My TEDx cherry is broken – Now I want more

This past weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to give my first TEDx talk down in the friendliest of towns, Greenville South Carolina at FU – (how appropriate if you know about my love for the word Fuck) Furman University.

This truly was an epic 4 day journey. Just getting there was an Olympic fest in itself. The Eastern US states were blanketed in snow causing over 5000 flight cancellations which included my 2nd of 3 flights – this made getting to South Carolina seem almost impossible. But with the positive proactive mindset of the TEDx organizers, all of them undergrads at FU aka Furman University – they managed to get me re-routed twice ensuring I made it to the dress rehearsal after almost 20 hours of travel time in four different airports.

Putting on an event like a TEDx conference is typically a full time job for a group of professional event planners – however the TEDxFurmanU crew were all students who not only organized this event but also maintained full time studies. What was most striking about this group of young students was the culture that they had fostered on their young team. There were so many things from an Organizational Development and Event Logistics perspective that they got right – that said – it was the immense warm welcoming culture that permeated in every action/behaviour that all members of their volunteer team got, understood and implemented in everything that they did.

Many organizations strive to this ideal but struggle in it’s execution. For me – I arrived at the dress rehearsal with no sleep and at that point had been up for over 30 hours so it would have been very easy to be upset or cranky – however – I and the other TED speakers were quickly put to ease by every member of this TEDxFurmanU team. Putting on an event like this is equivalent to herding cats  —- and the eclectic herd of cats they had curated as speakers for this conference all knew where to go and what to expect. I found myself engaged in side conversations with every member of their team who were genuinely curious about this crazy Canuck they had flown in to talk about the uncharted territory of bringing executive coaching to post secondary. That evening the students hosted all the speakers for dinner at the campus pub and I got to enjoy grits for the first time – funny enough – they were great – for 40 years I thought grits was fried animal fat or the fatty grit from chickens…. but no it is cornmeal and was very tasty.

On Saturday morning I had the honour of going first – So to get pumped for my first TEDx Talk I found inspiration from Elizabeth Manley’s 1988 Long Program at the Calgary Olympics and from Joannie Rochette’s heart breaking and yet thrilling Short Program at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. As well, I started to introduce the 90’s Elbow bump to the young volunteers who thought it was a nice throw back to a long gone era.

Well I got out on stage and immediately fell in love. Standing on the TED red dot with an full audience sitting on every word and enjoying every minute of it – was pure joy. Experts say the #1 fear humans have is public speaking and that death is #4…. and I just don’t understand it. The shear rush of being on stage and sharing a very personal story – although difficult – was exhilarating. Talking about my cancer diagnosis where a group of medical students each give me a full physical including a Testical exam left me very exposed and vulnerable on that TED stage – I have no idea what happened next as by this point I had been awake for almost 48 hours straight so I did have a little nap backstage.

I feel so humbled and honoured to meet all the amazing volunteers at TEDxFurmanU, dining at their President’s 9000+ square foot Southern Mansion and meeting all the other epic TED speakers – some from the FU community and others from around the US. Their ideas worth spreading were so interesting and inspiring and the moment their talks are available online I will share them with you.

Some of the stories included: poems on the problems with pornography, walking across the US, the science of the voice, the importance of vision, the pigeonholing of female comics, an entertaining talk on the elevator pitch, an interesting take on the Information Technology over the past 2500 years, an epic Slam poet, a Lebanese American who was raised in Syria, Psychological First Aid, and a great peace activist who started the Free Hugs Project who is making headlines for de-escalating violent situations during protests, riots and political rallies.

Before heading down to South Carolina – I had some preconceived notions and stereotypes of the south and what is happening to our friends below the 49th parallel. Over the past few years, months and weeks it has been hard to watch – what seems like our neighbours tearing each other apart —— But what I experienced at this TEDxFurmanU gives me so much more hope for our American neighbours and also for the world. If these young organizers of TEDx are any indication of the possibility of the next generation – then the world is in very good hands.

I feel so blessed to be able to say I spoke at TEDxFurmanU and to have met so many passionate people dedicated to the notion of spreading ideas worth sharing. Big thank you & Canadian HUGS to everyone for this opportunity.

NOW WHAT?

I strongly encourage everyone to follow their dreams, and do something that makes you humbly proud. Now I need to find a new idea worth sharing so I can speak at another TEDx Conference.

Big Cheers