On April 19, 2019, I gave a TEDx talk entitled "The Importance of Sharing Your Story" at TEDxTempleU.
It was the culmination after months of hard and mentally exhausting work. The result of long nights rewriting my talk, weeks of rehearsals and run-throughs in front of friends and colleagues while personally coming to terms with my own past. In this blog, I hope to shine some light on my process, give insight on what I've learned through it all and how others have responded to my talk.
About My Talk
"The Importance of Sharing Your Story" is a personal narrative about my struggles with depression and how both sharing and listening to stories has impacted my life. The talk consists of four sections: The Tattoo, My Story, The Story of Paul and Share Your Story. You can view the full talk here.
I started writing my talk back in January of this year. As part of my second interview, I had to recite my talk in front of the speaker selection committee. I watched countless TEDx talks to try and get an idea of the type of talk I wanted to give. Due to the very personal and serious matter in my talk, I found myself grabbing inspiration from talks like "My Story" by Elizabeth Smart and "I Witnessed a Suicide" by Joseph Keogh. Both of these talks rely heavily on captivating the audience through raw emotion with a few slight tension-breaking quirks along the way. My goal for the audience was to not just listen to my talk, but try and connect with it. I didn't want to simply entertain, I wanted to create a call to action.
After my talk was given, I was immediately flooded with texts from friends and colleagues that were able to see me present. TEDxTempleU had a networking portion of the program that allowed audience members to mingle with the speakers, ask questions, etc... During this time, I was able to speak with two individuals that found themselves particularly impacted by my talk.
The first was a woman that stopped me right as I was walking upstairs from the back room. She wasn't a Temple student nor friend of a speaker, she was a local woman that had yet the opportunity until that day to attend a live TEDx event, having been an avid TED fan for years. She went on to say that she wanted to share a story with me. Her son was recently diagnosed with depression and she often worried that she was to blame. She said when she asks him about it, he denies that there's a correlation between his upbringing and current mental state. She told me she was skeptical of him, but after listening to what I had to say, she found comfort.
The second was a college student that was at the event supporting his roommate, whom of which was another speaker. He shared with me a story of how he had helped a friend of his back out of a suicide attempt the year prior. He himself did not suffer from depression, so it was hard for him to fully be there for his friend emotionally. He told me my talk touched him and created some perspective. He then gave me numerous hugs before going back to the event.
To be honest, compared to the other talks at TEDxTempleU, I found myself to be exceptionally ordinary. I wasn't expecting the feedback and responses that I did and still do. It's incredibly satisfying and touching to see that my talk has inspired others in various ways.
Well...now I continue sharing my story! While I have told my story to many over the years, my audience has never exceeded 25 people. TEDxTempleU was the first time I ever had a larger platform to deliver my message and for that, I'm extremely grateful; however, it was just the beginning. While public speaking gives me tremendous anxiety, the payoff is well worth it. I would like to refine my presentation for different audiences and continue to speak about mental health using my story as a starting point.
A side project I have been working on for some time now is my book "Storyt;me: A Tale of Depression" which is still in development. This is something I don't plan on finishing soon, so don't expect any further development updates in 2019.
If you were able to watch my talk, or simply read the transcript, I encourage you to take my advice and share your story with those around you. While my talk is over, and I don't know when or if I will be on a TEDx stage again, my message can continue not only through me, but through you.
There are so many people that have helped me along my journey of walking across that TEDx stage. Those that directly helped with the development of my talk, those that listened to me give runs to provide feedback and those that have supported me and helped in different ways. I can not list everyone, but thank you to my family, friends and mentors that have been and will continue to be there for me. A huge thank you goes out to the TEDxTempleU organizers for providing me the platform to present my talk. Of course, thank you to the other TEDxTempleU speakers, all of whom inspired and helped me along the past few months as well.