That time I: gave a TEDx Talk

Sarah Goltsman is a third-year speech, language and communication disorders major from a small town outside of Chicago, Illinois. Goltsman is also a DJ and staff member at student media’s RadioX.


In March of 2019, I stood in front of an auditorium full of people and a few cameras and talked about everything that scared me. I talked about my insecurities, my embarrassing moments and my lowest lows. While baring my soul to strangers isn’t typically my ideal Saturday afternoon, having the opportunity to give a TEDxTalk at NSU shook off that fear for the 13 minutes I stood on stage.


After about a month of my friend pushing me to submit an application, I finally hit send on my TEDx application on Sept. 30, 2018, barely reaching the submission deadline. Even though giving a TEDx talk had been a dream of mine for years, I was terrified of writing an abstract and having it get rejected. For two weeks, I sat around and hoped. Finally, I got an interview, and just a bit after that, I got the most exciting email I’ve ever received full of instructions on how to turn my idea into a 10-minute presentation.


From there, I spent four months writing, rewriting and revising my glorified essay. What I struggled with most was moving my tone from academic to something that sounded more like my own voice. Even when I practiced, I told my life story in a way that felt dry and impersonal. The moment I started to hit my stride was in the two days of practice with the entire group of presenters. Getting their feedback shaped my timing so I could talk slower, and more importantly, sound like myself onstage.


On the day of the TEDxTalk, I got up four hours early because I was too excited — and nervous — to sleep. I was the last presenter of the day, and by far, the most nerve wracking part of the whole process was sitting through three hours of other TEDxTalks just waiting for my turn to give my speech. During the intermission, I was greeted by other presenters who shared with me how the whole experience felt like seconds to them. However, as the day closed, I heard my name announced, felt the spotlight on my face, and after what felt like no time, I sat back down. To date, I have no memory of the 11 minutes of my presentation, and I’m only 90% sure it really happened.


The best part of the whole experience was the conversations I got to have afterward. Making myself so vulnerable in public was enough that people I haven’t talked to in years reached out to me to tell me about their own experiences. I was flooded with emails from professors and friends, and was even stopped by a stranger for a picture on the day of the event. I had both of my roommates and a handful of my friends there to support me, and even though I was terrified, I had never felt like I had a stronger community.  


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