6 things I learned from doing my first TEDx talk

I’m a big believer in having a Bucket List – you know, that list of meaningful accomplishments or fun activities you want to experience before dying one day, hopefully in the distant future. While some people might aspire to go skydiving or hike the Himalayas, one of my bucket list items has been giving a TEDx talk. On September 27, 2019, that became a reality when I was fortunate enough to present “5 Ways to Let Go of a Dream” at TEDxBoggyCreek in Orlando, Florida. Here are six things I learned from that experience:

1. Practice is essential.

I love public speaking, ever since delivering truly awful Howard Cosell impersonations during family events as a kid. Basically, if you give me a microphone, it’s hard to shut me up. I’ve given hundreds of presentations without much prep work over the years. But a TEDx talk is different. You don’t just wing it. No TelePrompTer or notes were allowed, and I owed it to the audience to get it right. So, I conducted plenty of research. Wrote and rewrote countless versions of the speech. Then I practiced it at least daily for a month, adjusting it as needed while getting some impactful speaker coaching from the incredible Ginger Schlanger.

2. Rejection makes you stronger.

I should know; got plenty of it while submitting speaker applications to interesting TEDx events nationwide. Instead of giving up though, I used rejection as a learning opportunity. Honed the messages I felt passionately about, turned them into articles and paid attention to what resonated most with others over social media. That’s how I came up with spreading the idea about how to gracefully let go of a dream that is broken or no longer works for you.

3. It’s not about you.

Sure, a lot of things could have motivated your desire to do a TEDx talk, like building a personal platform or promoting your livelihood. However, these talks are really about the audience. You are spreading a message you feel passionately about in service of others. So, create content that will connect deeply with them. It is your chance to provoke thinking and action, to offer hope, enlightenment or greater understanding, and show others what is possible in their own lives and the world at large. Your idea is being shared, but the positive impact made on recipients, whether it is five people, 500 or five million, is what truly counts.

4. Be yourself.

From obsessing over the clever dialogue in Deadpool movies to recognizing the names of 80’s tunes before Shazam has a chance, I’m a big pop culture buff. No surprise if you’ve read any of my articles here, right? Being true to myself meant I worked in a couple of pop culture references and embraced my innate goofiness in this TEDx talk despite the mostly serious subject matter. Doing so gave me a greater comfort level while delivering this talk and hopefully made the topic as accessible as possible to others.

5. Slow down.

Most of the time, I move fast. There’s just so much to do, between my corporate job, working on my book project, speaking engagements, spending time with my family and friends, exercising, travel and more. But zipping around quickly within a TEDx talk can diminish the impact of the message. I needed to slow down while creating my content to ensure it would fit and then again while delivering the message itself. Inserting pauses at the right time and slowing down my pace helped the audience better process key points.

6. Nothing is perfect.

I messed up a few times. Left out some details and didn’t advance a couple of slides at the exact right time. But it didn’t matter because no one knew what I was going to say before it came out of my mouth. Instead of beating myself up, I realized nothing is perfect and as long as I connected with the audience, my goal was met. And that gave me a tremendous sense of peace.


I still have plenty to do on my bucket list, like seeing the Northern Lights and experiencing a hot air balloon ride. But speaking at TEDxBoggyCreek has been an incredible milestone, bringing me joy and life lessons in so many ways.

What is on your bucket list? What did it feel like to accomplish one of those items?

Watch my TEDx talk here:

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