What I learned from my TEDx Experience

July 30, 2019

Rectangle Circle

CEO & Founder Dr. Patricia Scanlon shares some insights about her recent TEDx experience. Trish’s TEDx now has 39.8K viewers and can be found here.

I love TED talks, always have. I find the short, powerful talks inspiring.

Earlier this year I was invited by TEDx University of Limerick organizers to deliver my own TEDx talk on June 18th.

Saying yes was easy.

We have spent years pitching our story to investors and clients. To me, this was an opportunity to finally get our own “story worth telling” out to a general audience

The prep for TED was significant. I hadn’t quite processed how different it would be to the hundred other talks I had given over the past few years. It is hugely different!

First, there are the TED rules – I wasn’t allowed to mention our company or product and that’s tough when I wanted to tell our story.

Second, to resonate widely I realized my talk had to be free of industry jargon and speak to what people understand in their own lives, whether they are techies, teachers or neither.

And third, I needed to communicate our achievements as a company as well as our beliefs in the industry as succinctly as possible – and all in18 minutes tops!

And finally, as they say, I had to make sure I really did have “a story worth sharing”.

My parents love TED talks, so I thought “I want them to watch this and ‘get’ it”. I aimed my talk at them. 

But our tech does so much and there are so many complex issues to discuss. Where to begin?

I knew I wanted to discuss how kids’ voices and speech differ to adults and also the massive data privacy issues around kids’ speech data, the social impact our tech can have for kids ….

But what was the one main idea I really wanted to share?

One of the most pressing social issues for me is how to break the cycle of kids’ poverty and disadvantage. One of the main ways to break the cycle is through education and the key to a child’s education is literacy – and I strongly believe technology can help turn that key and have a huge social impact globally.

So I decided to focus on how technology can transform how kids learn to read. 

Choosing a topic you feel passionate about and not just one you feel you *should* talk about, helps a lot I think.

As I set out to write the first draft, my head was a word cloud. Each word represented so many ideas and messages I wanted to communicate. Over the past 6 years, we have achieved so much. 

I spent time thinking and meditating on this vast word cloud. Eventually, the key messages that I needed to convey became clear to me.

But it needed more, the talk needed a ‘hook’, a tangible concept that I could keep coming back to, and that every person listening could identify with, not industry jargon – 

I settled on the ‘child’s reading journey’.

When I give a talk I tend not to prepare beyond the ideas I want to convey. I like to engage my audience in a way that’s natural, like as if we’re having a two-way conversation. The TED format of learning off and rehearsing a talk was such a huge departure!

But I did it and it was worth it because I could concentrate on delivering the talk and ensuring I was doing a good job conveying the meaning. 

Knowing the video of the talk would be uploaded to the TEDx YouTube channel definitely changes things.

One thing I would have done differently – rejigged the title. 

I love the title of our talk ‘How Technology Transforms a Child’s Reading Journey‘ but too late I realized that on a smartphone you only see the first 3-4 words of the talk titles ours was just ‘How Technology Transforms a’…

And leaves out the kids and reading parts, which are the most important and resonate most with people. Rejigged, I would have used:

‘A Child’s Reading Journey, transformed by technology‘.

The day itself is a bit of blur now. Happy to say my parents were in attendance and they really ’got’ what I was trying to convey. They enjoyed all the amazing talks that day. The team in UL was well prepared with a coach on hand for last-minute rehearsals and advice, and the smooth running of the event calmed any potential nerves. 

Two weeks after the event we received notice that the talk had been uploaded to TED and would go live at any time. When I checked the next day it had been uploaded just 28 mins earlier. A cartoonish rub of the eyes followed when I read that it had over 2000 views already. The numbers just spun up from there till it became a featured talk on the TEDx channel. Seeing my talk beside Brene Brown’s is definitely a career highlight for me!

The talk has now been viewed almost 40,000 times and the impact has been far-reaching generating lots of new and exciting global interest in our company and vision.

The experience was amazing and the impact, exactly what we hoped for. Doing a TEDx is a lot of work but it’s worth every minute of it.

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