In a few days I will be giving a talk at TEDxBerkeley. If this were any other talk I wouldn't be too worried; I've done lots of these kinds of things before. However this one will have 700 people in the audience watching live, and they estimate a minimum of 100,000 people watching the live stream online. And who knows how many more will download these talk to watch them later, especially if it makes it to the TED.com main page.
But even these things aren’t that bad.
What gives me pause is the emphasis on telling not only an interesting story, but a compelling and personal story that emphasizes the narrative of how I came to do the work I do. That story is quite a personal one. I don’t have a problem telling my friends about it, but to get up in front of hundreds or thousands of strangers to tell that story is a bit more difficult.
This whole process has been a bit strange and surreal. It started when I first saw some posts online about the upcoming conference. A few minutes after hearing about it I chatted with Curtis online to tell him about it and to say that we should go. I jokingly said I should do a brain talk. It turned out that he’d previously met the person organizing the conference, Jessica, and he asked her if she needed any more speakers. A few hours later I was sitting with her going over my talk ideas, and then I was in. Now I'm meeting with a professional media consultant in a few days to tighten up my talk and go over the slides and narrative.
So here I am, writing out my talk, organizing my slides, and feeling pretty much more nervous than I have about any other talk before. I want it to be personal, and funny, and interesting, and exciting. But I feel a bit weird, because I still technically haven’t done a whole lot professionally. I’m still just a grad student, and yet I keep finding myself in these situations where I feel like I’m asked to do something well about my current “station”. Professionally this feels like a good thing, but I don’t want to just be a speaker, I want to be a scientist and I’m itching to get my work out.
But then again, there’s no real rush, and so I’m going to try and enjoy the ride while I can rather then fret about how safe the ride will be or where it might take me.