Auditioning for TEDxFortMcMurray


You'd think after decades of public speaking, emceeing and being a seasoned broadcaster that auditioning for a TEDx talk would be like falling off a log, easy. It wasn't.

I started to feel the nerves the moment I awoke, knowing that today was the day.  I stretched up my neck, peering over the edge of the bed to see what time was showing on the digital clock.  5:47 am.  Way too early to get up on a Sunday.  Up and down I went, several times over the next 20 minutes, before I finally acquiesced to my body's desire to get going.

My presentation, loosely titled "My Social Media Timeline" has been fermenting for several months.  I had started off doing some thumbnail sketches, a storyboard if you will, that I eventually brought into Prezi, a free online presentation site that I saw being used at the recent Social Prosperity Summit in Fort McMurray.  In a separate Word file I began writing down what I imagined I would say to go along with the pictures.

I started off the morning with what I felt was a good beginning and an adequate middle.

"You want to make sure you have a strong beginning and a compelling ending," said Anas Eljamal, at our speaker orientation session for the TEDxFortMcMurray event a few weeks ago.

A compelling ending, I thought to myself. I had no ending at all.

But as I slid in various ideas, stories and punctuation points that had been bouncing about in my mind, the presentation began to write itself.  And as I tapped into some wise words from one of my Council colleagues, I had magically arrived at the perfect period to close out this TEDx sentence.

I pulled open the Prezi site on one computer screen and my script on the other and pressed GO on the timer.  Farting and stuttering through it for the first time, I was safely flirting with the maximum 18 minutes allowed within the TEDx framework.  Whew! On the right track.

As I often do when trying to learn something, I pulled myself away from the words and pictures to do something physical, first dishes then my ironing. Working out the wrinkles on my dress shirts, I talked myself through the presentation a number of times, trying not to look at my summary notes.

I can do this, I began saying to myself, as the hours ticked away and preparation time vanished.

I like to arrive early for most things in my life, so true to form, I pulled up to the Bob Lamb building a good 30 minutes before my scheduled audition time.  It was important to me to be in the space to mentally prepare.  A bundle of nerves sitting there with Kevin and Malik, I really wasn't sure how I was going to do.

In my mind, I was going to bring up the rear as Kevin was there waiting when I arrived.  Subsequently, I was pretty relaxed when Malik emerged from his audition, thinking that Kevin's time had come, and that I had about 15 more minutes to go over my notes.

"Russell, you're next," said Anas to my utter surprise.  No time to think, or get swept  up in my anxiety, I grabbed my stuff, walking into the classroom and got down to business.

I think it went well, though I'll leave that judgement to the panel.  It felt comfortable making eye contact, sharing several very personal perspectives on my topic and feeding off the energy and interest of the 5 or 6 people in the room.

"Thank you everyone," I said, picking up my stuff, descending the stairs, getting into my car and heading home.

Wow, that wasn't so bad, I thought.  That was kind of fun.  When can I do it again?
Time will tell I guess, as the next three confirmed speakers will be announced on Tuesday.

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