Saturday Nov. 10, 2018

TEDx’s Compassionate Ripple Effect Sets the Experience Apart

By: Alex Hummel, TEDxOshkosh '16 Speaker

“How does TEDx speaking differ from other speaking opportunities you have had in your career?” they asked me, triggering a long, long rumination beyond the offered deadline that, eventually, led to this blog post (You’re welcome?).

On the surface, it’s an easy answer: TEDxOshkosh, like its brothers and sisters around the globe, is built on a brand and a few basic rules. Darkened theater with a BIG, RED, DOT (do not venture outside the boundaries of said BIG, RED, DOT). Countdown clock ticking away from 18 stern minutes, staring at you from downstage, along with the rest of the audience in that darkened theatre. And a very clear understanding that there are a number of strategically positioned cameras in the house that will capture your every gesture from varying angles. Yes, the world might see this.

So, that.

Nerve-wracking? In the end, it is an incredibly humbling opportunity to tell a story and/or educate a live audience, and a YouTube audience, about something they may not have ever pondered, even if they share common experiences.

My October 2016 speaking experience in the inaugural TEDxOshkosh was phenomenal. I am grateful to the coordinators who welcomed my talk focused on my mother’s elegant efforts to keep her memory loss (Mild Cognitive Impairment) at bay after my father’s unexpected passing in late 2014.

My TEDx experience reminded me that simple stories make a difference. They reassure people they are not alone in their journeys. Stories provide small doses of laughter and inspiration. They offer solutions. My talk has been far from a viral sensation, at a whopping 777 YouTube views (as of this writing). However, it continues to resonate with people here and there, inside and outside of my small network of friends and acquaintances.

THAT is what is most different about the TEDx experience: the ripple effect one’s message can—and does—have on people experiencing, enduring and living out common stories, be they struggles or strides.

I continue to hear from people who bump into my talk on YouTube. It is a great gift to know we made a connection, opened their eyes and made them feel something.

“The story of your mom's growth at a time when many others retreat is truly inspirational,” one long-time family friend shared.

“I finally had a chance to watch your Ted Talk and I wanted to let you know how moving and impactful it was!!” said another friend of my parents, who graciously reconnected with my mom after kids and jobs and other commitments had kept them relatively distant for some time.

“On Tuesday morning, a eureka moment sparked me to watch your TED Talk - excellent!!!,” shared my wife’s former colleague, who also lost her husband after decades of marriage. I had mentioned the talk to her at a community fundraiser, and she told me she would check out the video. “… It hit home in many ways.”

“You described your mother's journey with humor, compassion, and above all—love,” said one of my work colleagues.

And this one continues to stand out: Feedback from an area high school teacher who, last year, mobilized his students to reach out and connect with the residents of an assisted living community.

“The students are excited about the opportunity,” he said, after having been a live audience member at the TEDxOshkosh event.

TEDx provides its speakers an opportunity to not only enlighten but also to encourage kindness. Sure, there’s a bit of pressure-cooker preparation to pull off a talk. But any stress and strain in that responsibility is vastly outweighed by the potential for a longer-lasting, cascading compassion after one’s 18 minutes expire.

If you are asked to speak or an opportunity to submit a proposal presents itself,… step into the BIG, RED, DOT.