TEDxDerby 2015 Part 1 – Overcoming fear

“Giving a talk is just getting up on a stage and saying things which are important to you. But if it was that easy, everyone would do it.” So went the conversation in the pub after TEDxDerby yesterday. As one of the speakers at TEDxDerby 2015, I can attest that it definitely wasn’t an easy process to go through! Yet it’s the difficult things, the challenges in life, that make us who we are and bring moments of definition and direction in our lives.

So when I was asked to be a speaker at TEDxDerby, I had no hesitation in saying yes. I knew about the TED movement, about how it’s a way of providing a platform for new ideas, inspiration and support. I knew that the talks were given in a maximum of 18 minutes, in a narrative, relaxed way, to a live audience and then made available for others to watch on the web. So I grasped the opportunity, full of optimism.

And then came the doubts and fears, creeping in, uninvited, unwanted, unwelcome.

“I’m not good enough to do this” “Everyone else is better than me” “I don’t have anything interesting to talk about” “They must have been really stuck for people to ask if they’re having to get me to do something” “What if I clam up on stage and forget what to say?” “I’ve only been asked to make up the numbers” “What if people watch my talk and tear what I say to shreds?”

I could go on. And on. And on. The negative inner voice is a very powerful one, insidiously suggesting at every opportunity that you’re not good enough. Doggedly, I ignored it, researched material for my talk, jotted down thoughts and ideas, took inspiration from other TEDx talks, such as those given by Mitch Resnick at MIT, and Clare Sutcliffe, the CEO for Code Club. Coaching sessions from my boss at Code Club and from a professional speaker from last year’s TEDxDerby helped enormously. I knew that if I kept working hard, I could do this.

So I had a talk. Each section was a bead and they were all threaded together by a overarching narrative. I had slides which illustrated what I was talking about, rather than prompts to remind me what to say. It was all going reasonably well. And then I started rehearsing in earnest and the nerves kicked in and the voice of doom was back. “You don’t really want to leave this bit in do you?” “Your start is rubbish” “Your ending is rubbish” “You can’t do this”

Nerves turned into fear and I spent one day completely paralysed by anxiety, with every single scary thought gnawing away in my stomach. I would try and start my talk and freeze – mind blank, body taut, eyes wide scared. The process of giving a talk now became as much about controlling and overcoming fear as it did about giving the talk. Three things helped:

  • A vlog by James Victore on being brave and scared at the same time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhCXkOAWORM
  • Watching the film “Divergent” and seeing Tris Prior face down her fears because she knew how to control them and be free from them
  • Finally understanding that if I took a step towards what scared me, its power immediately shrank

divergent fear quote

TEDxDerby 2015 was here. A sunny Saturday in April, perfect for a day of inspiration at the Silk Mill Museum in Derby. Everything was ready. Was I?


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