Being up in the air is one of the traits shared by many of us on Linkedin. Although we no longer enjoy the glamour that air travel used to have before the “low cost” era, travelling for business is still perceived as very attractive. However, only those that spend a big portion of their time travelling know the challenges that a lack of routine brings in our daily life. Funnily enough, in all my years of travelling I have seldom had a conversation focused on the cons. I guess we prefer to focus on the advantages, which are many. And reflecting on the advantages was the aim of my presentation on how I enjoy travelling for business at the TEDx Talk I gave in Royal Tunbridge Wells (England) last June.
Delivering a TEDx Talk is per se already a challenge. Once I have done it all I can say is that it is an outstanding experience. It is not a standard talk in front of a big audience. It is more than this. You really feel the pressure of the TED brand. You know that you will not only be “judged” by the live audience but by everybody that will watch the TEDx video. So, how good or bad you deliver it will not just be erased from the audience’s memory but will remain on the net forever. Rather worrying, isn’t it?
The challenge starts when deciding the subject you want to talk about. From my experience, the first big step to overcome is to define the topic that you can talk about with some authority and construct a personal speech. I have not crossed the Ocean in a sole sailing trip. I have not founded a successful company. Neither have I overcome an extremely painful life situation. So, the first question to sort out was “what can I, a person coming from Barcelona, talk about with some authority to an English and later international audience?”
When I picked the subject of travelling for business my first thoughts were: “Will there be anybody interested in hearing my story? I am not unique and there certainly are thousands of people with a much longer and richer experience than mine. Why the heck should I think I have an authority on this”. It certainly is an exercise in humility.
So, once the subject is defined, the next step is to create an appealing story. For some months, the story was being created in my mind using those spare moments between flights. Disconnected unstructured ideas that come and go in the mind’s cloud. Certain discomfort appeared when I started to be aware that the organization committee was promoting me as a “travel writer” and sending the message that I would bring my view on the town. A town that I had never been to before and that I would only spend 20 hours in. This evidence pushed the “panic button”. Those ideas on the cloud urgently needed to be put on the ground. This is what I did on the evening of a Saturday three weeks before the event. I sat down in front of my computer and started to write down the story I had in my head. This script was essential. A 5-page composition that served as the base of the speech.
Once I had the validation that it could be an interesting story of a couple of friends and, particularly, of the excellent TEDxRTW content curator Lizzie Bentley-Browers, a fast conversion of words into minutes indicated to me that I had to convert the initial 5 pages into 3. Wow! What an exercise in concision and distillation. A true exercise of sacrifice and trade-offs. I must confess that this distillation and constant improvement of my story was the part of the process that I enjoyed the most.
So, I had the story. A written one. It was time to make it come alive. It was in the alleys of Schiphol airport, taking advantage of a severe delay in my flight, that the speech was memorized. As an amateur actor I went on reading and memorizing it until I had it. I was then capable of delivering it by heart.
I was now ready to fly to London. I took my eldest son to make him live this unique experience together with me. On Saturday morning, time for rehearsal. After the rehearsal, I was told to cut my presentation by at least a 20%. Jesus! What can I sacrifice? I had already set the speech to an extent that I estimated it was fit for purpose. At this precise moment, I was reminded once again that we can always be more precise. So, I started to delete slides on spot. Later, in the rented apartment, I removed and rephrased paragraphs and had to memorise the amended text.
The moment of truth arrived. What a moment! I was there in a real theatre treated as a real actor. The backstage was full of activity and the front full of an audience of 700 people eager to be inspired. Strangely enough, I was calm. When I was presented, I just went on to the stage and stood on the little red round carpet. I could not see anything but the flashlight and the dust floating in the air. There was complete silence. It was then that I experienced that I was in control of what was going to happen in the minds of those people for the next 10 minutes. It is a strange sensation. It was me the one that could interrupt that silence. I did not start until my inner voice said “Vinga (GO)”. And I started to deliver the first sentences of my script. To my surprise, I felt that my mind was completely empty trying to connect to the memorized speech. Suddenly little voices started to appear trying to replace the big inner voice: “you are mispronouncing this word”, “you will forget about the next paragraph”, “don’t be so serious”, “smile”, “why are you bouncing?”… Oh dear, I had to fight against those little saboteur voices. This was a constant fight until the end of the speech.
So, what you are about to watch is an exercise of me overcoming a challenge from A to Z. From conception to delivery. I strongly recommend you live such an experience. And in case you have already experienced it, I will be more than happy to get your feedback.
I hope you like my take and find my reflections useful to triumph over the difficulties you find when travelling for business.