Soft skills are defined as the ability to communicate and work well together.
My TEDx Talk focuses on saving soft skills from extinction by practicing active listening and communicating more effectively with others.
The lead up to the TEDx event is like no other.
Here’s a behind the scenes look:
I was invited to be a TEDx Speaker less than 3 months before the TEDx Event.
I live in the greater Los Angeles area while the TEDx Event was in Oahu, Hawaii (TEDxLaie to be exact) so my first task was to book a flight.
My family is most important to me, so including my wife and two kids on the trip was non-negotiable. Fortunately we have a place to stay in Honolulu, so after we secured our flight and rental car, the major pieces were reserved.
Only one problem: how are we going to pay for this?
After receiving tremendous support from friends it lifted a huge financial burden off our shoulders.
Now it was time to focus on creating, memorizing and performing the TEDx Talk.
I committed to practice writing, refining or rehearsing my TEDx Talk daily up to the event.
A month from the date (2/20/20), I scheduled a couple of rehearsals to put some pressure on myself.
In public speaking, soft skills determine how well you connect with the audience.
The feedback I got through practicing is: you know the information, but it sounds robotic.
Being a TEDx Speaker is a honor and nerve racking at the same time (I’ll share more about that later).
I was so concerned about reciting the information I became disconnected with the emotional impact of the message.
Soft skills are about how you say something, more than what you’re saying.
I’ve never prepared for a talk of this magnitude before, so it was uncharted territory for me.
Prior to the TEDx Event, I decided to focus on speaking so my mindset and skill set needed to evolve.
The TEDx Event
Fast forward to 2/20/20.
Behind the scenes, a TEDx Event is very different from the speaker’s perspective. What you see on the recording is a contrast from the actual live experience.
I arrived early. There were technical difficulties. TEDx Speakers are focused on trying to get in the zone.
Since I spoke in the first group, there wasn’t much time to think.
The nerves 10 minutes before I went on stage were like none other I’ve felt.
Fortunately, the two speakers who went before me performed well so I visualized myself doing the same.
Once it was my turn, all the preparation came down to one moment.
I started off roughly. Within the first minute my mind went completely blank. Instantly, I panicked.
My first thought was to look for my wife in the audience for moral support.
But in the moment I remembered advice a fellow TEDx Speaker, “If you mess up, don’t try to catch yourself. Instead, ask to restart from the beginning.”
So that’s what I did. And I found my momentum.
Speaking to an audience is easier than rehearsing in front of one person.
The spotlight of the TEDx Stage is blinding. I found myself attempting to make eye contact with individuals while avoiding the bright beam of light.
My talk was over in 11 minutes.
All the hours of preparation were over within an hour of arriving at the TEDx Event.
What I Learned
I felt accomplished and relieved at the same time.
We planned for the TEDx Event to be in the middle of our family trip so half of the time could be spent on getting acclimated/prepared and the other half for relaxing after it concluded.
To this day I thought I would feel different as a TEDx Speaker, but I don’t.
It’s great to have the experience and nice to have on my resume, but it was a blip on our trip.
The irony is: I wouldn’t have run a Go Fund Me campaign if I was invited earlier (we needed a way to pay for the expenses)
Turns out the biggest blessing of being a TEDx Speaker has more to do with the support our family received than the honor of performing on the TEDx Stage.
Don’t get it twisted, it was an experience of a lifetime, but the timing was impeccable.
I am more thrilled my wife and kids experienced our best family vacation yet than the distinction of being a TEDx Speaker.
Soft skills are about the process; the journey involved.
Context is Key
In one of my examples during the talk I introduced Larry Kimura.
Kimura is a native of Hawaiian decent and his mission is: to save the Hawaiian language from extinction.
He made it his personal mission to teach Hawaiian culture by co-founding the Punana Leo Preschools.
Based on his efforts, as of 2016 there were 2,000 students enrolled and 18,000 native Hawaiian speakers listed.
That’s a 360% increase from the 1950’s!
One man’s effort produced a monumental impact.
One of the coolest moments for me was contacting Larry to ask for permission to use a photo of him in my talk because only copyrighted photos can be shown on stage.
When you view the TEDx recording, it’s more polished than it was live.
Behind the scenes, the work and details go unnoticed.
Overall it was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m thankful to the TEDxLaie organizer, Cody Barney, for trusting me on the TEDx Stage.
But in the end, what I’ll remember the most is the time my family spent together exploring the island.
Memories don’t have a price tag.
No matter what opportunities stem from being a TEDx Speaker, the behind the scenes experiences were the harmony of this soft skills ensemble.