The terror of TED(x)
I’ve been invited to do a TEDx* talk to a hundred of North London’s brightest sixth formers at Highgate School.
Honestly, I’m peeing my pants. More to the point: I haven’t spoken to an audience this big for … God, I can’t remember. Secondly: teenagers! I remember (just) when I was one – full of expectation with the concentration threshold of a two year old.
But I don’t think these guys are anything like me when I was their age. For one, they’re probably way more intelligent than I was, and, as a result, they’ll see me for the fraud I really am. And then, they’ll start surreptitiously typing some Tweet, or iMessage, or Facebook message or something on their phones about how boring the speaker (i.e. me) is. So the premise of talking at this event is far worse than I originally imagined.
Forget hauntings, things that go bump in the night. This TEDx thing is the stuff of nightmares.
Let’s start off with the theme: “Contemporary Revolutions”. Nothing wrong with that, I said to myself when I first saw the email. Then I read the rest that followed, eloquently outlined by the two organisers, Sophie Ishaq and Seline Naqi:
We would love you to share with the audience an idea that is fresh and innovative, demonstrating a revolution, and utilising your expertise in your field. It would be great if you could capture the TED balance of factual meat and emotional sauce for ultimate effect. You will be filmed and your video will find itself on a TED.com platform online!
An idea that’s fresh and innovative? When I think of, fresh, a loaf of bread appears in my head. When I think of the word, innovative, my mind goes blank. When I consider the phrase, factual meat and emotional sauce, all I picture is a plate of spaghetti bolognese. Total nonsense, right? Nowadays, that’s how my brain thinks .
Not only that, what about: You will be filmed … and your video will find itself on a Ted.com platform. Excellent. I’m a soft-round-the-edges mother of two with perennially dark circles under my eyes that not even Touche Éclat can fix. Obviously with less than a week to go, it’s too late to contemplate cosmetic surgery.
It doesn’t stop there. Seline and Sophie, two girls, who are so brilliantly organised, you could imagine them running Goldman Sachs by the time they’re 25, get into specifics:
Given your diverse experiences in investment banking and management, we would love for you to discuss the personal revolutions that you have experienced whilst transitioning from the financial services to the literary world. In addition, what inspired you to write your book The Silent Children as well as a very a successful and widely read blog? Perhaps you could elaborate on the effect that social media platforms such as blogs are having on society.
Confession number 1: my novel isn’t published. Yet. It’s done, yes. But it’s not exactly out there in the public domain.
Confession number 2: I’ve no idea how widely read my blog is. Sure, I’ve been getting a steady stream of new registrations to my blog, but the identity of each subscriber is so dubious that I think they’re the invention of some random hacker sitting in front of a computer in North Korea.
Confession number 3: my personal revolutions are so many that I could barely distill them into a 1,000 page book, let alone a 10 minute talk. Okay, I’m lying. My personal revolutions are so few that I could barely fill a page of A4, let alone weave an entertaining tale of the trials and tribulations of my career journey.
I’ve just taken a peak at the other speakers invited to talk. They include a bone fide, award-winning author; an award winning journalist; a collection of successful entrepreneurs, two of which have appeared in some Top 30 or Top 100 list of most influential people in media, finance, etc.. Am I feeling a little like a fish out of water? Maybe just a bit.
Let me finish on the title of my talk. Between my Better Half and I, I’m the one who’s meant to have the creative juices running through my veins. Yet every suggestion I threw out to him was met with The Look.
“Okay,” I said in a huff. “Why don’t you come up with a title.”
In a blink of an eye, he said, “Snowflakes,“
“What?” I said, trying to fathom out the way his brain works.
And then he explained.
“That’s actually pretty good,” I said. “For you.”
Now I just have to prepare what I’m going to say. Easier said than done. But this much I do know: I wish I had someone tell me when I was a teenager that I shouldn’t stress about a career choice; that I should do something I enjoy, and when you enjoy something, you’re happy. And when you’re happy, success follows. Besides, what you may end up doing, could be very different from what you do in five, ten, twenty years time. Embrace that change, I say. The world’s your oyster.
Until next time!
* In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The event at Highgate School is called, TEDxHighgateSchool, where x = independently organised TED event. At the TEDxHighgateSchool event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.