Speaker Blogs

Throughout the process, our speakers are asked to write several blogs about their experience. At three separate stages of the journey, the speakers will give us insight into the positive and negative, the exciting and daunting, the helpful and unhelpful, the joys and sorrows. Every speaker has a different and unique expedition on their way to the TEDx stage and this blog page will give you a glimpse into that reality.

The blogs are split into three different segments throughout the process: 1. Meet the Speakers, 2. The TEDx Process, and 3. Reflections

 

Scroll down to read more.

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Meet the Speakers

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Abbey Sager

 

"Advocacy in the 21st Century"

It has always been a dream of mine to conquer the TEDx stage and share my idea worth spreading. So when I was accepted, and able to follow my dream, I was ecstatic, but I knew I had a huge responsibility to take on. Not only was I responsible for completing my tasks leading up to May 20th, but I held the responsibility of educating the masses about my idea worth spreading.

What is my "idea worth spreading," you may ask?

Being young, I always saw values in our ever-changing society, and the importance of keeping up with them. However, not everyone is up to speed on this. Because of this, I felt that it was important to discuss the importance of, “Advocacy In The 21st Century.” I wanted to highlight the importance of modern ideologies in everything we do, including advocacy. Learning from my own experiences as the Executive Director of Diverse Gaming Coalition and being a millennial, I know the importance of this.

It’s not just my experience that inspires this talk, though. It’s the millions of other millennials who all work towards a similar goal: Creating peace and unity in our divided world. Looking into how successful, youth-led advocacy projects have been reliant on modern concepts, what they do to achieve this goal, etc. Lots of research is involved with this particular discussion, which is what I’ve been working on thus far.

My growth as a public speaker from the time I was accepted to give this talk until the time I step on stage it is something I’ve been working on a lot. As a regular public speaker, I know that you can have a great talk prepared, but you can easily ruin it by not having prepared to become a public speaker. Currently, I am reading, “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide To Public Speaking,” written by TED curator, Chris Anderson. This book will help shape me into the speaker I need to become to deliver my message. So far in the reading, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m not even halfway through. I’m excited to have some free time this week to complete the reading and grow as a person.


 

“So, Chidi, what are your goals?” This was the questions one of my publicist asked me when I told her I had decided to write a book. She agreed to help me on my journey to becoming—or should I say believing I was an author. Before I had spoken to her, I thought being an author only constituted as writing a book. It was then she told me that if I was an author, I had to also be a speaker. One comes with the other.

“I guess, I’d want to speak somewhere,” I said bashfully.

“Speak where!?” she probed. I thought of the TEDx talk I saw with Yvonne Orji. I remember laughing and being captivated at the same time by her words. “Well,” I confessed, “to speak at a TEDx event would be a dream!” At that point I had no clue that a year after those words came out of my mouth, they would come to existence in reality.

The idea of re-defining failure was always close to me. Mainly because I had always received questions from people wondering how I got to certain places in my life. I would always respond to them, because I’m not scared of anything, and the things I’m scared of I deal with if I need them to get to new opportunities. I never realized that my aversion to fear was the driving force behind some of my most successful life moves. It was how I lived my life, and also how I advised that people around me live theirs.

I knew I had this idea of, “Re-defining failure”. However, how was I going to formulate that in a talk or something meaningful that people wanted to listen to? This is when I had to start looking outward. I had to start accessing the people around me and how I re-defined failure with them. How was I acting as a change agent to turning failures into lessons?

This was the part that took time. Around 6 months to be exact. I had played around with ideas, and I didn’t even realize the answer was right under my nose, it was right at work. I had been teaching teams to learn through experimentation for years! I had seen so much success in it, which had gathered me a good reputation in my firm. I had even used this approach to experimentation for organizing parts of my own life, and helping others organize theirs. What approach was this? While working in IT for several years I had become knowledgeable about the Agile Methodology, or a approach to building complex software projects. I learned that strategies used in this approach could be applied to daily life. One strategy I had used on my team for years was allowing them to experiment on an idea that might be risky. After they used the idea they would examine it for issues and adapt it, or get rid of it. This strategy is known in the Agile community as “Failing Fast.” However, what if I could take this form of teaching and help people apply it to other educational avenues? What if this could be used not just in workplaces, but schools and universities, and not just as an experiment but as a standard? This is when the idea had finally started to take shape!

Now I had a focus, using agile strategies in early education. This was all well and good, but would it work? Was there some type of research that supported my claim that we could use agile strategies like “Failing Fast” in education? My research and digging continued. I found many items, and had to sift through what items were the most meaningful. After I had all the information came the tough part: the organization of all my ideas.

This is always a struggle because sometimes you may have good ideas, but they aren’t actually useful. Moreover, they can support a claim that you are no longer trying to prove. This is where it’s very important to be objective and honest with yourself. There were several sessions where I used loved ones as a guinea pigs for my ideas, or a sound board to make sure that I was making sense. Sometimes we get so sold to an idea, that it’s hard talk ourselves out of it, even if it stopped making sense eons ago. It’s really important to have someone in an unrelated field listen to your claim to see if it really adds up.

I’m still on this TEDx Talk journey. Now that the ideas have been formulated, it is time to synthesize those ideas into a talk that motivates, encourages, teaches, and inspires. Wish me luck!

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Chidi Wosu

 

"Yay, I Failed!                     Failure: A Learning Tool in Early Education"


 
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Shanea Higgin

"Jesus Water"

Biting My Nails.

Jeff: There’s five minutes on the clock and Shanea is still typing. Do you think she going to make it Tom?

Tom: I don’t know Jeff, she’s down to one nail. If she wants anything good to happen she better finish now.

When I first received my acceptance letter, I was speechless. I prayed to hear back positive results and I successfully did. I was already posting about in on my social media and telling all my friends and family as I read through the documents they had  sent me. I then began marking my calendar with all the deadlines and events so I could prep myself accordingly. Days began to pass and I started receiving more emails with more tips and resources. Each inspiring a positive spirit inside me like,  “How to give a Killer Presentation.”

As anyone else, we all have other responsibilities. With school work and after school activities, I had to continue work on managing my time to meet each deadline.  I found myself spending thirty minutes a day working on my essay and PowerPoint. When it came time for my First video draft to be submitted, I was so busy, I ended up recording it two hours before it was due. This was not acceptable in my agenda. I started looking at my time management schedule and urgently placed more time in for TEDx so that I can better critique myself. I deeply care about the message I want the audience to gain from my speech so I can’t afford to put one foot forward and leave the other outside. I may not be one hundred percent perfect, but I’m one hundred percent sure I can push myself to do better.

“There are 86,000 seconds in a day, and how you use those seconds determines your success”.- Eric Thomas

 

Jeff: And she had her hand over the submit button. And she hits it!

Tom: What another win for Shanea! One step closer to her TEDx Talk.


 

After fighting for several years to reform society’s concepts about consent and sexual assault, I was overjoyed to hear that TEDxYouth@UrsulineAcademy wanted my talk! But their invitation caused me concern. I was immediately struck by the idea that I’d be talking to “youth” about “PG rated” material.

Bolstered, after speaking to my coach, Geoffrey Berwind, and the TEDx organizer, Rhianon Husmann, I set sail on my TEDx journey! They’d assured me that the ages of the viewers could vary from high schoolers to adults, and that the audience could be cautioned to remove small children who might be too young for the topic of sex.

The pond hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. For one thing, technology’s not my strength. I grew up in the world before the internet. Books were how we learned, so when I wanted to reach society about sexual assault and to shed light on preventing rape mentality, I wrote a book about my personal story. Writing, not speaking, is the medium I know best.

Now, I need to transform my writing into a dynamic presentation that gets my spoken word across. And I need to use technology’s tools in order to do so. Assignments that seem simple for some, are complicated by my modest technology skills. For instance, just sending over my first video draft took a trip to Verizon, another to the Apple Store, and help from a friend and her computer.

Clearing the cobwebs from my aging brain that make it difficult to remember where my keys are, much less, fifteen minutes of continuous discussion is another hurdle. But my passion to get my message out keeps me on course, as I cross my fingers and hope to do justice to the issues I intend to present.

 
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Joyce Short

"When Yes Means No:     The Truth About Consent"


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Josh Gunter

"Murdertown, USA?"

As a junior in high school, this is probably one of the most stressful years for me, so you would think I’d try to take it easy on myself once in a while. But what do I do? Sign myself up for possibly one of the most nerve-wracking, even more stressful opportunities presented to me. Smart.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been working diligently to meet deadlines and focus on school whilst also focusing on providing creative content for my future audience. As a rapper, I’m at the point in my life where performing in front of people is something of little concern. In fact, it’s my life.

Despite this, the feeling of a bunch of people listening to me talk with no background music does sound a bit intimidating. With each draft, I constantly consider “What if they don’t like me?” Although, if my experience with rapping has proven anything to me, it is that I have a special talent; the talent of being able to move people with my words. Thus, knowing that I’ve sparked an emotion in just one person with my experience will leave me as satisfied as if I were jumping around on stage with my own ad-libs surrounding me. I am looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and reaching out to people on that TEDx red carpet, conveying to them my idea worth spreading.


I have realized throughout my planning and organization process so far, that this would have been simpler and easier if I were 10 years older. That way, I would have experienced much more in life and would have more to write about. Saying that, my TEDx talk is my TEDx talk because of what I have experienced in my life up until this moment.

I have had trouble connecting and transitioning from different topics in my rough draft. Every time I go to work on my talk, I get so overwhelmed! I obviously know it is a huge commitment and a lot of hard work, which I prepared myself for, but I am getting overwhelmed very fast.

I am excited that May 20th is quickly approaching and I am excited to share my idea of running and living our lives with the world. Though some may not be too interested in the idea of running a race, I hope that my talk provides interest to all audiences while I connect it with personal life challenges. I still have a lot of work to do but I am trying to work very hard and stay on top of everything without being too stressed out. I am struggling trying to make my talk flow, but I know I will get it done perfectly.

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Annabel Gioffre

"The Race of Your Life"


 
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Auriela Garcia

"Resilience: Becoming a Better You"

 

Adjust your sails through the storm—Your Dream Awaits you”

    Becoming a speaker a TEDx Wilmington has been an extremely wonderful and honorable experience for me, and so far, I have learned so much throughout my journey. Though the process of being a speaker is very rigorous, I have found myself becoming eager to discover certain sides of me that I never thought I had, and I am always excited to receive feedback from the TEDx committee if it means that I get an opportunity to better my talk. Most who know me know that I have serious stage fright, so the thought of being on a red carpet at TEDx is nerve-racking for me, but I am especially luckily to have such supportive friends and family that are encouraging me to take that leap of faith.  I have learned so much about who I am and what I am capable of, that accepting myself comes so much easier now. Though I am utterly terrified, I know will be ready when the time comes. I hope that after my talk, students like me are inspired to share their stories and are not afraid when it comes to chasing their dreams. TEDx talk, here I come—fingers crossed that I’ll do great! As they always say, “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”


TED talks have always been very interesting to me. The ranging topics, the various individuals pouring their hard work out to a wide audience; it seemed like such a daunting but exciting task so when my application to TEDxYouth Ursuline Academy was accepted, I was ecstatic! Public speaking had always been a challenge for me but the rush from the beginning process of my talk has kept me on a positive high. Along with the steps provided to me giving me a lot to think about, I’ve learned more about my chosen topic.

With deadlines fast approaching, only one can think about the endless possibilities for the day of the event. I put my foot forward with only the highest of hopes.

 
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Abigail Wilson-Kageni

"Autism, the Creative Arts and You and Me"

 

The TEDx Process


Reflections