My First TEDx Talk

The time finally came. I was about to go on stage and present my first TEDx talk. But before I get to that, let’s take a look back. 

In preparing this post, I looked at my first draft from February and my final draft in April. Only one story survived from the original. I had gone on a tour of five different Toastmasters clubs (Apex, Cary, Bedford, In Good Company, and three times to my home BORN Toastmasters club). I delivered the speech in various forms to over 100 Toastmasters. Their feedback was invaluable and I couldn’t have gotten to the final draft without their help. I then inserted gestures, acted out jokes, and ensured I had good vocal variety. I was ready.

On Thursday afternoon, TEDxApex had a sound check at Halle Community Center. All went well and I met several of the speakers. On Friday, we had a short rehearsal, met the rest of the speakers, and went to dinner. It was a delightful evening that our curator Eraina put together. Everyone was excited looking forward to the main event.

I walked out to the red dot on the big stage with a huge smile. I said my first two words, “When did.” I heard myself. Good, the mic works. I continued, no sound. I stopped. OK, try again. I heard sound and then no sound. I tried again. Same thing. 

Usually, if I have a technical issue, I will make light of it and say something funny like “Testing 1,2, testing 1,2, this thing on? I’m here all week.” But this isn’t a conference crowd, this is a TEDx talk. I can’t do that. It was then my old DJ Peter A instinct kicked in. No sound from the mic, look for the problem. The only thing to check was the mike transmitter inside my jacket pocket. I fumbled with it and put it back in my pocket. I got sound but then I didn’t.

Right about now, this issue started to affect me. I was looking for my place in the speech in my head and a bad feeling was starting to come over me. This is not going as I intended. When I visualized how this 10-minute speech was going to go, I did not anticipate this curveball. 

I took a breath and said to myself, get back to it. I picked up where I thought I left off. I soldiered on as best I could from there, even though there were intermittent stops and starts due to mic issues. I finished and as I walked off stage, my immediate reaction was dejection. Here was a speech I was supposed to knock out of the park, and it didn’t meet my expectations. Eraina was the first one to catch me backstage and profusely apologized for what happened. She said you are going to get to do it again. All the other speakers hugged me to tell me “You did good.”

There were 12 speakers and I was speaker #4 in the first half. It turned out that speaker #3, Garrett, and speaker #6, Chenae, had the same mic issues as me. Production staff decided to toss the Lavalier mics and use handheld mics for the second half. That has its separate set of issues involving gestures in your speech. You lose the use of one arm holding the mic and have to improvise. The three of us would get to re-record our speech after the event.

At intermission, I went out and the first people I see are Jeanann and Morgan. They told me I did great. I gave them that look of, you’re just trying to make me feel good. My head was still not in a good place. I next see my Toastmasters friends, Ishy, Rita, Joy, and David. They said I did a great job, we loved your speech. Come on folks, seriously? Were you in the same room as I was?

Then there was this gentleman standing behind them. He looked familiar, but I was trying to figure it out. I wasn’t thinking straight. Jeanann then says, “Look who came to see you!” It was my Best Man Dom. When he saw my post in January that I got a spot at TEDxApex, he emailed Jeanann and said I got a ticket and I’m coming down from Providence, RI to see Pete (my high school buds still call me Pete). Boy, was I surprised? Dom has been a huge supporter of mine on my speaking journey. He said I did great.

Throughout intermission, I saw Francesca & Chris, Karen &  Jesus, Deanna, Nancy & Kevin, Kelly, and Kim. Every single one of them said I did a fantastic job.  All these people know a little something about public speaking. What am I missing here? Is this really bad imposter syndrome I’m suffering from? Folks, didn’t you see me screw up up there.

I talked about it afterward with Jeanann & Morgan. Here’s what I wasn’t getting.

  1. It’s not about you, it’s about your audience. I was so worried about getting the speech out the way I wanted, that I forgot the audience had no idea what I was going to say. They didn’t know I screwed up, only I did.
  2. The message somehow still got through despite the technical issues. Even though this speech didn’t meet my expectations, it certainly made an impact on the crowd. The message about the generations resonated with the audience.
  3. I let a little tech issue stop me from having to do the #1 thing I should be doing when I speak, Having Fun!

While the other speakers went to the VIP room to mingle with guests and at the end of the event, Chenae, Garrett, and I got our Brooklyn “do-overs.” We all re-recorded our speeches (flawlessly I might add). It’s always hard to see the positive when feeling negative, but that’s what MOVING FORWARD is all about. The good folks who attended TEDxApex received great messages from 12 talented speakers. And isn’t that the point of TEDx, sharing ideas for others to think about? 

I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came to support me on a Saturday and hear what I had to say. They were Toastmastmasters, National Speaker Association Carolinas members, Town of Apex friends, and best of all, my family. But let’s get real. All these folks are my family. I see them, work with them, and collaborate with them. I also now have 12 new speakers as part of my family. I am truly blessed. Or as a very good Toastmasters friend of mine would say, “How lucky am I?”