At my first meeting with the TEDx Minneapolis team, I met six speaking coaches – all professional speakers. They shared what the next four months of editing, refining and training would be like.
It’s a very rigorous process and I quickly understood why all of those TED Talks I’ve seen are so good.
Then they launched into their first and most important piece of advice. They said there would be three monitors at my feet – one monitor with a clock, one with my notes, and the final monitor with my slides. They said to be sure not to look down too much as it looks bad in the video. At that point, I told them, “I’ve got this, no problem. I can’t see them anyway.” It was the first uncomfortable laugh I coaxed out of them.
From a Puddle to Possibilities
In early spring this year, a family friend recommended that the TEDx Minneapolis team reach out to me and ask about speaking at their annual event in August. We scheduled a meeting at a local coffee shop. In Minnesota, early spring means ice, snow, rain, and puddles. I dressed professionally, spent time thinking through my message, and stepped out of the car… right into a deep puddle.
With a bit of wet start, I found Megan from TEDx in the coffee shop and we had an immediate connection. She loved my message of Possibility and was excited to share that I’d be the youngest speaker ever on the TEDx stage here in Minnesota.
I spent the rest of spring and summer refining my message. I wasn’t used to confinement of both space and time. They wanted me to keep it under fifteen minutes and I needed to stay within the six-foot red dot of carpet while I spoke.
I set out to write my story, keeping to just the most meaningful parts. And what was I going to do about the confined space? I am a “pacer” – I have done a lot of speaking, but it’s typically with a microphone and lots of space.
I also had the added urgency of memorizing. While most speakers have the luxury of reading from notes, my vision prevents me from using notes. I had to write and memorize everything early in the process.
The team of coaches was so helpful throughout. As we met every two weeks, they offered thoughts, ideas, and critical reviews.
Taking the TEDx Stage
In August, I was fortunate to have about sixty close friends and family in the audience of six hundred – I even had a friend from Virginia fly in to join us. I felt great and was ready to share.
They put me in the anchor position – eighth of eight, at 9:00 pm for an event that started around 4:00 pm. Although the waiting was hard, the speakers I followed – including artists, dancers, refugees, lawyers, and researchers – were all awesome.
Finally, they introduced me and I walked out onto the red dot. The night went great. I’m fortunate to have had so many opportunities to share my story.
Over the rest of the summer, I finished up my summer job, packed for college, and started my freshman year at the University of Minnesota majoring in Psychology and planning to go on to law school.
It’s strange, but my blindness has opened more doors than I would’ve had otherwise. While blindness can be a limiter, it has given me the chance to change my perspective, learn to do things in a new way, and help create something that is uniquely me.
Louie McGee is founder, leader and speaker at Louie’s Vision. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the organization, visit www.louiesvision.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.