that out of the 80 applicants, I'd been selected for the final round of 14 people, and that I was invited to a TEDx workshop with speaking coach Orlaith Carmody. So I got to reshaping my talk and trying to memorize it. I didn't think I'd have to perform it while there since they didn't tell us, but I did ... fortunately, I must have done it well, because I got into the final lineup of 8 speakers!

Orlaith (our coach) was great and really helped by advising me to start with the emotional core of the story rather than my usual dry point-point-point scientific treatment. By this time, the structure of the talk was essentially opportunities seem scarce but they're actually everywhere -> here's where they're hidden -> you find them by asking questions -> my experience of how people are discouraged from asking questions and why you should do it anyway

So I pretty much swapped it around, starting with my story and then explaining why questions are useful for finding opportunities.


Lots of practising (well, when I wasn't working on my TY Expo talk or my antibiotic resistance campaign or whatever else), and the dress rehearsal the day before. 

I really liked the venue - conferences that have theatrical venues like TEDx and Inspirefest (with comfy seats!) are definitely my favourites over places that feel more like classrooms or lecture halls. 

The rehearsal went pretty well - I did momentarily blank in the middle, but no one except Orlaith noticed (I think), and Orlaith's trained to do that. It was cool seeing how much work everyone had put into their talks and that it had generally paid off.

The Day

Woke up bright and early and hung out in the green room with the other speakers (Bibi Baskin, Denise Fay, Niamh Gaffney, Emmet Humphreys, Barry James, Tom Cooney, and Sharon Oughton). One thing I really liked about the TEDx experience was the solidarity between the speakers - stressful situations will do that to people! 

I really enjoyed the day, nervewracking though it was. I think my talk went well -- I can't remember whether I said exactly what I wanted to say, and I finished a minute early so I think I might have rushed a bit, but I didn't blank and I got really amazing reactions afterwards. Everyone was lovely, and I especially liked when people said the talk resonated with them, and that they had been or parented or taught that overcurious kid. I can't remember all the names but I remember Gavin Duffy being really nice about it and semi-joking about hiring me as his speechwriter. So yeah, I met lots of cool people I'm going to be following up with.

We all went out for a meal afterwards to round out the day. It was all very cool.

TEDxDrogheda ended up trending #5 in Ireland, which was pretty amazing. I also liked that this is how I spent my last day living in Drogheda before moving up to Dublin for college. 

There were some nice write-ups on and in the Drogheda Leader. And ooh I wonder who's in the cover photo! "She received rapturous applause" nice, "was the youngest speaker" guys can't I stand on my own merits without it being about my age? :)

Overall, I'm really really glad I did it. The week before the performance I was cursing myself for applying because it is stressful and takes work, but as we all know I secretly love those things so. Doing a TEDx is fantastic experience - like all talks you get a huge buzz afterwards, but also TED talks have their own unique format -- more of a performance than a talk, really, a one-woman show. So if you're considering applying for one, please do it! It's an amazing and very valuable experience.

Thanks to my fellow speakers for being cool, to the audience for coming and to the wonderful organisers for pulling it off!

I'll update this post with the video when it comes out.

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