Follow This, TEDTalks, TEDxColumbus

FOLLOW THIS: THE TALK EMERGES

[by Kendra Hovey]

What does it really take to be ready for the TEDx stage? For Rich Bowers this is both a practical question useful to those with TED/TEDx ambitions, and a philosophical one: how is it that we create ideas, then shape, scale, and share them?

The question so intrigued the videographer and TEDster (once upon a time—as in pre-Chris Anderson—Bowers even attended TED), he set out to document it. For three months last year he followed TEDxColumbus speakers Jan Allen and Naomi Stanford on their journey to the TEDx stage. The result is his new documentary, “The Talk Emerges.”

The video is a labor of love. Bowers tends to devote himself to one of these almost every year, somehow finding the time while also operating a design and production company. Though many of his previous independent projects focus on musicians, they all share a similar fascination with the creative process:

“Humans can make things up out of nothing,” he says. “A lot of it is crap, but some of it is good. Humans have also figured out how to edit—to pick the good from the crap.”

And all Bowers wants to know is: “How does all that happen?”

“The Talk Emerges,” then, is one more opportunity, as he says, “to look deep into the pool where things originate . . . and perhaps watch something good come out of it.”

It is also, Bowers hopes, a tool for potential speakers and one that will put some substance behind the oft-heard, but abstract description: it’s a lot of work. He hopes, too, that those who enjoy TED and TEDx will appreciate even more the care and craftsmanship behind the experience they have come to love.

In “The Talk Emerges,” Bowers devotes much of his running time (70 mins.) to interviews, as each speaker shapes her idea and performance, and truly digests the impact of the TED requirements. “I cannot emphasize enough how gutsy Jan and Naomi were to do this,” he says, adding, “their willingness to share the good ideas, the missteps, the angst, the fun, and their own personal growth is a huge contribution to the TEDx tradition.”

So, after 40 hours of prep, research, and filming, plus weeks of editing, what wisdom about creating a successful TED talk can Rich Bowers now share?

  • First, take the challenge seriously, he says. A TED Talk is a commitment.
  • Second, in the best talks, the speaker is immersed in the subject. Not just cares, emphasizes Bowers, but is invested: “Be sure you have that kind of investment.”
  • Third, you will surprise yourself, he says, and there will be “good surprises and less good surprises.” In other words, embrace candor.

And, to have the best time, he suggests, “absorb the mechanics.” For the time being, make it part of your persona, he says, “then enjoy yourself and enjoy sharing your important idea with an audience.”

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com