Where I'm Speaking... TEDx Cape May

Watch my TEDx talk "Slavery Still Exists. Here's How to End It"

There are a few things that would probably make a preacher/speaker bucket list. And doing a TEDx talk would probably be a very common one.

On stage at TEDx Cape May for my rehearsal

I was honored to be a TEDx speaker at TEDx Cape May this month. How I landed the talk will be another post for another day. But for now, I'd like to chronicle my experience during that weekend.

The TEDx Talk was in Cape May, NJ, which is one of the nicest places to be in the great state. It just so happens that it listerally the furthest point in NJ from my house. So it took a full 3 hours of driving on Saturday. On the bright side, I was able to practice my talk without interruption and without being able to cheat by looking at my notes.

When I arrived, I pulled up to Congress Hall and immediately got a sense that I was staying somewhere historic. It turns out it is the 1st seaside hotel in America! And it was called the summer White House because it was frequented by US Presidents.

 Congress Hall in Cape May, NJ

Congress Hall in Cape May, NJ

I had spoken with a friend who gave a TEDx talk a month prior to mine and he told me that he did a full run-through the day before. So I was prepared to do my full talk. As I pulled up to the Lower Cape Regional High School, I noticed that the sound crew and the lighting crew seemed awfully young. It turns out that they utilize volunteers from the highschool. I thought that was cool... just don't mess up my lighting, kid. It turned out that no one was rehearsing their talk, they were just making sure that their slides were working and that they knew where to stand. I had to make a special request because I start out my talk by getting a $20 bill from the audience. So they had to make sure the camera was tracking me and that the lighting fill would keep me lit. I was a bit bummed that I didn't get to do a full run-through. That means that the next time I delivered my talk in front of someone, it would be the real deal.

After the rehearsal, we all headed over to a local woman's house who had catered a special dinner for the speakers. She had seen that a TEDx was coming to her town and wanted to do something special. It was great to meet the other speakers and hear what everyone was talking about. It was a bit intimidating to see such accomplished people in their field. But it was too late for them to disinvite me, so too bad, suckers.

I rehearsed once in my room and read over the notes and basically fell asleep watching netflix to take my mind off of the talk. Of course, I woke up at 5:00am for no good reason other than I was probably very nervous... and I had to pee.

The next morning I went down for breakfast and had breakfast with the one speaker I was most excited about meeting. Daryl Davis is one of the most accomplished R&B piano players out there. He played with Chuck Berry for over 30 years, but has made his more recent fame through befriending members of the KKK at clan rallys... Daryl Davis is black; that's an important part of the story. I had heard about his story after the Charlottesville riots in August and was thrilled that we were going to be on the same stage. [Aside: There is a great conversation between 2 friends of mine on the New Activist podcast about the Charlottesville riots. Full disclosure, I work for IJM, the sponsor of the podcast. But still, you should listen].

When we arrived at the highschool (Daryl caravaned behind me so he wouldn't get lost... uh, you're welcome). We walked into the auditorium to see the star of the show, Wyclef Jean, up on stage doing a sound check on his guitar. He was the biggest marquee name of the speaker lineup and the other speaker that I was most excited to meet.

Wyclef Jean doing his sound check

After getting settled in the green room (read: boys dressing room for the HS musical), we made our way into the audience to hear the various talks. I'll go through each speaker in another post, because I found a lot of their talks really interesting. When it was the speaker before me, I went backstage and got ready in the green room.

Getting ready for me meant getting my microphone and getting my blood flowing. Usually what I try to do before I go and speak is jump up and down a bit and flail my arms in circles. I'm trying to get my adrenaline up so I don't come out flat.

And then, it was showtime.

[Part II]