Alessandra Nicole
“The Power of Paper Letter Exchange”
TEDxWilmingtonLive: Age of Amazement
was held on Saturday, April 28th, 2018
at Wilmington Friends School MORE INFO


Alessandra Nicole, TEDxWilmingtonLive, TEDxWilmington, Wilmington, Delaware

Whew, lengthy. I have a lot to say here before I go back to the silent work of copyediting these blogs for everyone else for the rest of our 2018 season.

First – a well-deserved love note to my tribe: Seeing how TEDxWilmington works from the point of a view of a speaker has given me a newfound respect for what we do as a tribe to support and produce our events. I already held my tribe mates in high regard but now I am absolutely astounded. We have it down to a well-oiled machine operating at a higher volume than most TEDx organizations, and our tireless and hard-working assistant producers Kelsey and Evan are phenomenal at on-the-fly problem solving, logistics, and patience with our humanness. With so many moving parts to these things it is incredible how well it goes and how smoothly it feels it goes. Kelsey, Evan, Bob, ‘Speaker Angel’ Denise, Megan, Jake, Ajit, and our day-of volunteers.. They set the tone for these events and the speakers are set up for success in an environment of calm, ease, and fun.

With every blown deadline (yep, that happened — and my self flagellation game is strong!) and firm email in response, I respect the process we have put in place, what a major commitment it is and how it behooves you to prioritize it as a speaker because it readies you to perform at your best and with a message that is really worth others’ time. I am proud of myself for getting through it all in less than 60 days and despite a relentless travel schedule- for the graciousness of a VERY busy couple of assistant producers. If you could all witness the behind-the-scenes like I am privy to, you might feel like you were pretty lazy in comparison. It’s truly a lot.

Secondly – The two months from being told February 27th that I would be speaking to showtime on April 28th provided sheer terror that I had to lean into with all of my might. I have never spoken on stage like this in front of a live audience like that and with so many people tuning in on the livestream from around the world and the thing being recorded for public record and posterity (no pressure!). I am the camera girl! I take pictures of everyone else’s moments in the sun, I don’t have moments in the sun!

I went through a lot of ups and downs in 60 days and was carrying a lot of grief and heartache. Initially, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do everyone involved with my story justice and handle the subject with a great deal of respect and honor. I wanted to draw my connections and make my case with great tenderness and care. I had to really show up in a way I have never before been called, and there is no hiding on the TEDxWilmington stage. None! …Although, creating an aesthetically appealing slide show presentation on the largest screen we have ever used helped at least divert some attention away from me (muahaha).  But my voice was crystal clear and filled the auditorium through the sound system – for a soft-spoken woman it was both scary and thrilling.

Seeing other speakers’ kind, attentive faces in the audience during rehearsal the day before was oddly calming. I thought giving this talk in front of them and my own TEDxWilmington tribe on home territory would be the toughest crowd but I could not have been more wrong. I finished my closing sentence and although I had lost my place twice and froze, fellow TEDx speaker Amy Ogden immediately responded with, “Tears. Your talk is going to impact people.” My jaw dropped. Others echoed similar and gave very constructive feedback. It gave me comfort to know that the essence of what I was saying made my mistakes forgivable. I couldn’t fail.

All month long the constant mantra from my friends and colleagues on phone calls and on social media was “You got this!” Realizing that I had so many friends and strangers pulling for me to be successful has given me something I really needed in my life. I was surprised by the turnout of my own coterie the next day; friends that bought tickets to be in the auditorium, friends that woke up at all time zones around the world on a Saturday to make sure they were tuned into the livestream, fellow tribe members and speakers back stage and in the audience…I realized that even if I froze again and left out lines I still couldn’t really fail and that this would be one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. It is the most positive environment on earth to step out into. I still felt my stomach in my throat but I knew I was doing this in front of the best kind of people possible, an instant family.

Holy cow Never in a million years did I expect a standing ovation-  Wow. Stunned and fully appreciative, I just wanted to cry at the sight and sound. My heart has been overflowing with the amazing special moments and memories people came up to me and shared during breaks throughout the rest of the day and in email and in the mail I’ve received since. It’s been a happy problem having so many handwritten letters to write now in return. I thought at best I would be one of the flowery but forgettable talks of the long day. Yes, please let me hide somewhere in the middle. But something bigger happened – through my wavering voice my raw open heart was absolutely seen and heard. There is so much love for this subject. The response has been just beautiful. It has affirmed in me a deeply meaningful new purpose. It is an unexpected inheritance from my grandmother that is worth more than all of the gold in the world.

Thirdly – Thank you to our founding organizer Ajit George for seeing something that I did not and for the subsequent “no negotiating you’re doing this” kick out of the proverbial nest. I am grateful beyond measure for the TEDx platform, the TEDxWilmington community, and for each and every one connected to it, as an organizer in our community and others globally (TEDFest!), a tribe member, fan and audience member, as a fellow speaker, as a speaker coach… I have been truly enriched by our conversations that helped me clarify and strengthen my delivery (as best as could be done for a wildly inexperienced speaker), those that held space for me and helped talk me down from ledges and back into my power again, that took time to take me aside and advise me in quiet hallways, greenrooms, and for profound amounts of moral support as I took the biggest breath of my life and went out there and declared courage.

And finally: For those on the path to giving a TEDx talk, really embrace it. Relish every moment of it and allow it to move your life around a little bit and to move you around inside too. Let it be absolutely vivid in your life, this burning coal in the pit of your stomach, this bright star shine in your heart. It is a special, special time and everyone wants to see you WIN. We all work very hard to position you to win and to help you hone your message through a thoughtful process so that it adds great value to the universal collective conversation. If you let it, it will be an incredibly vibrant journey.

The prep process is a bit isolating and disorienting where you shadowbox yourself a bit but then there is the rehearsal where you finally meet everyone and form great lasting bonds, and sometimes a dinner to further foster this, one more sleep and then it is GAME ON, BABY. Relish the special conversations you will have back stage with your fellow speakers, the conversations you’ll have during breaks when you mingle with those who came from far and wide to see you in person, treasure your own nervousness and the relief after you have walked off the stage and notice how your applause for everyone before and after you is with more gusto than you’ve ever applauded before. We’re all on your team and it’s all gonna be Magnificent. The people you will meet along the way, embrace them, and the people who fall away along the way, let them go, focus on your talk and how your message will serve others. Declare courage and own that little red circle carpet and trust that whatever comes out, however it comes out, is how it was meant… let perfection go. And remember to send me all of your blogs on time! 🙂

I look forward to better serving our future speakers in 2018 and pay forward some of the great stuff I was given as a way-too-long winter finally gave way to spring.


Alessandra Nicole is German born raised in Delaware who has been working on the east coast of the United States as a commercial photographer and writer since 2001. She attended the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA where she studied illustration, filmmaking, and creative writing. Many of Alessandra’s essays have been published in magazines local to the northeast region of the US. Her documentary photography in NYC on September 11-12, 2001 went on national tour as part of a larger exhibit in 2002, the events of which have contributed to her compulsion to archive history and moments on a personal level using still and motion photography and writing ever since. She has been a part of the TEDxWilmington tribe since 2016 and is founder of the Paper Letter Exchange.         <– READ ALESSANDRA’S PREVIOUS BLOG

Alessandra Nicole, TEDxWilmingtonLive, TEDxWilmington, Wilmington, Delaware

TEDxWilmingtonLive: Age of Amazement // Saturday, April 28th, 2018 // Wilmington Friends School