What it took for me to give a TEDx Talk

Rachel Piazza HeadshotThere’s something transformative about hearing your voice amplified by a microphone. Standing in front of a room, all eyes on you. Your voice resounds loud and clear. You hold the space. Your words resonate.

A few weeks ago, it was my voice that reverberated through an audience filled room. I had the honor of delivering a TEDx talk at the university where I teach. My message was simple. Sexist language is everywhere, and it has a quantifiable impact on women and girls. I argued that sexist language is like white noise. We hear it, but don’t even notice it. As I stood there, in front of that room, cameras and lights shining on me, I was the center of attention. Yet the words I spoke transcended me.  That microphone, that stage, and those cameras transformed me into a messenger. I became someone to be heard.

I was granted that status – as someone to be heard – simply because I believed in myself, put my idea out there, and received the approval of a gatekeeper. I submitted a proposal video to the TEDx committee where I claimed my expertise and owned my idea with confidence. As annoying and superficial as it may be, it’s not until we receive that seal of approval that we are deemed worthy of being heard – and subsequently published, hired, or put on stage.

The ironic thing is, that seal of approval doesn’t come unless we give it to ourselves first. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in The Op-Ed Project seminar I attended in New York City this past winter is that before someone else will think your thoughts deserve to be heard, you have to believe it yourself. When we doubt ourselves, we censor ourselves. Not pitching a story out of uncertainty, not sending in that TEDx submission video, or prefacing your great idea with an apology or expression of self-doubt is a sure-fire way to make sure no one ever listens to you.

To be honest, I almost didn’t submit my TEDx proposal video. I wasn’t sure my idea was that strong – I hadn’t put as much thought into it as I had wanted. My proposal video wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But, I just sent it. I wasn’t going to censor myself. And it wasn’t just about me. I thought about all the women who are left out of the conversation, and I just pressed send.

Guest post by NYC OpEd Project alum Rachel Piazza.

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