It’s always been a dream of mine to speak on a TED stage and last October I finally did it!
If you don’t want to read, here are 2 vids that pretty much say everything written below. Even if you don’t read, you can scroll down to see tons of snaps. :]
HOW I GOT INVITED
The story is very serendipitous…right place, right time!
Back in May of 2018, I moved into a new apartment in Bình Thạnh District, on Nguyễn Ngọc Phương Street. I was hanging out in my apartment working, and heard a knock on my door…
My first thought was, “Why is someone knocking on my door?” Our apartment complex has a security guard, code based lock and is very private.
My next thought was, “I really don’t want to stop working right now.”
I almoooost did not answer it. But, I thought maybe it was my landlord or something urgent.
I opened the door and it was my neighbor Pierre.
He introduced himself, and I quickly learned he was a photographer from Belgium who was in Ho Chi Minh for a month and having a photo show the following day.
Caffeine was coursing through my veins, so I started blabbing on about my photo work, showing Pierre some recent lightning snaps.
At this point, Pierre interrupted, “I’m so sorry, Matt, but I was wondering if you had any toilet paper? I have none and I am in a rush because I need to go prepare for my show…”
I gave him some TP and sent him on his way.
Pierre’s show Noirfoto Art Talk with Pierre Toussaint: “La chambre du désir”, was held at the TOONG Coworking Space in District 1 and featured his stunning black & white photography.
The show was short notice, and I had tentative plans, but switched them so I could attend.
At the show, I started chatting with a couple people at the snack table while munching on guacamole.
One gal was Josie, British artist who teaches art classes for kids here in Ho Chi Minh; and the other was Sam, a local urban planning student at the University of Architecture.
The 3 of us sat together during Pierre’s art talk and at the end, exchanged Facebook info.
And that was that.
1 month later…
I got a Facebook message from a girl named Ngoc, saying that she had a question to ask me. I was confused because I knew a Ngoc, but this seemed to be a different Ngoc.
Once I clicked on her profile, I realized it was “Sam”, the UAH student from Pierre’s event!
Ngoc, aka Sam was on the organizing committee for the TEDx event and asked if I was interested!
…was a roller coaster ride. The organizing committee set up meetings early and often to ensure all the speakers were not falling behind.
You don’t want to let the procrastination monkey take over, like Tim Urban masterfully talked about!
In that first meeting, I met a bunch of the organizers and their energy was fantastic!
Also, I was introduced to my Coach Ted Zang, (Trọng Phan) student at UAH, with loads of experience hosting events. Ted’s really smart and funny, and offered a lot of great ideas.
We discussed the theme (Black Mirror: basically centers around Technophobia; what will happen in the future as a result of too much tech?) and how this theme could relate to my expertise in public speaking training.
We set up a schedule, and they asked me to deliver a rough draft for review.
Hmmm…I don’t really do rough drafts anymore.
WRITING THE TALK
I’ve delivered 100’s of speeches throughout my life, and I stopped writing out the full speech many years ago. My process involves an outline, and then rehearsal, editing through practice.
A couple reasons I don’t write the full speech:
We write differently than we speak. When we write, it is often for the purpose of business, or school, or something more formal. We tend to use bigger words and say things that we would not say in a normal conversation. A speech should feel natural. We teach people to “speak like they’re talking to your best friend”. Don’t try too hard to impress. Just be yourself!
Memorization is difficult! I don’t care how good you are, and how many times you’ve practiced—even the most seasoned speakers can have a blank out moment with the memorization technique. Typically, this will happen when the audience reacts to something you’ve said. Maybe they laugh longer than you expect, and then—-your flow is interrupted! You’re trying to remember the first word of the next sentence…and…it’s…just…not…appearing…in your mind…
A great speech can benefit from improvisation. Every audience is different and you should be reacting to what the audience is giving you in real time. You can have the vast majority of the speech locked in, in your head—but allow yourself some flexibility to riff a little bit here and there. Also, public speaking is not a one way street. It is not an act that you perform, but rather a real time dialogue happening with your audience. There could even be some back and forth.
All that being said, I do think certain cases can necessitate a carefully orchestrated script. Eg. a graduation commencement speech delivered from a podium. Or, a World Championship of Public Speaking speech. Or, I guess, even a TED talk. For all these occasions, you really need to be mindful of the time limits. And, secondly, these speeches should reflect adequate preparation and professionalism.
So, I set out to actually write my TEDx Talk.
And I failed miserably.
I didn’t just start writing…I did make an outline.
But, the process of writing, even with an outline, felt odd and unfamiliar.
Script #1 was garbage.
Script #2, marginally better.
Script #3, MEH.
Around this time, I had a realization…I’m not actually sure I believe what I’m writing about!
The theme of the event was Black Mirror, which centers around technology and the dangers of too much technology. But, I love technology and think the positive effects far outweigh the negative.
Ted and I sat down together, and both agreed that the angle of the Talk needed to be more positive, juxtaposing the benefits of using your real voice against using your social media voice.
OK, back to the writing board…
Script #4, OK. But, still a bit disjointed.
Script #5, I realized I need to re-work this thing, big time. Ted and I worked on re-working the structure.
Script #6, I felt pretty good about.
Script #7, Final…?
My best friend read it and said, “It doesn’t sound like you. Sounds like you wrote it.”
He knows me well.
One week before the Talk, I literally ditched the script. I still had the structure in my head. But, I finally decided to go back to the way that I know how to prepare a speech. Practice, practice, practice. Editing through rehearsal. Recording myself speaking, watching and listening. Edit, edit, edit.
And then, oh yea—-I need to create slides!
Since the audience was mostly art, design & architecture students, I really wanted to do something creative with the slides. I decided to draw them.
The slides got me excited for the Talk!
MY TEDx TALK
When I finally got to see the stage and feel the room, I was so excited! LET’S GO!
Showered up, ready to roll, in the taxi to the event!
The organizers did such a PHENOMENAL job setting up the event, with so many fine details!
Entertainment for the guests before the event…
WHOA, seeing my profile in the program made it all super real!
The start of the event!
Speaker #1, Helly Tong! 270k followers on Instagram:
Here is my first (yeah I said ‘first’) TEDx Talk: The Value of Your Voice.
Here is the 3rd speaker, who followed me, super entertaining, Nghi Nguyễn !
They had an intermission after our 3rd speaker, and it was so nice to go out and socialize!
L to R: Ted Zang (my Coach), Thuy Anh and I
Myself and some of the organizers, attendees and speakers!
Speaker #4, Nguyên Hạnh Nguyên’s Talk was in Vietnamese which I couldn’t understand, but I liked her slides:
Speaker #5 Tom Trandt, loved his Talk and his fashion design:
Speaker #6, Thanh Luke, super fun singer, performer and overall GREAT entertainer!!
The organizers all got on stage at the end to sing a final song…awwwww, sad that it is coming to an end!
And, it’s a wrap!
After the show, with Ngoc (Sam), the girl who invited me to speak, and fellow cast members!!
I could not have done it without this guy! Ted Zang, my Coach!
WHAT I LEARNED…
Overall, the event was such a fantastic experience! I got to meet some incredible people, and was inspired and motivated to take my game to an even higher level.
In the future, if someone asks me to deliver a rough draft, I will use my former method to create the rough draft. And, I will have more time to fine tune the speech through rehearsal, vs through writing.
Also, I will share the speech with more people earlier in the process. I felt as though I didn’t want to have too many cooks in the kitchen, and withheld the script until it was almost too late to incorporate feedback.
And lastly, I’ll probably start my slide art much sooner. :]
In terms of my performance, I would give it probably a C+ or B-. I feel that I could have been much more imaginative with the theme. Maybe I could have envisioned the future, where we only will have virtual business meetings and all presentations will be done via a pre-recorded hologram of yourself…or something weird and dark like that!
I want to give another Talk this year. That’s my goal! There are some TED events in Ho Chi Minh, and hopefully I can try to get invited again!