Having watched TED Talks since I was young, it has always been a dream of mine to some day be able to share with others something I had managed to achieve. So early last year, when the head organizers of TEDxTSIS began accepting applications, there was absolutely no hesitation at all for me.
The theme for this year’s TEDx talk was “The Great Frontier”; but rather than it taking that to mean challenges and revolutionary developments, I interpreted it as thinking outside the box to change something for the better. That was why I decided to talk about a project I had run: we’d decided to buy music instruments and bring them to the rural regions of Guangxi, as a way to tackle the vicious cycle of poverty. For me, it was something that had really changed the way I view what one can achieve when it comes to charity - it’s not all about donations and fundraising.
The initial process began with writing my speech. Having given several speeches before either as a public speaker or debater, I was quick to learn that the style of speeches for TEDx talks were inherently different. TEDx is about the sharing of one’s idea with a goal of inspiring and persuading; therefore, it has to be like a proper conversation with a friend, not a whole audience of people. This took some time to adjust to. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for me came from having to rehearse syncing my speech to the visual PowerPoint aids, and not get thrown off topic!
Rehearsals flew by in the blink of an eye, and soon we were in the hall practising with the mics and the slides. Another aspect that made this experience so eye-opening was how giving a talk offered me an invaluable opportunity to learn from all these other stories that were being shared. All of the speakers, technical team, and head team were so supportive, and part of what made this process so enjoyable was meeting so many new friends.
When the big day came, saying that I felt the pressure would be a massive understatement, given that there were six cameras on me to record it for the TEDx website as well as the livestream. It was quite nerve-wracking to know that there would actually be more eyes on me than just the live audience; however, the intimacy I felt with the audience is something I will definitely cherish. For one, speaking to a live audience is definitely a lot more entertaining than asking questions to an empty hall, as I had in rehearsal. The audience’s enthusiastic responses really helped give me the motivation to tell my story with more passion. In fact, I hardly felt like it was a TEDx talk at all, because as the slideshow played, with all the images showing, it took me back to the time of the project, and brought back a lot of memories.
I definitely felt the nerves at the beginning of my presentation, but towards the end, they had all dissipated. I used to think speaking in front of an audience required that grand stage presence; it was the first time I had ever conducted a speech in this personal manner, and I was really touched by the overwhelming support I received.
To speak is to inspire, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be able to share my story.