This year we asked one of our speakers, Alyson Shane, to give us some insight into what it’s like to prepare and give a talk at TEDxWinnipeg. This is her third in a series of posts about just that. In less than a week, she’ll be on the TEDxWinnipeg stage! In case you missed them, you can still catch up on Alyson’s first and second posts in this series.

Speaking feels like one of those things that sneaks up on you.

You spend hours writing, rehearsing, getting your slides and your words just so… and the next thing you know it’s right around the corner.

I’ll be honest: by this point I wondered if I’d still have any insight to share about the process, but in true “Alyson Shane” fashion, of course, I still have lots to say. Because honestly – when don’t I?

But anyway, I digress. Let’s dive right in.

Making the Time

The most challenging part about preparing to give my talk has been time.

Kerry and the other organizers warned us at our first speaker meeting that the talks would be a lot of work, but I really wasn’t expecting the amount of time that I would spend writing, re-writing, re-writing again, rehearsing, putting together slides, and so on.

Apparently I like biting off more than I can chew, because in this year I’ve expanded my business, launched my re-brand from a freelancer working under my own name to an agency with contractors who help me with my client work, spoken at several events, and have been working tirelessly on my TEDx talk.

All that being said, carving out 30 minutes here and there to rehearse has been invaluable. Since I work for myself, I try to spend the last hour of at least 2-3 of my work days rehearsing and going over my talk.

Being Objective About My Experiences

I felt alone for a lot of my life.

I grew up surrounded by people who didn’t like or understand me, and who often went out of their way to let me know exactly how little they liked me. I was told that reaching out for help was “attention seeking” behaviour, so putting some of my experiences into my TEDx talk has been intimidating, to say the least.

My therapist and I often talk about my “family voices” – the negative thoughts, anxiety, and self-doubt that I struggle with as a result of my relationships with my parents, in particular – and though I often don’t hear from those voices day-to-day, they tend to bubble up whenever I work on my talk. A fact which probably doesn’t surprise anyone, least of all me.

But my experiences with digital communities shaped me into who I am today, and laid the foundations for my talk, which discusses the positive power of digital communities across a broad (online) spectrum. So even if it makes me feel uncomfortable, I have to include it. I wouldn’t be true to myself, or my talk, or even TEDx if I didn’t.

Finding Family

My talk is about digital communities who come together to support one another, and in the process of preparing to speak I’ve found a wider, extended family with the TEDx speakers and organizers in my daily life. The irony is not lost on me, I assure you.

I’m a writer, and writing is a solitary pursuit, so I’m used to sitting alone and plugging away at my keyboard in silence, and the prospect of working on a talk on my own didn’t faze me at first.

But working on a TEDx talk is hard work, and having someone I can message with questions, concerns and frustrations who is as embedded in their experience as I am has really helped me stay focused and on track, especially in moments when I doubt my message or my own abilities.

Amanda, my speaker buddy, has been invaluable. Not only has she been an incredible support during this process, but having an “ally” sitting in the crowd when I rehearse my talk really makes a huge difference. Standing on stage in front of a room full of people is nerve-wracking, no matter how prepared you may feel, and seeing a smiling face in the crowd helps soothe those frayed nerves.

In fact, that’s probably the most valuable part of going through this process: the support system.

I feel like I’m part of a larger family now; a big, unique, weird group of people with stories to share who value each other. I get the privilege of being in the same room as a handful of extremely smart, thoughtful and passionate people, and we’re all going through this same experience together.

Moving Forward

It’s almost time! Just one week until June 6th, and then I plan to kick back a little bit and relax. After these busy few months, I feel like I’ve earned it.

If you’re coming to TEDx Winnipeg, make sure to stop and say hello! I’d love to chat in person and hear your thoughts and feedback on my talk, and the talks of the other speakers (they’re going to blow you away, I promise).

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. I’ll see you at the event!