Glen A. Dunzweiler
“Conquering Homelessness with Community and Capitalism”
7th Annual TEDxWilmington Conference // 27 September 2018
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Glen A Dunzweiler, TEDxWilmington, TEDx, Wilmington, Delaware

Meet the Speakers: Glen A. Dunzweiler for TEDxWilmington
Fri. 17 August 2018

Creating a talk is sculpting the story in front of me. For this TEDxWilmington talk, I have all of these great homeless experiences to pull from that I get to use in formulating a (hopefully) potent 10 minute ‘thought pill’.

My father’s challenge, “What’s your point?” constantly rings in my head as I play at replacing and moving parts to my talk around like a mental Erector Set.

“What if this part goes here? Does that make sense?” These are the questions I ask myself and my coach (who always seems to find a point or reflection that I had not recognized).

Preparing for a talk is play time. I am slinging thoughts on to a sculpting wheel and feeling my way through the creation process. Once I am happy with the shape, then the craft of refinement can start. The challenging part for me has been fitting my process in to the rules of TEDx.

I never have been big on rules. I understand guidelines and I respect other people’s “houses”, but I am ultimately just trying to live my life… man. So, rules are sometimes hard for me to accept. That being said, I love learning how TEDxWilmington does things. I am seeing why they do the things they do and they have been really open about explaining their rules to me. For example, TEDxWilmington asked me to friend them on Facebook for marketing purposes – but Facebook is a sacred repository of connection to me. I friend friends and not potential followers.

TEDx was very kind to me and assured me that they would not be spamming my friends – which I greatly appreciated.

I appreciate the integrity of TEDx and I am finding that their rules are only there to maintain that integrity.

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the TEDx process: Glen Dunzweiler for TEDxWilmington
Wed. 29 August 2018

I enjoy writing these blog posts because I can work on them around my bizarre schedule. Even though I am a filmmaker and producer, I have found the video post requirements for TEDxWilmington to be much more difficult to fulfill.

Being a presenter and a producer on the same project comes with its own special set of demands. Not only do I need to make sure the environment, lighting, and sound are as good as they can be, but I also have to make sure I am personally as good as I can be.

My first video requirement was to make a pitch video for my talk. I ended up making two of them after getting feedback on the first. The first was done in my documentary style of video making and a person who coaches TEDx speakers told me I needed to look directly into the camera and use a pitch formula he found to be successful for TEDx talks. I got accepted… so I guess he was right.

My second video requirement was to create a promotional video for my talk. Right when I applied for TEDxWilmington, my mother went into the hospital with a diagnosis of cancer, so I have been flying home to visit and care for her (which takes me away from my production tools and also makes me stressed and tired – something presenters don’t usually wish to convey).  In order to make the second video deadline, I had to shoot the video at my parent’s house on my smart phone with a broken blood vessel in my left eye. It was after a long day of caring for my mom and, on camera, I came off as crazed and damaged. I looked and sounded like I had just come from a fight and was trying to make myself excited and happy. Fortunately, I was allowed to resubmit it after my life had calmed down a bit.

The third video I had to submit was an early version of my talk. Fortunately, I shot it before flying up to visit my mom, but I didn’t have time to edit and upload it. My father doesn’t know how the process works to allow me to join his WiFi network, so I spent the five days before the video was due trying to figure that out. I was unsuccessful and on the morning the video was due (at 3:30am after caring for my mother), I transferred the edited video to my smart phone in an attempt to upload it. I was unfortunately unsuccessful, so at 4:15am, I sent a request to TEDxWilmington for a thirty six hour extension and went to bed for a couple of hours before needing to check on my mom again.

TEDxWilmington was again gracious and allowed me to upload the video when I got home – but I hate missing deadlines.

The third and final video will be a completed version of my talk and I hope I can get that ready before I head home again. In the meantime, I can work on this blog post while I’m tired, stressed, ugly, and without my equipment and no one will be the wiser.

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Reflecting: Glen Dunzweiler for TEDxWilmington
Weds. 3 October 2018

Now that TEDxWilmington is over, I have learned the following from this experience:

It gets warm in a barn.
A horse makes photographs more interesting.
Never trust Uber to find your location in a state park and always wait for your fellow speakers until the ride gets there.
Meeting thoughtful people is an absolute inspiration.
If you don’t like rules, you will have a hard time keeping your inspiration.

TEDx was a rough experience for me. I had a hard time wrapping the needs of TED into my message.  I also found out that apparently, I am a difficult speaker in the TEDx world. For that, I apologize. That was never my intention.

The tribe (as the TEDxWilmington organizers call themselves) was great. Everyone tried their best to support my journey through their world and I think that in the end, I was able to deliver my idea in a way that TED guidelines could accept. It was, however, a bumpy ride and I think both sides came away from the experience with a fair bit of frustration.

When I had arrived for rehearsal, I had memorized and thrown away nine previous drafts of my talk. The notes I was getting from the tribe, my coaches, and test audiences were starting to eat away at my confidence in being able to communicate my message without losing my audience in some detail. The notes became an analog for every homeless naysayer I had ever talked to. I couldn’t get to my idea because the listener would get hung up on the validity of a certain anecdote or proposal.

I started to hate to give the talk. Every word came with the fear that I’d lose my audience. Finally, I knew I had to heal my psyche and let things fly. I HAD to listen to ME.

At rehearsal, the producer introduced me as his most complicated speaker to date. He then told us (or maybe reminded us) that we could not greet the audience when we started our talk. This devastated my emotional standing. How could I make that initial connection with my audience if I had no way to form a relationship with them. It can’t be complicated. I’m not complicated. How can I be complicated? I hang with homeless people. That’s basic human connection. Any emotional headway I had made before rehearsal was lost.

When I rehearsed my speech on stage, I had been sweating in a barn for about ten hours. I entered that stage and I hated myself. I could tell that I felt no love for the audience and I hated ME for it. I spit through the talk with no humor and I was sorry people had to see it. People were kind, but my talk was trash – because my head was in the wrong place. I personally scored my talk at a “-1”. I was being complicated. I had also held out to keep a reference to a certain group in my talk that had gotten some bad press in 2014. The producer said that the reference had to go. The scarlet letter that we put on homeless people had now been transferred to a homeless service provider and society was sending them out into the woods to die. I was pissed.

The tribe did their best to console me, but I knew my only chance for success was to get to my “happy place” on my own. I rewrote my talk for the eleventh time and tried to figure out how to connect with my audience – within the rules. In the morning, I was working towards my joy when Philly Phil gave a devastatingly touching talk that sent me into tears. His pain was now mine and I was reduced to emotional mush. I’m The Inspirational Homeless Guy damn it! I can’t cry!

But, Phil made me feel again and it was what I needed to rebuild myself. I had a few hours to figure out how NOT to go to the crying place and I got strong. The great thing about having a theatre and music background is that I know “showtime” means you just let it all go and DO it!

I rocked that damn stage.

At the end of the night, the producer of the event thanked me for finding my humor while on stage and I thanked him for the opportunity, shook his hand, and said, “Good fight!”

My advice to people preparing to give a TEDx talk is to thoroughly understand all of the TED guidelines. Many of them can intimately affect your performance. Let the organizers run their event and expect to roll with the punches. Ultimately, it is futile to challenge the almighty TED for they built the house and while in it, you follow their rules. I can absolutely respect that.

TEDxWilmington is no joke. They have built a respectable platform to curate ideas worth spreading and I am grateful my idea was given an opportunity. Not many people want to tackle the subject of homelessness, but TEDxWilmington invited me to their party and I whole-heartedly thank them AND so do the homeless.

 


Glen Dunzweiler is a filmmaker, producer, public speaker and former college professor whose documentary, yHomeless?, is available on Amazon Prime and whose book, Things I’ve Learned From The Homeless, is on KDP Select. Dunzweiler’s interest in homelessness in the U.S. arose after his own career as a live event production designer and college professor hit a snag. While furloughed in 2008 from his job at UC Riverside, he faced the very real threat of being without a home when he could not pay his own mortgage and a call to his bank yielded some unsettling information; the bank would not talk to him about renegotiating his payments until he stopped making them. READ MORE 

7th Annual TEDxWilmington Conference // Thursday September 27th 2018

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