I’ve been distracted — maybe to the point of being primarily focused — on a 10-minute talk I’m giving sometime between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. this Saturday at TEDxMileHigh. It’s at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, with maybe 1,500-2,000 folks expected to attend. It should be a helluva show, my performance notwithstanding, if you’re in the neighborhood.
For the uninitiated, TEDx conferences are big-thinking offshoots of the big-big thinking California TED conferences. Its short videos have become a lunch-hour/need-a-break-but-sick-of-ESPN.com staple across the land.
I’m one of 12 speakers and, it’s safe to say, among the lesser decorated among them. To put it mildly. I’m stoked, I’m a bit awed by the whole thing. I’ve been working on the talk like a fiend. The talk’s not about me — we’ll leave that to Jeremy Bloom and the other higher-profile folks — but rather the three richest people in Colorado, on the event theme of risk and reward.
I don’t know that the talk is good or milquetoast (I can’t divulge detail; it’ll be filmed and posted online afterward, though). I do know that some of my best writing work has emerged from a similar process of discovery, though.
In essence, Jeremy Duhon, who somehow finds the time to curate TEDxMileHigh in addition to being a portfolio manager and partner at Denver Investments (I don’t know much about Jeremy’s home life, but I seriously doubt he has kids yet), sent a note over, and then called. Someone had nominated me as a potential speaker, he said, not divulging who. Do you have any ideas?
Jeremy is a bright, broadminded dude; within about 45 minutes on the phone, we’d worked through some notions, the leading contender being the need for a major risk taker to plant the seeds for what become major clusters of innovation. I was thinking Ed Ball in Boulder, who did this sort of thing in founding Ball Aerospace in 1956. Then I got to thinking telecom (a Denver staple) and the focus of the story changed entirely. Before I knew it Ed Ball was way, way out of the picture and I was researching the histories of three exceedingly wealthy dudes about whom I knew precious little, each with a risk-taking legend attached to the story of his success. And then I was talking with the director of the 1968 John Wayne movie “Hellfighters” to confirm that one of the legends — or part of it — was mere myth, despite its having been retold in Fortune magazine, in books, on websites, etc. But I’ve said too much already.
You basically have to memorize a TED talk, which the curators describe as giving “The Talk of Your Life.” Then the curators send you links to the poet Rives unbelievable riff “4 a.m.” of TED 2007 or Al Gore’s terrifically polished 2006 distillation of his Oscar-winning “Inconvenient Truth” talk (complete with Hollywood-class Keynote-slide production value), and you just sort of overload and figure you’ll do the best you can.
Which means, in my case, memorizing 1,500-odd words of talk as if it were my phone number, which I’d quite possibly forget anyway under the Ellie‘s spotlights. The .ppt slides I put a bit of effort into also, albeit conscious that they weren’t going to carry me far either way (many TED speakers forego them entirely; I’m using photos/icons only).
Right now the challenge is I’m 30 seconds over my 10-minute allotment, and am not sure where to cut. Wish me luck, and hope to see you there.