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Tara Winkler’s road to TEDx – part 3

After four sessions with my NIDA Corporate guru, Antony Grgas, and one rehearsal on the NIDA Stage, I was as ready as I’d ever be for TEDx Sydney!

My friend Lior, who is no stranger to the Opera House’s Concert Hall stage, had given me once last piece of advice…“Eat a couple of bananas,” he told me. “I have no scientific evidence to prove that it works, but for me it seems to help quell the nerves.”

So on the morning of the 25, I stuffed my face with a couple of bananas in the Opera House’s Green Room, did one last run through and headed up to the stage door.

It was a very big stage with a packed house and tens of thousands tuning in online. And even though the dress rehearsal two days earlier had gone well, without a single hiccup, I was sure the nerves would appear as soon as I walked out onto that big, red dot…

As I walked out on stage I was surprised by how intimate the concert hall felt. With a room full of thousands of fellow TED enthusiasts, I felt like I was among friends. Perhaps the most surprising thing though was that, as I took my place in the center of the red TED dot, my mind wasn’t racing, my pulse remained steady, and I was totally present in the moment. I wasn’t nervous at all!

My slides started playing and I began…

It was an incredible experience, connecting with the sea of people in front of me. I could tell they were listening and engaged by the way they responded with gasps of horror as I spoke of the gross neglect the kids were being subjected to in the corrupt orphanage. And by their genuine expressions of concern when they heard that there were eight million children around the world living in institutions, despite the fact that around 80% were not orphans.

Then the mood in the room lifted a little when I let everyone know that those problems are reversible and preventable and that there is a solution!

And throughout all this, I was genuinely having a good time. I never thought I’d say this, but I was actually enjoying public speaking!

I wrapped up the talk by telling the story of Torn, one of the amazing kids we’d rescued out of an orphanage nine years ago. It was to be the big ta-da moment, illustrating the fact that the family-based care model that CCT has developed is providing a solution the ‘orphanage’ problem.

“And here is a photo of Torn today!” I announced, prompting the final slide to come up. Then I waited… And waited… And waited…

Oh crap, I thought. How can I be speaking at a ‘Technology, Entertainment and Design’ conference and have something go wrong with the technology aspect of my talk!?

But even then, the training I had done at NIDA had prepared me well. I didn’t panic. I just laughed, raised an eyebrow and said “Technology, ay?” which made everyone laugh with me.

During the training at NIDA I practised lots of improvisation, so I knew exactly how to handle a moment like this. I simply explained what they would have seen in the photo, which caused the audience to erupt in a huge round of applause. Not once but twice!

I don’t imagine there are too many experiences that are as exhilarating, surreal, and completely life-changing as conquering a fear. It’s really not an exaggeration to say that NIDA Corporate has changed my life.

When I walked into the first session with Antony that day, though I was committed to giving it my all, I was very skeptical and didn’t really believe it would be possible to overcome such a deeply entrenched fear. And while I hoped it would help a bit, I also thought the whole process would be excruciatingly painful, given that up until that point, public speaking had been something I so loathed to do. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The training was so much fun and I was always looking forward to my next session with Antony. I’ll definitely be back – I plan on continuing to hone my public speaking skills with NIDA Corporate in the years to come.

And it’s certainly in large part thanks to this training at NIDA that my talk resonated with tens of thousands of viewers across the world. It ended up becoming the most tagged moment from the entire event, which fills me with hope that maybe times really are a-changing, and we really will soon see an end to era of institutional care of vulnerable children around the world.

This is the last of my Road to TEDxSydney blogs. If you want to check out my talk, you can watch it here.

And if you want to tackle your own fear of public speaking or just further hone your skills – go no further than NIDA Corporate.

Did you miss Tara’s earlier blog entries? Check out her first installment here and second entry here.