How I Got On TEDx And How You Can Too!

Skyler McCurine talks to The NextWomen about her incredible experience speaking at a TEDx event and her journey to the stage.

Something phenomenal happened to me this year. I thought I’d have to wait two life-times before this occurred: I was asked to give a TEDx talk. Even saying that line gives me the chills and I find gratitude and wonder staring me dead in the face.

The experience was terrifying, thrilling, and invigorating all at the same time, I’ll never forget those 30 seconds waiting backstage - I was the last speaker of the entire day and had spent the previous 7 hours in excruciating anxiety.

I had 15 minutes to speak and felt the weight of this importance. Just as I was trying to gather my thoughts, the MC said, “And now we have our last speaker of the day, Ms. Skyler McCurine.” Cue sweat. The outpour of love, kudos, handshakes, and inspirational words that followed after gracing the TEDx stage was incredible and overwhelming. I also received emails, texts, and LinkedIn messages with a variety of inquiries - the recurring questions: How did you get on TEDx? What’s the process? What is it like? I will attempt to answer them here. This blog is an exploration and explanation of the TEDx process and life after receiving the long awaited email: “We would like to invite you to TEDx...”

Let me start out by saying that TED is separate from TEDx. I hope to one day give a TEDtalk but that forum is reserved for the hardcore movers and shakers - Jeremy Gilley, Sheryl Sandberg, etc. TEDx are satellite conferences licensed by an individual or group. There are thousands of TEDx events. San Diego has more than five: TEDxAmericasFinestCity, TEDxSanDiego, TEDxSDSU, you get the picture. See the TEDx 2014 events calendar here.

The Invitation

There are a few different ways you can rock a TEDx stage. A large number of speakers are handpicked, scouted, and selected to give a talk. Sometimes they have speaker contests that call for you to pitch by submitting an essay or clip of your idea (remember, it has to be one “worth spreading”). A large portion of TEDx events also have speaker applications on their website. My path was as follows: the speaking coordinator of TEDxEncinitas heard me speak at a non-profit conference and told me to apply. I was asked to submit my idea, a video, and their detailed application. I waited a few months and then received the world’s most amazing email inviting me to speak.

After you accept your invitation… because, why wouldn’t you?

You are paired with a Speaker Coach. This person is well-versed in TED’s policies and guidelines. Their goal is to get your video on TEDx/TED’s YouTube Channel. In order for that to happen you have to adhere to their deadlines & guidelines: no profanity, royalty free images, time-limit. I had about three weeks to submit my final draft with images/activities. Your speech coach is your cheerleader, audience, critic, and soundboard.

My Speaker Coach, Siobhan Wilcox, was open, honest, and crucial to my success. She prepped me weeks before and then met me backstage before I walked out, offering support and one more message of ra-ra go kick some ass.

A lot of TEDx/TED speakers are not professional speakers; they just have incredible ideas and have been working hard at spreading them.

Just because you’re a great speaker, have your own movement or business, or have an interesting topic, does not mean you’ll be chosen. Every TEDx event has a theme. TEDxEncinitas’ was “Just Jump In.” Every talk that day reinforced or even questioned that theme; there were a wide variety of talks but they all tied to the theme. You must make sure yours does, too.

Rehearse. Rehearse. Did I say rehearse?

I’m a speaker by trade and have always been a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal, meaning I wing it. I know my stuff but usually create an outline consisting of bullet points and I ad-lib the rest. I’ve never had a script that I’ve recited word for word. I’ve always improvised and know my content/outline like the back of my hand. This wasn’t the case here. I had exactly 15 minutes in which to compile a life’s worth of passion and work. Every breath and every word needed to be placed intentionally and strategically. I practiced in the car sitting in traffic, when I showered, in bed before I went to sleep, and recited my talk for anyone willing to listen.

The Big Day

Rehearsal day takes place on the eve of your TEDx event. Rehearsal gives speakers the chance to understand the space, the stage, the technology, the agenda, and, the best part: you’ll get a sneak peak of the other brilliant ideas being shared. After a night of tossing and turning, you’ll show up at your event space, pace back and forth backstage, and then spread your idea in front of an audience that can range anywhere from 50 to 1,000+.

The day is broken into different categories. Speakers with similar messages are grouped together and the “speaker salon” takes place immediately after each group of speakers. Here, attendees have the opportunity to ask you questions or even share criticisms about your process, talk, and idea.

It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level and witness first-hand how your idea is spreading through someone’s mind and, hopefully, actions.

The Calm After The Storm

You did it. What now? Ideas, sharing, and movements are organic and while viral videos do happen, this isn’t necessarily common. It will take a few weeks for your video to go live on YouTube (you should receive a notification from the TEDx event’s staff indicating your video is published). The most important thing is that you are accessible should someone want to start a dialogue with you about your talk. TEDx talks have one ubiquitous thread; they inspire introspection. This inner dialogue is often turned outward to enable the recipient to really chew on such progressive content. Stand by for incredible human exchanges.

If your hope is to give a TEDx talk, my biggest advice is to keep doing your good work. Keep building, keep adding color to others’ existence, and keep spreading your idea. Please join my movement to get others to embrace selflessness by watching my TEDx talk and remember, TEDx is about ideas worth spreading, so if you find my message important, please share it with your network!

Skyler McCurine is a wild hearted mogul in the making. She revitalizes her clients’ sense of self through her brave beauty of a business, Le Red Balloon. Her company guides the world to confidence through style, compassion, and a large helping of humour. Her interactive seminars for young women on body image, anti-bullying, and empowerment explain why her nick name is, The Oprah of Personal Shopping.

Le Red Balloon is the fervent removal of life’s tarnish, revealing the singular brilliance that lies within every individual, showcasing its lustre in the way it deserves to be seen. At 26 Skyler hopes to see herself in Forbes Magazine, empowering women to love themselves, others, and impact the world. She spends her spare time refurbishing vintage suitcases and has been known to partake in copious amounts of champagne.

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