The Day Before TED
I touch the floor. It’s hard, but with a little bit of yield, just enough for me to feel… safe, assured. That was my way of saying “hello”. Standing up, I take in the rest of the sight. Spread before me like an empty black canvas, there is only one contrasting feature: the fuzzy red dot.
I walk over and root my feet into that circle of power. With the glare of the lights in my eyes I pan across the empty audience. Words form in my head and are soundlessly spoken to the imaginary crowd. 24 hours, I thought. One more day and this becomes real.
I touch the floor again, almost like a trainer getting familiar with his animal. I wanted it to know what I was about to give, that we were in this together. That I was going to let go and trust that it was going to be right where I needed it to be. “You have my gratitude”, I say before stepping off.
It’s official. I have now met the stage. And tomorrow, we are going to put on quite a performance.
This venue is unreal. So much energy and emotion has been expressed here I can almost feel a residual aura. It’s on the stage, it’s in the pit, and it’s certainly upstairs in the Foundation Room. That’s where this whole day began.
It’s noon, I haven’t met the rest of the group yet, and I’m already lost. Literally. I don’t know where I’m going. This intricate maze of exotic tapestries and religious statues has bewildered my inner navigator. Lefts turn to rights like fickle Tetris pieces. When the corridor finally opened up I enter a spacious room. It was like stumbling into a party you weren’t invited to. Guests were scattered, seated on the decorative furniture. Some had food, others were typing away on their laptops. I seemed to be the only one who had no idea what they were supposed to do.
A familiar face! My TED homie from all those emails exchanges and Skype sessions, in the flesh! I’m reassured that I’m in the right place, given a few brief introductions, and then handed a bowl of food. I mingle.
Surprisingly enough, the other speakers are pretty cool. I say “surprisingly” because up until now I had only their name and illustrious titles to go by. Vice President, Senior Vice President, Managing Director, CEO – that’s a heavy list, and I was the wild card. In this context however, away from the politics and pressures of the office, we’re just a bunch of amateur speakers anxious about tomorrow.
The TED crew is amazing. And incredibly organized! Armed to the teeth with Macbooks they scour the floor, working at a frantic pace. Edits, revisions, scheduling, and most importantly, keeping everyone happy. I almost felt guilty seeing how hard they were STILL working. Shit, all my work is done. I’m just here now to talk for 8 minutes.
As for the rest of our day, they thought of everything. For us TED speakers, no expense was spared. We had a professional coach guide us through helpful performance cues. There was professional hair and makeup on site. And at each meal I was approached by someone with a look of deep compassion inquiring about my dietary restrictions.
“Excuse me, are you Siawn? Sir I understand that you have certain gluten and grain restrictions. I’m here to help make sure that you get what you need. If you take a look at our selection this evening, I believe all the items meet your requirements excluding the dish with the rice. Please let me know if there’s anything I can get you.”
Oh my God. This is awesome.
And the food…
All catered in the State Street corporate box at Fenway Park. Yup, Fenway Freakin’ Pahk. Did I mention that we were also given a private night tour of said Park? I don’t think I would have ever set foot in the Green Monster, let alone get my bboy swag on.
As the meal wrapped up, people finished their drinks and left early. I took this chance to step outside. Sitting in an empty row of bleacher seats, I stared across the empty stadium and at the familiar cityscape beyond. Alone in this vast space, I felt connected. It’s incredible that I’m here, I realized. Everything had to fall into place for this opportunity to happen. And I can’t let it go to waste. I had to live up to it.
Deep breaths and gratitude. Tomorrow is going to be an amazing day.
TED Blog Series
Part 6: 5 Powerful Lessons I Learned as a TED Speaker
Part 5: My TED Talk
Part 3: Back to the Past – Returning Home for TED
Part 2: In the Air – En Route to TED
Part 1: 4 Weeks to Inspire the World – Becoming a TED Speaker