The 5 Lessons I Learned From Messing Up My First TEDx Talk

Jordan Gross

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At 9:34 a.m., I received the text:

“The video is up!”

This is the video I’ve been waiting for. This is the message I get to share with millions. This is my first TEDx Talk! I began to watch.

Five minutes in, everything is going well, lots of energy right off the bat.

Ten minutes in, I’m speaking clearly, and the message is coming together.

Fifteen minutes in, I know the big finish is coming, and the memories of that day are circulating in my mind.

But then, 15 minutes and 13 seconds in, the sound cuts. My mouth is still moving, but no words are coming out. At 16 minutes and 19 seconds, the sound comes back, and I finish the speech.

I know the message that cut out, but to an unbeknownst onlooker, that minute of silence completely takes away from the overall purpose of the talk.

When I think back to that day, I realize that I set myself up for failure. This technical difficulty was just the icing on the cake, but in actuality, there were some key elements that I did wrong leading up to the talk that doomed it before I even opened my mouth.

But, things that are outside our control should not define us. This technical failure allowed me to realize that there were a number of lessons to be learned for any talk I would be giving moving forward. The takeaways below will greatly help me and anyone else looking to perform on stage.

1. I Focused My Preparation on Quantity Over Quality

When practicing for this day, I thought that the more I heard my speech, the better off I would be. I recorded myself, and then I would listen to it on my headphones incessantly until I got all the words down. Then I’d practice it aloud without looking at the script. Makes sense, right? But I lacked a very critical component.

I was never being evaluated. I was never seeking feedback. I would just do the speech, and if I messed up, it would be fine. I would continue through and just expect it to be better the next time. I didn’t emulate real talk conditions in which I only get one chance.

So, when I got on stage, the same thing happened. I realized I had forgotten a chunk of the content, but I just kept going, because that’s how I practiced.

Were I to do it again, I’d focus on quality practicing over quantity. I would break down each aspect of the talk after doing it once, study it, and learn from it. I would also try to emulate the conditions of the talk. I didn’t do any talks on stage or to an audience, which totally shifted my nerves when giving the real thing.

2. I Put Too Much Pressure on Myself and the Outcome

When I first landed my TEDx talk, I wrote down a series of results that would happen because of this viral soliloquy. I would have over one million views. I would sell thousands of books because of it. I would have swarms of coaching clients. I would be invited to dozens more speaking engagements.

I allowed myself to dream big, which is what we must do. But I allowed the dream to turn into an expectation. This is what we should not do. I made the dream something that if I did not achieve it, I would be considered a failure. In reality, just giving the talk was a success in and of itself. But I forgot this.

When I set goals, I focus on becoming the person who can achieve that goal. Lose 20 pounds? Well, what kind of Jordan loses 20 pounds? It’s someone who goes to the gym five days a week. It’s someone who does cardio three days a week. It’s a Jordan who cooks his own food five days a week.

I forgot to use this mindset when preparing for and thinking about my TEDx. I lost track of the journey and was too concerned about the end result. This can and should never happen.

3. I’ve Sought Out and Received Wonderful Guidance

After realizing that there was a certain part of the video with no sound, I looked to my community for recommendations. I asked people on LinkedIn for suggestions about what I could do to share the message that got cut short. Within minutes, I was flooded with comments, messages, and ideas about video editing, subtitles, and re-recording so I could share the ending of this speech.

Not only this, but the support and encouragement were overwhelming. I was uplifted by the people around me, and it made me realize that in times of adversity, we must not remain in isolation. We should always be eager to ask for help, support, and love, and the people who truly care about us will lead us back on the right path.

4. I Get to Tell Another Story

Each unexpected twist and turn we face throughout our lives is just another captivating anecdote we get to share. I will look back on this experience and tell this story with jubilation. I will use it as motivation, as a lesson to share with others to keep pushing forward. Failures do happen, but it’s up to us to appropriately respond to them with courage as opposed to fear. It’s up to us to understand the learnings and discover the positives.

Life is just this long interconnected set of stories. This is one of them I will always remember.

5. I Now Have an Opportunity for Redemption

I love having an underdog mentality. I love doing things that I have no business even trying. After having failed once at my shot at a TEDx Talk, the bar is lower than ever. Neither myself nor anybody else expects me to give another talk and make up for the last, but this is what excites me most.

On March 3, I will be giving a TEDx Talk at Bergen Community College in New Jersey in which I get to be the underdog. I get to give this thing another shot. I get to learn from everything I did wrong the first time and implement those takeaways into this second experience.

Final Thought

We often think that difficult circumstances are 100% bad. However, when we start looking at a way to overcome the difficulty, great opportunities begin to surface.

First and foremost, I’m grateful for the 15 minutes and 41 seconds that you do get to hear of my first TEDx. It wasn’t perfect, but it was mine, and I’m extremely proud of it.

I don’t know what will happen during this next talk. I don’t know if the sound will go out. I don’t know if I’ll forget my lines. I don’t know if the talk will get hundreds, thousands, or millions of views.

But what I do know is that I have an incredible opportunity to get on stage and share a message, and regardless of what happens, I know this second time around will be a wonderful success.

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Reimagining Personal Development

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