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Confessions of a TED Speaker

There I was sitting in the audience simply being rude.

Really… I had turned my head from watching the person speaking in the front of the room and was openly talking to myself. Mouthing the words I had been thinking through for months.

I felt like a jerk, but did it anyway.

Of course, I wanted to hear what everyone had to say.. this was a TED event and the brain candy and inspiration filling the room were commodities I cherish and sadly get so rarely these days.

But, have you ever had something you wanted to shout from the top of the tallest building at the top of your lungs? Something that meant so much to you personally that it really had nothing to do with you personally.

That is how I have felt for years while watching the influence of media build, and society’s awareness of how media was affecting us all fade.

I have given countless presentations and been in front of thousands of cameras in my life, but this was not your typical nerves I was feeling. It was the type of anxiety that only comes when you really care about something and desperately want your thoughts to punch through the clutter of noise and mean something.

I was about to have the opportunity to speak the words and thoughts I have incubating for years, and I was going to do it on a TED stage. I had to wait just a few more hours. It was my dubious honor to be the last of 10 talented and fascinating individuals who were speaking.

A fellow speaker caught up to me during one of the intermissions and wanted to chat. The subject and the person could not have been more interesting. A real life Cannonball Run… but I could not focus. He only had a part of my attention and I just could not manage to fake it well enough. I was still running through my thoughts. Reviewing my timing and making sure my talk was as poignant and succinct as I could possibly deliver it.

During the next set of speakers I did it again. Mentally broke away from the person speaking and started reviewing my talk.

So all day I sat with my thoughts bottled up, ready to explode.

Seems rather silly now as I look back at it, but it was a very real feeling. It was a compulsion.

Then my name was called and suddenly I became very calm. It was odd.

Another TED speaker told me the same thing happened to him. It was somewhat of an out of body experience as I stepped in front of the crowd and began.

I had personal moments with people during the presentation. As I looked at them and spoke they seemed to understand exactly what I meant. That is really all I could possibly hope for…

And the catharsis continued after I was done speaking as these same people walked up to me and wanted to continue the conversation that I had started.

That night I felt at peace. It seems dramatic but it is true. I realize now that I had felt a passive pressure to give the speech over months and the release was fantastic.

My hope is that what I said means something to you as well. If so, please share the talk. And if you want to reach out to me and further the conversation… I would be honored. After all, that was all I wanted from the beginning.



About the Author: Glenn Zimmerman

Glenn has what is best described as “Superhero Syndrome.” His affliction began as a child and has progressed with age.

He got into extreme skiing and extreme sports before they were a thing because every superhero should try flying at least once.

While at Boston University, it was his desire to save the day that brought him to Post- Soviet Russia where he explored the emerging homeless population.

His Syndrome brought him to journalism school at Syracuse University to get his MS in Mass Communications. He later became an award winning reporter with the number one station in Detroit (WXYZ-TV) and with NBC’s flagship station in New York (WNBC- TV).

And, it was the reason he formed the video agency Mad Bear Productions.

With Mad Bear, he harnesses the power of story to help business, non-profits and events engage with their target audience. Video is his tool and he wields it mightily.

Glenn is a sought after speaker on video engagement and mass media. It is all part of his quest to help save the day, one story at a time.

The Joy of TEDx

Every day I find myself in the midst of a juggle between running a business and trying to be the best father/husband I can be. It is safe to assume many of you have a similar juggling act.

I am not complaining. Simply stating facts. There is simply not enough time in a day.

So that’s what makes life funny. When something comes up that hits a nerve, suddenly you find time.

Months ago, a very interesting man named Richie Etwaru asked me a question: “Would you like to be the Chief Storyteller for a TEDx event I am organizing in Bedminster, NJ?”

Despite the life juggle I mentioned above, I did not hesitate. “Yes, it would be an honor” was my answer. No money. Though a feather in my cap there was no clear business upside. I did not initially even know what he meant by “Chief Storyteller.

So why was “yes” the gut reaction?

Mental candy. That is what immediately occurred to me. This event represented something to stimulate a part of my mind I have not stimulated enough recently. The part that explores the question “what if” without the need to answer that question. It is a mental exercise I used to enjoy so much back in my college days. When the ethereal trumped the practical. You get the picture.

I had not realized until that very moment how much I craved it. There is true value in pushing your mind past the practical. It is more than an exercise. It is where truly great ideas can be born. So “yes” was the only answer.

Months have passed since that conversation with Richie and the event is upon us. It is happening today.

I have put hours of work into helping the speakers shape their storylines into effective 15 minutes of thought-provoking wonder and awe. And I am better for it.

Mad Bear Productions, my company is now producing the videos for the event so there is new fun exercise involved in the process but none of this has to do directly with profit or business.

Richie has called it a labor of love. While that is true, I am more overcome by the mirror image. It has been a gift of indulgence. The permission to indulge in a larger picture mental exercise that is about to really happen. I’ll let you know how it goes and what comes of this extraordinary experience.


About Glenn Zimmerman:
glenn@madbearproductions.com

Glenn has what is best described as “Superhero Syndrome.”

His affliction began as a child and has progressed with age.

He got into extreme skiing and extreme sports before they were a thing because every
superhero should try flying at least once.

While at Boston University, it was his desire to save the day that brought him to Post-
Soviet Russia where he explored the emerging homeless population.

His Syndrome brought him to journalism school at Syracuse University to get his MS in
Mass Communications. He later became an award winning reporter with the number
one station in Detroit (WXYZ-TV) and with NBC’s flagship station in New York (WNBC-
TV).

And, it was the reason he formed the video agency Mad Bear Productions.
With Mad Bear, he harnesses the power of story to help business, non-profits and
events engage with their target audience. Video is his tool and he wields it mightily.

Glenn is a sought after speaker on video engagement and mass media.

It is all part of his quest to help save the day, one story at a time.