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What happens before a TED talk

Dermot and I flew to Stuttgart the day before as I hate travelling and didn't want the stress of possibly arriving late. We woke up bright and early, and went for a run before breakfast in a beautiful park with segregated cycling and walking footpaths and red squirrels running around. After a leisurely breakfast and a bit of shopping, it was time to get ready.

I'd been very strict when packing and had only packed one outfit to wear for the talk. Normally I take several choices, faff and end up wearing the first thing I tried on, but I didn't want the hassle. Suddenly it was 2.30pm, and I was off to the theatre for the rehearsal leaving Dermot behind to have an afternoon nap.

Break a leg

I got off to a flying start - literally, as I tripped over the strip lights on the theatre stage, but luckily none were broken. Then I met all the other speakers, who all knew each other. I did feel a bit like the odd one out.


We also met
Jonathan Tilley , our host for the evening, who put us all at ease. He gave us this very sensible piece of advice…

"If you make a mistake, or forget your words, pause. Take a breath. Go back two sentences and start again. It's called 'post-production'. Only the people in the theatre will know you made a mistake. Youtube will never know".

I could have kissed him!

We then had a chance to check that our slides were working and to get a feel for the stage. The red carpet looked quite daunting. We were told where to look - at the cameras filming the talk, instead of scanning the audience like I normally would. I felt sorry for the people in the top circle of the theatre, as all they would see is the tops of our heads.

Practice makes perfect

We also practiced coming on to the stage, taking and passing back the slide clicker, and more importantly, leaving the stage, which we all got wrong the first time. Because the event was being held in a theatre, everyone speaking in the first half would wait in the green room backstage. You'd come on, speak, and then leave the stage to sit in the front row. We all wanted to go backstage again! Seeing my name in the programme also made it seem very, very real.

Oh my God, I'm first…

I was first up - which was a blessing in disguise. Although I was terrified at starting things off, it meant that I wouldn't have to wait for 3-4 hours before I did my talk. It also meant that I got to see everyone else's talks. Sadly I didn't understand most of them, as my German is limited to ordering bratwurst and pretzels… It was so frustrating hearing everyone around me gasp and laugh, and not be able to join in and support the speakers on stage. Also, 90 minutes is a long time to sit looking interested in the front row when you don't understand what's going on.

Last minute prep

The final thing I had to do was look at my prop. It was perfect (huge thanks to
Nico). But I then had to work out what to do with it. I hadn't practiced with it, and the finer details of trying to hide it onstage when there's nothing to hide it behind took some working out, as well as telling the sound and lighting men that I'd be using it and what I'd be doing with it.

Suddenly, it was 5.30, and time to get changed and take a sneaky peek at the audience filtering in. I rehearsed my opening a few times, to try and reassure me, and started panicking that I had no idea what came next. I had to give myself a good talking to, and trust in the months of bloody hard work that had led me to this point. I got texts from Dermot and
Ross to say they were in the audience, and then I was fitted with the microphone and was good to go.

Surprise memento

We were surprised and delighted to hear that an amazing guy called Dave would be drawing our TEDx talks in real time, and we all got a picture to take away. I've included mine at the bottom of this blog, for a sneak preview.

Tell me something nobody knows…

Jonathan did an AMAZING job of introducing us all. He'd sent a list of questions to get to know us a bit better, and he introduced me like this...

"Our first speaker won a bronze medal for disco dancing at the age of 7 wearing a purple lycra catsuit and a sequinned belt…".

What could possibly go wrong after that opening?

And then I walked out onto the stage, prop in hand…. Lights! Camera! Action!


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