I'm excited to introduce a good friend, Susan Poulin. Actor, author, playwright and performance artist, Susan recently created a Talk for TEDxPortsmouth, here in Portsmouth NH where I live. Susan's TEDx Talk--Can You Find Your Identity Through a Heritage-Language--is fabulous. You should watch it if you want to see a really great Tedx Talk, and learn a bit about Susan's journey to re-learn her native French language.
As fascinating as is Susan's story of the journey back to her roots, how she achieved the goal of a stellar online video is an education in centered presence and emotional intelligence, and I asked her to write about it. I know you'll enjoy Susan's video, and the tale of discovery that led there....
The In-Between Place
by Susan Poulin
As a creating artist, I hang out in what I call the “in-between place,” where I’m both participating and observing. That space is home. It’s familiar, though not always comfortable. I’m intrigued by borders, that place where two different things rub up against each other: perfectionism and surrender, patience and persistence, structure and flexibility, my life and my art.
Doing a TED Talk had been on my bucket list for a long time. I’m a big fan. I watch them, share them, and talk about them with friends. They inspire me, spark my curiosity, and expand my view of the world.
So when TEDxPortsmouth contacted me about auditioning to do a TED Talk, I was ready. I did a five minute video on my phone describing my idea and why people should care, and sent it off, fingers crossed. I was thrilled to be selected, and enjoyed the process from start to finish. Almost.
I was paired with a wonderful writing coach who was instrumental in helping me craft my idea. I was surprised, though, by how nervous I was about giving the talk. I ran it incessantly, three and four times a day for two months. Even my dog was sick of hearing my TED Talk.
I’m a professional performer. I’ve spent hours of my life on stage, and have surrendered to the fact that it’s pretty near impossible to have a perfect performance. In fact, my definition of a good performance is not a perfect one, but one where I have fun. So why was I nervous?
Perfection and Discovery
Then it dawned on me. It was because of the video. The TED Talk is all about the video, and I wanted a perfect one. Once I realized this, I was able to refocus on what was really important: delivering my message to the people in the room.
On the big day, I was the last of sixteen speakers addressing an audience of about six hundred. When it was my turn, I walked to that red dot, planted my feet, took a breath and began. And I nailed it. I had one of those elusive, magical performances.
I delivered my talk in September, and then the wait began for the video to go online. I was filled with anticipation, but had to surrender to the TEDx timeline and be patient. Two months later, I saw that it was finally up. A friend was visiting and we sat down to watch it together. Wow! It already had 1011 views! The quality of the video was great, and it was so fun to share it with my friend and relive that fabulous experience.
Suddenly, the video ended. Without the last two minutes! I couldn’t believe it!! I refreshed the page and tried it again with the same result. I was beyond devastated. Both my husband and friend tried to console me. “You don’t know the whole story,” they said. “It was probably a glitch in the upload.” I didn’t want to hear it.
A Rational Email
I know better than to send an extremely upset email. Always wait until the next morning, right? So after a sleepless night, I composed a rational email letting them know about the problem and suggesting possible solutions. I ran the email by my husband to make sure the tone was right.
Turns out they weren’t aware of the problem and needed to do some research. I asked my husband how long should I wait to send the follow-up email. “A week,” he said. Sigh.
It took two and a half weeks of patient persistence--and a few challenging conversations--while they unraveled the situation. During that time, I periodically sent emails checking in, doing my best to be clear about what I wanted while communicating my understanding that they were doing their best. Meanwhile, I remained patient and focused on the fun I had with my talk, as I pictured it out in the world in its intended form. I did everything in my power to facilitate that happening, while recognizing I was not in control of the timeline. Then one day, like magic, my full TEDx Talk was online--as I'd given it--whole and complete.
And that’s why I’m intrigued by borders. It’s in that “in-between place,” where two different things rub up against each other--asserting and engaging, offering feedback and understanding the process--frustration and fascination--that I have the opportunity to grow.