When my TEDx application was selected for TEDxOneonta last June, I was both excited and incredibly nervous at the same time. I knew I had a long journey ahead of me to prepare, and hone my message, and I felt incredibly honored by the opportunity! I learned after the talk that my subject was chosen from over 60 other applications, so I realized that this was a big deal.
How do you condense thirty years of time spent teaching people about nature and wilderness skills into 12 minutes? That was my challenge, and believe me, I spent many days and nights thinking and writing drafts and recording myself, trying to 'get it right'.
My topic was about Nature Deficit Disorder, and my 'natural advantage' system that I have used in my Hawk Circle Wilderness camps to achieve powerful results with kids and teens. There are restrictions on what you can say, how you say it, and it can't contain any commercial self promotion, political slants, etc. It was a little daunting!
I watched at least fifty TED talks online, and listened to podcasts of TED talks, over and over. I listened to podcasts of people who had done their own talks, and those who were offering to train others to do their own. I read books about it, and I talked to friends of mine who were Speaker Coaches, for advice and feedback.
I made a secret Facebook group with some of my friends and family who I knew could listen to my drafts, and give me their perspectives and support as I went through this process, so I could get outside of my 'bubble' and try to reach people who aren't 'wilderness or nature' people. I hired a speaking coach, Teri Winston, from Ottawa, to help me fine tune my talk, and my wife Trista was really great at listening to me over and over and over, too!
The day of this event, I went from being really, really nervous to being calm, and trusting what stories and insights I had chosen. I spent some time by the Susquehanna River in Oneonta, asking for nature and the ancestors to help me give this talk in a way that would go beyond me, beyond my own limitations, my own skills and experience, and touch people's hearts. I focused, over and over and over on the concept that this wasn't about me, but it was about the children, who are struggling, and disconnected, and scared, lost and anxious.
It is my hope that this talk approaches that ideal, and that I was able to rise to the occasion, and make a good connection. It's been humbling to hear that people really liked it! We will see how it goes in the long run, but for now, I'm glad it's over! That was really stressful!