(This is part 2 of my behind the scenes look at doing a TEDx Talk)
So we got to the Centre in the Square theatre in Kitchener and I was acting like the most confident person on the planet. Like I was all ready for this TEDx talk. From the outside, I was acting like I had spoken in front of 2,000 people at least 2,000 times in my life and it was just another regular, degular day for me. On the inside… slightly freaking out! My emotions were weirdly teeter-tottering. I felt comfortable because I knew that I had my speech down somewhat cold, like to the point where I could start from any paragraph and go to the end. I had done this in the presence of two-year old babies stumbling up to me blurting gibberish at my kneecaps on more than one occasion. But I felt an uneasiness about the grandioseness of it all. I had never been mic’d up before, nor had I ever had a countdown prompter on the edge of the stage or a 20-foot screen behind me. Shoot, I could count the times I had to speak to an audience on a stage on one hand. We parked the car and went inside and I yawned some more.
As we went in, I was ushered away by an organizer and shown around the green room and backstage. I was told the final schedule and all expected timelines that concerned me: where to wait, when to be backstage, and when to finally perform. And then it was time for the sound check. Two sound technicians mic’d me up, checked their sound boards, relayed messages to invisible people sitting at stations I couldn’t see (even if I had my glasses on) and told me to get out on stage and go through a “dry run”. I walked out there, the lights were just a little brighter than I had imagined, and the backdrop, just a little more elaborate than I had feared. I started to run through my talk. Thirty seconds in, my heart was racing and my mouth was dry! Thank God I had my talk memorized so I could speak off of reflex because in my head all I was saying to myself was, “Matthew, calm down! Why is your mouth dry? Oh my … you are nervous! You are nervous and there isn’t even anyone in the audience, yet!” I finished and they told me it was excellent. What else could they really say at that point? My friends told me they could hear me swallowing. Real friends, I guess. All this work since the spring and it was finally that time. I was told what time to be back in the green room and that was about it. I was to talk at 7:45 p.m., after a first session and then a dinner. The time was 2:30 p.m. I wasn’t hungry but my people wanted to eat. We hit the roads of Kitchener looking for an easy spot to grab some grease. They talked about the things regular people talk about on a Saturday when they don’t have an immense pressure waiting for them some few hours away. I swallowed my cheesesteak down and interjected when my brain came back into my body from time to time. We finished up, and as we walked back to the car, they discussed how to get back and how to figure out the parking situation. I was in my own world, daydreaming about how comforting it would be if a meteor just happened to land in Kitchener at that precise moment.
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