by: Aileen Gibb
One True and Trusted Conversation at a Time was the message I chose to put out in the world at my recent TEDx talk in Canmore, Alberta, Canada (my home town). Little did I realize when I set out to do this talk that the message was to prove as powerful a learning for me personally as it was to be for my audience.
I'm not a speaker as such. Apart from my appearances on behalf of the IAC at the annual WBECS online conference for the past four years, I haven't really been on stage as a keynote (or any other kind) of speaker. I have however, facilitated leadership groups and teams for many years.
The largest of these I fondly remember as my "platform moment" – standing on a small circular platform addressing concentric circles of 300 technical leaders. I loved that moment. The performer in me was playing to her strengths. I was in a flow and as a result I carried it off with great aplomb, articulation, and impact.
Surely, I could carry off a TEDx talk? At first I wasn't so sure. Two years ago I had applied to speak at our local TEDx and I'd been rejected. This year I wasn't even sure it was worth applying. Then I got a call asking me to apply. Oh yes, I convinced myself, they must be short of speakers this year. Not enough applications. Anyone will do. My inner critic was already controlling the show. When I hadn't heard anything after three weeks, I actually wrote to the committee and assumed I had AGAIN not been accepted. Not so. This time around, I was on the speaker list. Now I had to decide what I would speak about. (Yes, I know you should first have a clear "idea worth sharing" and then apply to present it at TEDx. Not me.)
I started out confident. The theme of our event was EVOLVE. I could speak to the contribution coaching makes to the evolution of individuals, organizations, even society. I could show that powerful questions could evolve conversations and relationships. I could argue for listening as an evolutionary force for change. Yes all of those could work. But none of them did. Draft after draft got scrunched up and tossed in the bin.
You see, the real challenge of doing a TEDx talk isn't being good at presentations, being accomplished as a speaker, or even knowing your topic inside out. No, the real challenge is being able to convey ONE idea in a very short time. I had ten minutes. Now I was really feeling the pressure. My inner voice was saying, you're never going to do this!
So I got a coach. A bright, creative, enthusiastic and at times tough, coach from a theatre background. This was to be a totally new experience of coaching for me. My coach started out with some tough love. When I read through a draft version of my talk, he said: "Yeah – that's pretty boring, Aileen. Let's do something different".
Well I liked that. The rebel in me always wants to do something different and I was having problems conforming to the standard TEDx format. And sometimes doing something different turns out to be a long, tough haul. It would have been relatively easy to take any of those coaching ideas I'd had and massage them into a message to fit with the EVOLVE theme. Much harder was my own personal evolution before I got onto that stage.
As a confident coach and facilitator, I would never have anticipated how much fear showed up for me in the early stages of preparing for this talk. My 'winging it' persona could not have anticipated how hard I was going to work: practice after practice after practice, memorising until I was word perfect. My brain could not even believe it had the capacity to remember what turned out to be a three-character coaching skit that I was to perform on the TEDx stage.
But I did it. On the day, my performer showed up again. I stepped up to the stage and did it. It was over in what seemed like seconds – an attribute I'm assured suggests that I was in total flow. My posse of friends, family, colleagues and clients, assured me it went well. Personally, I'll have to wait for the video.
Trusting myself and being true to the core of my work as a coach, carried me through on the day. My message of one trusted and true conversation at a time served me on that stage. It only took stepping up, trusting my voice and being true to all the authentic practice I had put in, for me to carry it off. I got a couple of laughs as people in the audience recognised themselves in my talk: either as the employee afraid to speak their truth to their boss, or as the leader who needs to listen more to what people are trying to tell them.
One true and trusted conversation at a time, similar to every coaching conversation we have. There only is that one conversation at a time, from which the most amazing experiences might emerge. All you have to do is step up onto your own stage and trust yourself to perform.
(As yet the videos have not yet been posted online but will in due course be found here.)