Rising to Expectations

By Adam Friedman

We expect our speakers to give the talk of their lives.

Even for the most experienced of speakers, this is a daunting task: thousands will watch the talks online in simulcast, and hundreds will attend live. While our speakers are undoubtedly highly skilled and have amazing stories to tell, it is precisely their company on the speaker development journey that will contribute to their successes, with encouraging feedback from Speaker Catalysts and Sparkplugs helping them rise to the challenge.

Jessica Lander, a former teacher and Harvard education graduate student, spoke at TedxBeaconStreet 2014 about “Rising to Expectations”. Throughout her teaching experiences, Jessica discovered that there were key factors that led to impressive levels of student achievement, namely a supportive and encouraging learning environment with goals set ever so slightly out of reach, with opportunities to experience success at every step of the way.

In one of many examples in her talk, Jessica related her experience teaching Shakespeare to a group of Charlestown sixth graders, composed of many students who read below grade level and whose first language was not English. After one month in the classroom, her students were critically analyzing William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, despite school administrators’ doubts that students would even be interested in Shakespeare or that they could overcome the seemingly insurmountable level of language difficulty. By starting out slowly with Shakespearean insults to learn the language, by imagining the characters as their own acquaintances to help them discuss motivation, and by using text messages to set the scenes in modern times, the students were able relate to the story and to build their understanding piece by piece, dispelling those preconceived notions of their abilities. More importantly, the students were able to prove to themselves that they were capable of greatness – as Ms. Lander put it, a realization that can transform lives.

Our speaker development process shares many similarities with Jessica’s experiences in the academic setting. While our November event is now only one month away, we’ve had multiple speaker orientations since the summer, allowing speakers to test drive their talks and receive meaningful, positive feedback at the early stages of preparation. More recently, our Speaker Catalysts have been providing a more personal approach, with one-on-one meetings to assist with speech writing and development. With several rehearsals scheduled before our November event, there are still opportunities for encouragement and constructive criticism as talks enter their final stages. In other words, our speaker development team is available to provide support at every step of the way, similar to what Jessica identified as paramount to her students’ successes.

At TedxBeaconStreet 2015, we hope our speakers will inspire you in a similar supportive environment. We hope that they will transform lives – sparking new passions and the confidence to pursue them.

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