I'm not going to attempt to precis of each of the talks. They will, I'm sure, be available online in due course, and I'll write myself a note to post a link when it becomes available. They covered a wide variety of topics around the central theme of "Creativity in Orange County," and together formed an informative and entertaining tapestry of "ideas worth spreading," as the TED motto goes.
The Buddha Diaries, though, is a place to explore my own actions and reactions in the world, so my interest here is in thinking back about my personal experience. Despite the fact that I was well-prepared--I spent more time on this one 18-minute talk than on any other I have given this year--I arrived with some trepidation for several reasons. First, there was that 18-minute time limit--more about that in a moment. Then there was the knowledge that the audience would likely consist of people who had knowledge of TED and would bring high expectations. Not least, I have to say, was the prospect of a TED-quality video as a distinct asset as I look around for speaking opportunities elsewhere. It was important, then, to do as good a job as I knew how.
I was scheduled for late in the program--second to last, in fact--which gave me the opportunity to make needless and invidious comparisons between the excellent line-up of my fellow speakers and what I had myself prepared. When my turn came, I took the stage with my small stack of cue cards in hand, having promised myself that I would discipline myself to follow their outline strictly. I know how my mind works. It sidetracks. When I have forty-five to fifty minutes ahead of me, I have discovered, I feel comfortable with the knowledge that I can wander off on these sidetracks in a leisurely way, and return to my theme in good time to get it all said. But those eighteen minutes...!
But then, once engaged, I recklessly abandoned the cue cards. Having rehearsed pretty thoroughly however, I did not get too far off track. And yet... with a big count-down digital timer placed prominently in view and the minutes ticking down with amazing and inexorable speed from eighteen to zero, the talk I had prepared so carefully to fit into my time limit seemed inexplicably to expand and I realized, by the time the two-minute mark clicked past, that I would have to make a serious adjustment if I wanted to wrap things up with a last, and hopefully memorable thought. Luckily, I had inserted one disposable piece--a stanza from a Baudelaire poem that aptly illustrated my penultimate point--which would have taken up those two remaining minutes. Once that was jettisoned, with some regret, I was able to perorate and finish up with thirteen seconds to spare. (For those who might be interested, I plan to post a fairly complete version of my talk on Persist: The Blog in the next couple of days.)
The real measure of success, I have discovered, is the response that follows, and I was gratified by the number of people who came up to me at the reception at the end of the day with questions and comments. It's the best thing in the world for me to know that I have been able to reach someone with my words.
And the learning piece for the day? That preparation does pay off, even if it gets discarded along the way. That if I speak with conviction out of personally gained knowledge and experience, I can't go wrong. That if I speak from my own human heart, the words I find will infallibly reach through the ether into another human heart. My thanks to Susan and Pamela for offering me this opportunity.