Meet the Speakers: Jen Kluczkowski for TEDxWilmingtonWomen
In February 2018, I set an intention, while walking down a beautiful beach, to give a talk on the TEDx stage before the year came to a close. In March, I hired a coach to help me figure out exactly what I wanted to say. There are so many things I wanted to say! My coach helped me focus, prioritize, and position myself. Then, we began submitting applications for events that fit the theme of my talk.
After 40 rejections I was feeling completely defeated. My coach assured me that the right organizer for the right TEDx event would know there was a match when they saw my application. In October, the only event organizer I hadn’t heard from yet sent through an email. I couldn’t believe it – it was an invitation to speak at TEDxWilmingtonWomen on November 30th!
I read the invitation about a dozen times before I forwarded it on to my coach for confirmation that I wasn’t hallucinating – my subject line said, “Is This Real????” He replied back, “It’s so real. This is the one you’ve been waiting for all year.” I felt that clearly in my heart, too. All the no’s before this one yes made it so much more beautiful.
Now, the pressure of honoring that stage, communicating the message clearly, engaging the audience, inspiring them to expand their perspective, and making the content feel unexpected really kicks in. It’s pressure that I’m humbled to experience. Every time the fear and anxiety creeps in; each time I feel I don’t have it together enough to meet the content deadlines; each time I question whether my content is actually worthy of this incredible opportunity, I try to let a wave of gratitude wash it away. This is a dream come true. I just keep showing up, doing the work, and remembering if those 2 ingredients are always present, it will all come together in the future.
the TEDx process: Jen Kluczkowski for TEDxWilmingtonWomen
I was clear about what I was going to say when I submitted the application to the TEDxWilmington organizers a few months ago. In a two minute video, I shared an idea I was confident about, even though I hadn’t scripted it yet.
Each week, the assignments we’ve been given have forced me to dive deep into my content and structure. After outlining, I finally wrote the talk out. I’d re-read and refine every day.
In a phone chat with my coach, he suggested I try on a new approach. Instead of getting into the weeds, why not walk away from the script for a day or two and speak the talk naturally – “just see what comes out”. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what came out!
I was allowing the talk to flow without too much filtering to see where my mind and heart wanted to take it. Although the core remained the same, I found myself passionately exploring a new angle. When I wrapped up this unfiltered talk, I realized I really, really liked where it ended up… but I felt like I had to return back to the original structure. I started over with the intention to stay on track, but couldn’t deny this strong pull to follow the new angle.
I gave myself a little space to process what was happening, and the more I sat with it, the more clear I became – the new angle is where I need to go.
I nervously shared the updated script and video with my coach – I was pretty sure he was going to think I’d lost it. He thankfully found it pretty hilarious, but also pretty understandable. When we spend so much time with something, we’re bound to see it in different ways.
I ran the new direction past the organizers and received the go ahead to keep following this new trail. Maybe the original talk was just too comfortable for me. Now, I’m really nervous, but I have a feeling that’s a sign this is exactly what I’m supposed to be talking about.
What. A. Ride. I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking and what everyone tells you about giving a TEDx talk is true: this is different.
This is a talk where every single word counts and better add a lot of value to the point you’re trying to make. You walk up there very aware that filler words and relevant, but unstructured chatting while you find your train of thought are not fall backs on this stage. There are no note cards to reference and you’re working 100% off of memory.
It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done! But, simultaneously, one of the most important exercises for my personal and professional development. To get such clarity on your message and to learn how to speak this concisely is a skill that many people never get to hone… including seasoned public speakers.
There were moments of exhaustion, frustration, and confusion along the way, but in the end, I’m grateful I was able to push through all of these emotions and come out better for it on the other side. The team at TEDxWilmington, along with my coach Tucker Stine, constantly challenged me throughout this process to keep improving, even when I thought I was surely done.
At one point, Jake on the TEDxWilmington team wrote to me, “The average TEDx speaker spends 50 hours in preparation. That means some spend 100.” I’m bringing that average closer to 100.
While I did anticipate this talk (preparation and delivery) being challenging, I never anticipated the level of support and connection that would come from the other speakers and organizers. I felt completely invested in each speakers talk and their success. And it was so clear that the organizers, producers, and volunteer coaches were invested in each of us delivering to the best of our ability. This was something I’ll never forget and will inspire me moving forward from here.
I do feel part of a very inclusive, powerful tribe of changemakers after this experience… and extremely grateful for it. Bowing down to Ajit, Elissa, Jake, Alessandra, Evan and the rest of the team for their vision, energy, and action.
Watch Jen Kluczkowski’s TEDx talk HERE.
3rd Annual TEDxWilmingtonWomen: Showing Up // 30 November 2018