Lessons from the TEDx stage

January 7th, 2019


What an honor it was to speak on the TEDx stage! For a long time I couldn’t even imagine it. Then I considered the possibility that ONE DAY I would have the opportunity, but it was a long way off.

Then it started to feel a little closer, when suddenly BOOM, there I was standing on the red dot.

As we head into the new year, rather than writing a post about a new way to set goals for the upcoming year, or finding your one word, or trashing new year’s resolutions altogether (there are enough posts out there already and goals & resolutions are just not my thing), I’m sending these lessons and aha’s from my experience giving my TEDx talk. 

More lessons to come, I know, once the video goes live (hopefully next week!) but till then, this is what I’ve got:

 1) Get away from the mirror and call on your team! 

This is pretty much a word of advice for any big project you take on, but especially for the project of crafting a TEDx talk. 

One of the assignments from the organizers of TEDxCherryCreekWomen was to give the talk to self-selected audiences of at least 5 people. One group of people who know me well. One group of acquaintances. One group of strangers. 

What a fabulous exercise that was! 

I ended up doing about 5 showings, each one to a different group. (If you were in one of those groups, A BIG FAT THANK YOU TO YOU!!) 

It was SO helpful to hear feedback, questions, reflections about my unfolding talk, to hear where people went “huh?” and where people found gaps in my thinking. 

A talk IS a conversation, even if you’re the only one talking, so to hear the conversations going on in the head’s of the listeners made a huge difference as I answered my own questions about the talk. 

2) Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else says

Aaaaand, it’s still your talk. You gotta make the final call. You get to trust yourself. You can get feedback till the cows come home, but ultimately you gotta come home to yourself and answer your own questions. 

There will still be gaps, questions, places that don’t land for some people. But that’s part of the power of speaking. 

I knew I couldn’t answer all the questions or fill all the gaps that people had, but to know what questions were there, helped me hone in on what it was I knew I wanted to say. 

3) Your body will tell you what you know

The day before the talk, I had a regular day scheduled. I had Speaker’s Playground in the morning, a couple of calls in the afternoon, a quarterly potluck with a practice group I’m part of. Busy day. And I had to be in Denver at 8am to prep for the TEDx day. 

But the day before that my voice started to grow weary. It was tired. I talk a lot in my work, AND I’d been rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing my talk, still trying to knock a few minutes off. 

I sucked on some slippery elm lozenges and went to bed, slightly concerned. I initially thought I would tough it out and teach in the morning, go forward with the calls, I could do it.

Then I thought…Johanna, rest. Give your voice a rest. You know you won’t take it easy at Speaker’s Playground. It’s ok to cancel. I had wanted to get a final ooomph of energy from my amazing group of speakers I get to play with, but decided it made more sense to let it go. 

So I canceled. Canceled the calls. Stayed home all day with complete vocal rest. No talking at all. Lots of slippery elm, Singer’s Saving Grace and more remedies from every witch in my world. 

When I tried to talk it hurt. It wasn’t yet laryngitis, but it felt like it was heading that way. I couldn’t find the power behind my voice. My chest hurt when I talked. It felt weary. 

I was giving a TEDx talk the next day about my voice, and I was losing my voice. 


I knew this was medicine. I knew my body knew exactly what it needed. Had my voice not grown weary, I wouldn’t have taken that day to rest, and I needed that day to rest. 

But then a coach that I work with hooked me up with a vocal coach in NYC, Jon Stancato. He worked with me on the phone for about 30 minutes and my voice totally turned around. 

He helped me get right to the center of my habitual voice, which was tired, tired of speaking in a particular way that wasn’t serving me anymore, and together we found the parts of my voice around the habit, where there was still power. 

It was the habitual voice that was tired of speaking. Everything around it was fully intact. 

So I spent the rest of the night singing and dancing in a friend’s basement dance studio, and woke the next day, body and voice ready and excited to speak! 

4) A stage is a stage is a stage

I confess the whole thing was a teensy bit anti-climactic. 
I learned that a TEDx talk is still me sharing my message in a room with a whole bunch of people, which I’ve done a lot of.  Only difference is I’m standing on a big red dot. 

And OK, because of what that dot stands for, perhaps it’s a big difference.

But when I got out there and took a breath, I sorta thought, “Where’s the beam of light shooting through my spine connecting me to heaven and earth because finally I have arrived on a TEDx stage? 

Where are the fireworks bursting through the roof? 

How come I’m still me and they’re still them? I thought we would all dissolve into one and I would once again feel at one with the universe and all of humanity and I would walk out a brand new person.

None of that happened. 

There I was, standing on the red dot, waiting for the beam of light, and when there wasn’t one I figured, well, I better start talking. 

So I did. 

5) Every audience is a new audience

Which means they won’t respond the way you expect them to. Which means each talk is a brand new talk. 
They didn’t laugh where I had consistently gotten a laugh in all of my run-throughs. I had shown this talk so many times to so many different combinations of people, and that one spot where I always got a laugh just floated right by. 


I wanted to stop and say “Was it me or was it you? Did I miss the timing on that? Was I half a beat too slow? Can I rewind and do that over? Because that was a really funny line and you didn’t laugh.” 

But I didn’t get a do-over. They didn’t laugh. It threw me a tiny bit. Made me wonder, “Are they with me? Do they feel my groove? Do they get my jive?” 

I knew I couldn’t hang out in that wondering for more than a split second. I came back to my body. Back to my breath. Back to my feet on the ground. Back to my audience. And I kept rolling. 

I stayed true to my message, dropped down deeper into my truth, listened as my audience leaned in. Found them and spoke to that moment.

Oh yes, there you are. Here I am. Let’s do this. 

6) Button The Ending

Endings are hard. I tweaked and massaged and changed and messed with my ending so freakin much in the crafting process. I went back and forth from this to that. I know how important it is to nail the ending. I thought I found it. I thought it was clear. But when I said the last line nothing happened. They didn’t know it was the ending. 

Big fat empty hollow quiet vacuous spacious never-ending gap. 


I forgot to say “Thank you.” I just stood there in this vast emptiness waiting for something to happen. 

Finally I took a step backwards and muttered thank you under my breath and the applause came. 

There. OK. Done. Phewsh. 

7) It’s not about you 

Afterwards, I was still the same person. 

No great transformation. 

Skin: still in tact. Heart: still beating. 

And I got lots of great feedback from audience members. Gratitude. Tears. Hugs. Words like “I can’t wait to share that with every woman I know.” And “Thanks to you I’m going to go home and see my body differently when I look in the mirror.” 

That counts for a lot. 

It helped me remember that it’s not about me. Whether or not I had a spiritual experience, an epiphany, a big fat high standing on that red dot, I know my talk had an impact. I know it touched people, and it will continue to touch people when the video goes live. 

What a gift to remember again and again that it’s really not about me at all. 

8) Your body will teach you what you know

Again. Still.  Always. 

Two days after the talk I got sick. Wretched cough. Fever. Aches throughout my body. 

Again, perfect. 

Canceled everything and rested and let the whole experience simmer through my body. 

The celebration is coming slow and steady as I continue to move through the world saying what I want to say, letting my body show me what it knows over and over again.


UPDATE! Here’s the video! Enjoy!! 



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