On April 12, 2018, I spoke at a TEDx conference held at Santa Clara University. This TEDx conference is an independent conference that is similar to the big TED one.
My journey to becoming a TEDx speaker was no easy task. Back in December, I was walking through Benson, the school cafeteria when the TV advertisement caught my eye. It said. “Apply to become a student speaker!” in bold letters. I went home that night and emailed the link to myself.
Two days later, in December, I sat down and filled out the application. I submitted it in the evening and after Christmas break, I received an email from the organizers to select a time for an interview.
On January 24, at 8 pm, I met the organizers -- all 10 of them for a 15-minute interview. They asked interesting questions and I answered them as best as I could. That day was raining, but I knew I did well.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I got a voicemail after church and called the organizers back. They told me I was selected and from then on, the training started. I met with Toastmasters members who mentored me and helped me hone my public speaking skill
Everything from eye contact, posture, the tone of voice, and volume was taken into consideration. The ToastMasters mentors walked me through all the speaking rehearsals and with each practice, I no longer felt nervous; I become more confident as the day of the talk came.
The rest of the student speakers and I had one final rehearsal on April 9, 2018, and by then, I felt truly prepared. My organizers arranged for me to be the 4th speaker.
As I stepped on stage and walked to the big red circle, I took a deep breath and somehow my voice was no longer shaky. Instead, my voice rose each time with confidence. I made movements and gestures to emphasize my most important points. I led the audience through my life by giving them an imagery and several anecdotes. I connected with the audience. I made them laugh and cry. The night was meaningful for me just as much as it was for the audience.
This 4th position comes with advantages--my topic is on how making connections laid the foundation for perseverance in my life. I spoke of my experiences of how perseverance played a role in my life and also brought a new idea of how connections--people that I have come across in my life has given me the strength to overcome a trial. My speech was also right before intermission as well, which allowed the audience time to absorb my message.
After I spoke, I walked off to the stage but not without hearing the ongoing sound of clapping and the standing ovation for me. As I walked backstage, my phone kept buzzing off 40+ text messages telling me how well I did on the stage.
That night, I realized so much more about myself as a human being-- that is, we are struggling with obstacles in our lives but we can persevere when we make connections with others. A community is what makes us more motivated to overcome our trials.
Being a TEDx speaker was a step forward in the new unknown. I made that decision to overcome my fear of public speaking-- as I spoke from my heart. The audience listened. They responded, connected, and hopefully will learn something from my ideas.
TEDx is all about ideas worth spreading. That night was a memorable, unforgettable, and inspiring night because through people, I realized that I am so much more than just a 4 foot 7 in cerebral palsy survivor, Vietnamese American woman, and speaker. I am perseverance and perseverance is the essence of having a meaningful life.
Don’t give up. Instead, reach out and connect with those important people in your life. Seek their wisdom. There is someone out there who believes in us, no matter who it is.
Note: My TEDx speech will be available on YouTube soon, under the channel TEDx Santa Clara University.