I applied to speak at TEDx Canmore. It’s running on October 25th and I figured this was as good a chance as any to put my public speaking skills to the test at the speaking event I admire most.
My 12 year old son applied as well. I was excited for him and, frankly, impressed that he would apply. Sean watches TED with me all the time. He knows he’ll be in a huge auditorium in front of hundreds of people. And yet he still applied. I have clients in senior executive positions who would shy away and here was my son, typing up his entry.
“What are you going to talk about?” I asked him.
“Video games,” he answered quickly, never taking his eyes off the computer screen. I figure my son is like most boys his age, spending most of his waking hours trying to get on a device of some sort, but occasionally I have moments of doubt and that’s usually when Sean is tasked with walking down the mountain to Fergie’s, our local convenience store, for milk or joining his 4 year old brother and me at the playground for an active game of Frisbee. He is passionate about games though and so his answer didn’t surprise me.
We were asked to write our bios a few weeks ago the first step along the selection process. Sean wrote plainly and simply about who he was. His sentences weren’t flowery. They were clear, direct and honest.
Last week, I got a rejection email and Sean got a phone call. I was too excited for him to be disappointed for myself. The next step for him was to flesh out his idea, come up with his key points and present them during an interview.
This morning we sat for two and a half hours together and I broke out the Post It notes. Every time Sean made an assertion I asked him to back it up. What was the proof? What were his stories? What did he mean by that? He did what every presenter does at the planning stage. He started with abstract ideas, he made blanket statements, and he recited jargon he’d read online.
When pressed, though, he started to say what he really thought and that’s when the story started to emerge. We filled about 50 Post It notes with ideas, examples and stories. He got specific and passionate. We organized the Post Its into Sean’s presentation story – exactly what we do with our clients. A lot of Post It’s went on the ‘discard’ wall. He practiced his Post It presentation a couple of times.
The time for the phone interview arrived. I couldn’t help but sit outside the office door a little listening to him. He blew me away. With unwavering confidence, he walked through his Post It presentation. I could hear the TED official grilling Sean, asking him questions, wanting an explanation or proof. Sean knew his story. He could back up and give more detail but he always knew where he was in the Post Its.
I realized in that moment that what we do really works. The presentation story really works. But don’t take my word for it.
The TED official, the very one who had rejected my application, emailed me to tell me how impressed she was with Sean’s confidence and enthusiasm and his commitment to his story.
You know what? I think my son is going to speak at TEDx in Canmore in October and I think I’ll be the proudest person in the room.