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Life Arts    H4'ed 6/6/18

5 Things I Learned From Blowing My TEDx Talk

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Michael McCray on stage at the Historic Delaware Public Library
Michael McCray on stage at the Historic Delaware Public Library
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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."

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.

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
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:

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 (more...)

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