How TEDx Made Me A Better Communicator

This time last year, I gave a TEDx talk in Rochester, Minnesota at the inaugural TEDxZumbroRiver. The experience was simultaneously the most incredible and challenging experience of my life. When I applied, I had no idea what the process before me would be and how much I would grow from it. Now, a year later, I’m truly grateful for every ounce of the experience.

As a social entrepreneur, my focus centers largely on addiction recovery. My organization, More Than An Addict, is building a mentorship platform where individuals recovering from addiction will be empowered to pursue education, employment and entrepreneurship. Working with mentors, we’ll train the recovery community to go do amazing things in the workforce. I could not be more excited about it, and going into the TEDx talk, I was excited to tell the world the story behind our vision – an idea worth spreading.

I remember walking into my first coaching session being really optimistic. That’s one of my chronic downfalls as a person both professionally and personally – crazy, unfounded optimism. (Working on it!) So I walk in thinking “the talk is pretty much done” and “what’s not to love about this amazing talk?!” LOL – wrong. My coach picked the talk apart to the point where there was maybe one line left. I’ll spare you the gory details, but throughout the 5 month coaching process I probably went through more than 15 revisions of the talk. Hours and hours were poured into this thing and every meeting I had with my coach I would cry. I didn’t know why until after the TEDx event was over, but the coaching experience really does change you as a communicator. I learned how to accept really tough criticism, put it to action, and then use my strict economy of words wisely. If you’re going to share an idea in the small window you’ve got with your audience, it has to be perfect. But the refining process isn’t always fun.

The talk ended up going exactly how it should go. I remember the last coaching session about two weeks before the event when my coach said it was ready. Immediate tears. It was an incredible feeling to give the talk after that much work – and with the goal of advocating that recovering addicts and alcoholics be welcomed and empowered in the workforce, strong communication of the idea was key to it taking off and translating into action.

Now, a year later, I can truly see the value in every ounce of the experience – from the preparation to the day of to immediately after. It was all valuable. People that I’ve wanted to connect with for years got in touch with me after the talk. I’ve gotten connected to incredible entrepreneurs and world-changers in recovery as a result of the talk. It’s been a huge testament to the power of getting on a stage and sharing your heart – sharing your idea.

This is an all-too brief synopsis of my experience, but the point is this: stretch yourself. Work hard to communicate well. Share your heart and passion with others.

Because of TEDx, my organization is experiencing exponential growth. We’re seeing recovering addicts and alcoholics empowered in the workforce with opportunities flowing their way. Forever grateful to be an alumni of the TEDx speaking experience – it is one like no other.