For years I’ve watched and been inspired by TED and TEDx Speakers alike. On the radar from the global stage, on a huge variety of themes, have been compelling speakers like Amy Cuddy, Sir Ken Robinson, Simon Sinek and Steve Jobs. At the more modest, independently organised events, there is still rich opportunity to find the “hidden” gems of inspirational speakers, all with fascinating ideas worth sharing, on pretty much each and every topic under the sun. As at November 2021, there were over 3800 TED Talks freely available via the website: www.ted.com.
As a former criminal barrister, no stranger to public speaking in my 19-year career at the Bar, I observed a very different skill set in the TEDx Speaker though. The single idea, delivered by an individual, centre stage, in a way that provokes thought through its impassioned and note-free delivery, is heartfelt, “out there”, and designed to move an audience to take action, often in an unconventional way. A barrister’s jury speech, whilst often powerful and persuasive, focuses on facts, not feelings, with evidence at its core. When I transitioned from being a woman in law to a coach, speaker and author, I quickly identified the cross-transferable strengths I had, but also the areas of development, to become competent, credible and compelling in this new and different field of “non-law” public speaking, a very different animal.
Where the Journey Began
It started with a Speaker Retreat, understanding the importance of storytelling in an effort to engage an audience. Thinking about and working on the mantra, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you make your audience FEEL”. And soon developed into a strongly held desire to become that TEDx speaker that I’d seen and thought of many times before.
Making it happen: Planning
I visualised it. In late 2020, I put it on my 2021 goal board. I leapt on opportunity.
Early 2021, an unexpected and short notice invitation presented, via Social Media, to become a TEDx speaker. It turned out to be a rogue event – not a true TEDx bill. These events are meticulously licensed and carefully planned to preserve the illustrious TED Brand. So having unknowingly spent a wasted 48 hours preparing, in truth at the expense of important family commitments, only to have to pull out at the last minute, I learnt, dusted myself down and became even more determined. I got back to my plans to make this goal a reality.
Making it happen: Taking Action
I made multiple enquiries/ applications to a number of different TEDx events. I enlisted the support of a coach to navigate the audition process. And once selected, I invested in myself, by paying for external coaching/ advice about how to craft the perfect TED Talk and structure it in a compelling and persuasive way.
In the meantime, I was also working with the incredible team at Tedx Doncaster who’s Positive Disruptor event loomed large from early June 2021 to its performance date, 24th October, 4 months later. I had no idea how much planning and preparation went on behind the scenes to make these events the success that they are. Volunteer coaches worked with speakers; Steering Committee members worked with sponsors and technical support teams; Speakers came together to support one another and will each other on – discussing titles for their ideas, compelling phrases to enhance delivery, practising talks both online and in person, initially with notes, then without.
Navigating the Curveballs of Life
Alongside of this, life continued, as it does: I navigated Covid; the hospitalisation of a very close family member; self-isolation with 3 children back at home being home-schooled in and amongst boxes packed ready for a house move just 3 weeks before the big event; then finally a major incident of back pain which saw me needing paramedic support and almost 3 weeks of loss of movement and debilitating pain. My resilience and resolve were tested like never before.
Practice makes Progress
If ever there was a lesson in how “the show must go on”, then this was it. Also, that practice makes progress: the online dress rehearsal was a hesitant, almost note-free delivery; the in-person theatre dress rehearsal was a dry run – with dry mouth – as reality began to dawn. And 2 weeks later, after almost 4 solid weeks of practising twice a day come what may, through thick and thin, whatever life sought to chuck this way, the live event was upon us, in front of a packed theatre. The moment of truth.
The Big Event
The recording will be released soon enough so the world can stand in judgment. What I can say is that the event itself was an absolute success. I opened the “show” to a friendly crowd, avidly taking in my story and idea. They smiled when I did; they drew breath when I did; they willed me on. They showed their gratitude as I concluded to their rapturous applause. Months of hard work over and done with in less than 15 minutes, although of course I trust the recording and idea will live on!
I hope to share here – in short form – simply this: “A goal without a plan is just a wish”: Visualise it. Make it a goal with a tangible plan. And more than anything, start. Even when you don’t feel ready. Begin. Take action. Keep going. Under pressure, when your resilience is being tested, remember “You’ve got this”. The rest will follow.
And so it did.
Nikki Alderson Biography
Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker and author, & former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience:
- supports organisations, law firms & barristers’ Chambers to retain female talent; &
- empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.
Nikki specialises in 3 areas:
- Women leadership transition & change;
- Enhanced career break returner support; &
- Workplace resilience, mental toughness, confidence & wellness.
She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX) nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category & finalist in the 2020 Women in Law Awards, Legal Services Innovator of the Year & 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.