Getting Vulnerable on The TED Stage

I was not expecting the rigorous process of rehearsals and speaker coaching that TED puts you through, and how the power of a group of inspiring speakers can be the source of courage you need to get up on that stage.  At each rehearsal, we all realized we had a rocky journey ahead to let our true feelings shine and to overcome our fear of judgment.  “Ideas worth spreading” require courage as you are likely uncovering vulnerabilities and emotions you’ve potentially been hiding from the public face.  I don’t think any of the speakers expected the emotional journey ahead as we lay bare our deepest secrets or emotions we had been pushing down.

It seems that this is what makes a great speaker.  When we can reach out to the audience by touching their hearts and bringing them into our story in a way they can relate to.  To do that, you must be in touch with those emotions and willing to go to the edge of those feelings, re-living them on the stage, wearing “your heart on your sleeve”.  As I practised my speech to my family, my husband commented that “I did not sound myself.” I shrugged it off to my “speaking” voice that I projected louder than normal.

The next day I was practising with my good friend Sue Dumais and she made the same comment asking, “What happened to Julie?”  I was shocked to realize I was putting on a voice that I could not hear or distinguish from the “real” me.  Sue concluded that I was wearing a “mask” unconsciously, as if I was trying to hide the “real” me.  How was I going to speak on the TED stage if I put on this “mask” and projected a voice that was “protecting” myself?  How could that even make sense and how could I recognize if this was the “real” Julie without someone else telling me?

This is something I tell the people I coach everyday when they are working through the process of exposing their life story.  If you truly want to inspire and help people by sharing your story, you must be willing to be vulnerable and let people see your true emotions.  If you do not show your weakness and the side of you that struggled to find the courage to tell your story, your audience will not relate to you.  Your audience admires that courage and is relieved to hear you telling them they are not alone, that you also fear judgment.  Only then does your audience know that you can authentically help them through their own fears because you are the same as them –  just a little further ahead, willing to hold them by the hand to join you.

Sue helped me to get in touch with the fear of judgment and I ended up having to deal with quite a lot of emotional baggage around that fear.  I was “good enough” and I was willing to “own” the power of my gift of dyslexia, stand proud on the stage and inspire others to embrace their gifts.  It would be my most vulnerable speech ever, on the most public stage!

Check out the new one day workshop I have created to help people find their TED pitch and their “idea worth spreading”.