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5 Things I Learned From Blowing My TEDx Talk

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Michael McCray       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   5 comments

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Michael McCray on stage at the Historic Delaware Public Library
(Image by Alessandra Nicole)
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Many people think giving a TEDx Talk is the chance of a lifetime. You can share your message and reach a billion people over a global platform. But what happens when you fcuk up on the biggest, grandest international stage--a performance that will be relived forever because the internet does not forget?

A good friend of mine described it like this: "Think back to how it felt when you tripped and fell in front of the Student Union. Now imagine you're not falling in front of a hundred students, but failing in front of a billion viewers."

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My July 30 TEDx Wilmington talk on judicial reform constituted the absolute best, "worst" 15 minutes of my life. My presentation was so bad that I now want to do a TEDx Talk on "Blowing Your TEDx Talk." It was as painful to watch as it was to deliver.

I had planned to start by citing popular contemporary themes (Hands Up, Don't Shoot, Black Lives Matter, etc.), then mention the names of victims of police brutality in chronological order. I mentioned Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland but became flustered when I couldn't remember Trayvon Martin's name. That broke my rhythm, throwing me off stride, as I watched the digital timer counting down faster than any stopwatch I'd ever seen.

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In one moment, I was transported back to my sixth grade piano recital solo when I forgot which notes to play next. Scared, sweating and shaking, that day I started over three times before finishing my piece. Decades later, and after being a lawyer and accomplished speaker in a more traditional format, I never expected to find myself back in that dark place.

Michael McCray on stage at the Historic Delaware Public Library
(Image by Alessandra Nicole)
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Here's what I wish I knew before I gave my talk:

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1: Give yourself six months' planning time.

To give a TED Talk most people prepare for six months, spending up to 50 hours crafting and practicing. I had six weeks to plan, organize and practice my talk while simultaneously planning a major convention event and coordinating the other speakers at the TED Talk. Be careful you don't overcommit too.

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Michael McCray is a public interest advocate who combats racism and corruption in the government and other institutions which deprive individuals of their basic civil rights, human rights and constitutional liberties. McCray is co-chair of the (more...)

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