Tamsen Webster
“How to Bridge a Mental Gap”
2nd Annual TEDxWilmingtonWomen
Thursday November 2nd 2017
The Mill Auditorium  MORE INFO

Tamsen Webster for TEDxWilmingtonWomen, TEDxWilmington, Wilmington Delaware

Photo: Alessandra Nicole for TEDxWilmington

There was something wrong with my talk. I knew it. I had even admitted it to myself. I told myself I would fix it…later. After the the next time I gave it, maybe. All I had to do was make my performance at TEDxWilmingtonWomen great, and then I would be set.

Except that “good enough” really… was not. After all, I help other people craft their TEDx and TED-style talks and help run a TEDx event of my own., and I wanted to honor TEDxWilmingtonWomen by giving it my best.

This was not a time when I wanted people to say, “Well, we liked her, but the talk itself? Eh…” While there are plenty of times when good enough… is, what do you do about the times when it is not?

In the middle of that TEDx-istential crisis (I know, I know… groan) I was reminded of a recent blog post from one of my favorite authors on “how writers screw up.” How do they screw up? Well, says Pressfield, it is when they (we!) let a broken story stay broken. There are lots of reasons for that, but the one I have found to be most common is this: we get blind to our own stuff. So even when we know something is not working, whether that is a talk, or a sales message, or a whole marketing platform…we are not sure how to fix it, or if we even can. But if a message means something to you, it — by definition — has meaning. Period.

You just have to remove everything that is getting in its way, including you.

How? Pressfield gives us these steps:
1. Acquire objectivity about the material
2. Detach ourselves emotionally from our own prior work
3. Mentally regroup, so that we can summon our courage
4. Open our minds to every new and fresh story possibility
5. Start again from Square One.

Because I could not stand the idea of “good enough” for this talk, I blew up the talk with only a week to go. I took out everything that did not serve the core meaning (with the incredible help of Amy Port, because, well, see: “blind to our own stuff”). I rebuilt the talk’s main idea and built everything back up from there.

And it was better. MUCH better. And simpler. (Though the truth will be in the video when that comes out.)  It was a great reminder that — when it comes to great messages and great ideas —  it is not the structure, or even the stories, that matter, it is the meaning. And even those of us who do this work all the time can fall into the trap of forgetting that.


Part “idea whisperer,” part message strategist, and part presentation coach, Tamsen Webster helps people and organizations like Verizon, State Street Bank, Ericsson, Johnson & Johnson, and Disney find and communicate the power of their ideas. She is the Executive Producer of TEDxCambridge, one of the oldest and largest locally organized “TED talk” events in the world.
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