Thursday, June 20, 2013


Back in January, when I first got an invitation to give a TED talk at Stanford's TEDx event, my gut reaction was, "No way. Public speaking?" Then immediately after followed the thought: "But this is TEDx. I've been invited to give a TED talk." I wrestled with myself for a short while, but within the day had decided that I couldn't turn the opportunity down. What better place than at Stanford, with friends there to support, in such a dynamic setting, to take on once and for all my fear of public speaking?

The TEDxStanford event took place last month, on May 11, and was an incredible day of fascinating ideas, brilliant people, and well-delivered talks. I went at the end of the day, and felt sick for the entire hour before my talk, but then walked onstage and felt so, so good:

I'd been profoundly afraid of public speaking for a while - many people are, but my fear stemmed from shyness and also from a painfully riveting self-consciousness that my speech isn't perfect, that it isn't like other people's, that it might not be understandable. I'd often stumbled over myself in previous presentations out of sheer nerves, always preoccupied with the question: Am I speaking clearly enough? How is my speech? A wonderful speaking coach from the Stanford TEDx event helped me think through my talk and how to rehearse and deliver it, and by May I'd practiced it enough times to say it forwards and backwards, in my sleep, while driving, probably while swimming underwater if I wanted. The feeling as I walked offstage to a standing ovation, after giving certainly the best presentation of my life to date, was extraordinary.


  1. Good talk! And thanks for having captions on the video.

  2. Rachel, your talk was fantastic - touching & inspiring! My 5 month old daughter was born profoundly deaf, we are hearing so we're just beginning to explore the world of deaf culture, sign language, communication, CIs, etc, and came across your talk. I just wanted to say that I would be thrilled if she (or my other 2 girls for that matter) turned out nearly as intelligent, well spoken and self-posessed. Your parents should be very proud.

  3. I just came across this video on YouTube when I was looking for ASL videos. You did a really, really good job with this, and it really amazed me. (I found your blog afterwards). I'm so impressed. You did a much, MUCH better job with public speaking than I ever could, and I am not deaf. I was surprised to read that you were nervous about public speaking, because it certainly didn't show. I'm glad to have found your blog, and hope you continue to post on it!