If you can dream it and believe it, anything is possible.
TED will empower you to unleash your dreams of changing the world. TED promotes the type of innovation needed to address some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. It serves as a platform to reach millions of other creative thinkers across the globe. TED brings thinkers and dreamers together to imagine a future filled with infinite possibilities and work together strategically to make this vision a lived reality.
In 2014, I had the honor and privilege of serving as a TEDx Talk speaker. One of my students challenged me to apply. How ironic- all of sudden I had to take my own advice of accepting new challenges in order to grow both professionally and personally. I reluctantly agreed to apply despite the fact that I was anxious about sharing my innovative idea for the future of education in six minutes or less. I had become accustomed to lecturing for hours on end. President Lincoln characterized this challenge best when he was asked to appear upon some important occasion and deliver a five-minute speech, he warned that he had no time to prepare five-minute speeches, but that he could go and speak an hour at any time.
I was selected as a speaker for TEDx University of St. Thomas which focused on re-imagining education. With training and practice, I met my goal of crafting an impactful six minute speech. I focused on sharing my message of “education for social change” in a clear and concise manner. Since my initial speech, I have routinely used these themes in my lectures and presentations.
Do you have a message to share with the world? Here are a few tips to help prepare you for the TED experience:
Make your audience care. You must connect with your audience right away. With your opening line, they need to know why they should care about your topic and how they can get involved. I drew my audience into the conversation about re-imagining education by providing examples of students being at the forefront of social change movements and discussing the important role of educational institutions in training the next generation of leaders.
Breathe life into your talk. Your audience would like to move beyond the data and statistics to understand how everyday people are impacted by the issue at hand. Tell a story about your issue. For instance, I described the impact of the War on Drugs on my community and the educational barriers experienced as a result of limited access to early childhood education.
Create a metaphor. Metaphors serve as a key tool for visualization. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. Through the use of a metaphor, your audience can see your story come alive. Your audience should not only hear your story but they also need to experience your words through their other sensory functions. How can they see the storyline through their own eyes? How can they feel the emotion of your story? I used the metaphor of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire to convey my message on the importance of leveraging leadership to advance social justice. I envision myself as Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire, basically Wonderwoman with a law degree and an afro. A modern day gladiator for justice, peace and freedom.
I drew the audience into the vision of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire with a question: “Can you see me now? I was determined to use my education in the struggle for justice. This fierce determination motivated me to become an educator. I am an educator who is committed to advancing experiential learning and social change. When re-imagining education, I envision placing an explicit focus on leadership development and social justice advocacy.” During my talk, I shared my experience of transforming the classroom unto a learning laboratory where students experiment by applying their technical training to address the social justice challenges of our time. Together, my students and I have created new inroads to justice and freedom.
Give a call to action. Once you inspire others to think about how they can serve as change agents, it is now time to share how they can get involved. What role can they play in advancing change? Michelle Alexander, professor and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, used the platform of TED to challenge each of us to take action in ending mass incarceration.
Lastly, enjoy the experience. Your excitement will shine through. When I walked onto the platform, I had one goal in mind- captivate each member of the audience. I made eye contact, exhibited positive body language, and drew upon the energy of the room. I was determined to inspire each person to take action in advancing education for social change. With a smile, I extended my hands and asked those in attendance, “What is in your hands to make a difference in the world?”
What issues are you passionate about and how could you use the TED platform to share your story?