A few months ago, I was nominated to give a TEDx talk at Lancaster University. I had watched TED speakers engage, entertain and enlighten audiences for years. The opportunity to present a talk on a platform I admired was as exciting as I imagine it will be to be listed on the New York Times Best Seller’s list.
It wasn’t until my nomination was approved and I was offered the opportunity to speak that my excitement turned in to something as close to panic as I get.
What would I talk about?
While I was pursuing my Master’s at Johns Hopkins I attended a class in Florence, Italy. I was writing a novel at the time. The novel was problematic. There were three main characters in varying degrees of relationships with one another. The complication as I saw it was that none of the characters wanted to be in a relationship. The complication according to Professor Perlman was that all of the characters were me.
He didn’t say that.
“Who are the main characters?” he asked. “And what does she want?”
If my life is my story and I’m the main character, what do I want?
Plotting my life reminds me to look for solutions to obstacles; that I have goals, and that the supporting characters in my life have motivations other than mine; it helps me to recognize and create opportunities; to forgive myself and others and to appreciate the beauty in revising.
How could I motivate and inspire others to be the main characters in their own lives?
Before I created an outline of the points I wanted to touch on, I spoke my talk out loud. Picturing my audience as I spoke reminded me to inflect, make eye contact and use body language. But at first my view of my audience was too large. I pictured an audience of people I didn’t know, mixed with people I did: coworkers, colleagues and family. My imaginary auditorium was filled with faces with different expectations. Would I say something that could embarrass my mother?
My talk was personal. Were there things in my story that would reflect negatively on other characters in my life? I kept practicing. I plucked familiar faces from my mind and when I practiced I talked to an audience of people who didn’t know me. Picturing a room full of strangers allowed me to share the idea and passion I wanted to share.
If you spend too much time worrying about what people who aren’t there will think, you’ll miss out on sharing valuable ideas with people who are.