a couple of weeks ago, i delivered a talk at the TEDxSFU | shift conference in vancouver. what a great experience. after several months of preparation, it was amazing to see it all come together so well on the day of the event.
TEDxSFU was unlike any conference i've ever been part of. the speakers ranged from educators to athletes, from researchers to various types of consultants. and their topics ranged from the stigma that surrounds mental health to the positive social effects of a dramatic arts education. so it definitely wasn't an academic conference, but i think that's what i liked most about it.
i also very much liked the process of developing the talk, which was built collaboratively, over the course of several months. we began thinking about what our talks might look and sound like as far back as the summer (!). once, sometimes twice a month, we'd get together to workshop our ideas in group sessions facilitated by a speaker coach. this was a great way to refine our thoughts and make sure they appeal not only to other experts in our field, but to everyone with a pair of ears and who's willing to listen.
what this did was it pushed me to think about my work in new ways. it pushed me to communicate ideas i've worked on for years with brevity and clarity, which is a great exercise for academics, who are often far more interested in exploring ideas slowly and meticulously. instead, in a TED talk you have 10 or 15 minutes to state your case while keeping the audience interested and engaged. this is a particularly challenging but very important thing to be able to do.
come the day of the conference, i had that talk down cold. and delivering it felt more like i was working through a theatrical monologue than presenting my research. so many lights. so many cameras. so many people (who, by the way, i couldn't see because of all the lights). this definitely wasn't an academic conference. but it was a great experience from which i learned a lot. and *i think* the talk ultimately went well. i'll know more once the video's uploaded to the web. i'll be sure to post it here once it's made available.
ps: the organizing committee did an excellent job and the conference went off without a hitch. they were total pro's throughout the process, somehow dealing with the speakers while also doing promo for the event, securing the venue, and coordinating the logistics of documenting it (among many, many other things). bravo, team.