The Stage: A Horror Story

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Everyone has been so focused on the content of their TED Talk that they seem to have forgotten one very important aspect of any presentation: It’s required to speak… on stage… in front of a bunch of people. If that image paralyzes you with dread, you probably are familiar with the term “stage fright”.

Stage fright is the anxiety or fear felt before going on stage or giving a performance. The medical term for stage fright is “glossophobia”, and while few of us have an actual condition that causes us to experience stage fright on a much more serious level, most of us are no stranger to “jitters” before presenting or performing something.

Stage fright is not dependent on talent, intellect, or experience, but rather stems from lack of self-confidence. Researchers J.J. Barrell, D. Medeiros, J.E. Barrell and D. Price found that the central concepts that cause the stress or anxiety responsible for stage fright are as follows:

  1. The belief that there are superior individuals watching that have both the ability and intent to judge you is present. In school, this includes a lot of people such as teachers, the principle, or bored peers who seem intent on receiving entertainment from the slightest of mistakes.
  2. The possibility of failure is considered. If you’re reading this or if you are preparing to give a TED Talk, you’re most likely a perfectionist. And many times perfectionism means a fear of failing. This fear can hinder your performance as one tiny, insignificant mistake can shatter your confidence.
  3. You are very focused on your appearance. Many of us are afraid of looking stupid, but the truth of the matter is that if you wanted to show off your image, you would’ve joined a fashion show or a beauty pageant. The purpose of a TED Talk is to spread innovative ideas that can change the world and not to come across as “cool”.

All of these basic thoughts cause you to feel stressed or threatened, and in response, the brain triggers the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase your heart rate in a process known as the “fight or flight” response. This instinctual reaction comes in handy when going into combat against super villains or running from a vicious dog. However, it’s not a good idea to attack the audience, and as much as you may want to, you can’t run off the stage screaming.

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How then, can you rid yourself of this biologically programmed fear of stages? Extra adrenaline prepares your body physically. As a result, your heart rate increases. To get your heart beating normally, try taking deep breathes. This relaxes your body and mind.

Visualizing a positive outcome can also calm down the body and allow you to focus.

The cliché “practice makes perfect” has significance here. If you commit your performance or speech to memory, you can go on autopilot on stage to avoid mistakes.

It’s important to stay present. When you think about the future of your presentation it’s easy to imagine situations where you mess up which causes your stress level to increase.

Avoiding caffeine is a good idea because it is a stimulant and will only add to the surplus of energy. Drink water instead to prevent your mouth from becoming dry.

Some people make the audience less intimidating by picturing them in compromising situations (like in their underwear) or pretending that they’re only speaking to one person.

My personal favorite method for overcoming stage fright is exercise. Physical activity provides the excess energy produced with an outlet. For example, as strange as it may be, I tend to tap dance before going on stage.

Stage fright is extremely common, and let’s face it, you’re bound to get nervous before going on speaking. But the picture is so much bigger than you as a single entity. The fact that you’re giving a TED Talk means that you have an idea that is worth spreading, which resonates within yourself, and therefore has the capacity to resonate within others. It would be a shame if the world was left with one less idea. So take a deep breath, relax, and remember: the stage doesn’t bite. 😉

~Sierra

ONE LANGUAGE. ONE BATTLE. ONE OPINION.

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American English, British English, South African English, Cockney English…there are so many English dialects but yet one world-renowned war – American English Vs. British English.

Oscar Wilde once quoted, “The Americans are identical to the British in all respects except, of course, language.” It’s ironic how both countries speak English as their first language and yet consider it to be so dissimilar.

Global Internet search results have shown that American English is much more popular than British English. There are 1,605,868,000 occurrences of American English as compared to the British English that stand at 385,263,000. The difference…uhh…whoa!

Playwright George Bernard Shaw once claimed, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language”. Facts say that the original dialect was of Britain but popularity of the American English dialect brought them to war. It says that the Americas were introduced to the English Language by the British Colonization and since then, one has built many English dialects.

From what I’ve heard, the reason American English became so famous was the influence of Noah Webster the lexicographer of the very first American Dictionary. He was the English Language Spelling Reformer for the Americanisms. Since the birth of the America’s, the nation was always filled with immigrants and as popularity increased, the dialect became known to all.

Hollywood has the biggest influence on American English. My generation has grown up gossiping and fantasizing about different television shows and Hollywood stars.

Hollywood is the motion picture industry of the United-States and is the most famous form of entertainment not only in America but also in the entire world. Can you count the number of television shows today as compared to the olden days? Heck! The television wasn’t even invented till the late 1920’s.

British English boasts its own form when we take reference to plays in particular. Shakespeare, he was known for creating the most prestigious plays in all of Britain. The University Wits, they were known for scripting the most elegant plays.

Now let’s look at American English and their linguistic entertainment sector. Broadway defines American English, the center of entertainment in New York City. While it still has its elegance, it’s not as semantic, but more of a technical extravaganza I’d say.

British English, also referred to, as the, “Queens English” is known to be grammatically correct where as the American English is a dialect of British English. We can see the use of Queens English in My Fair Lady’s famous song- “The rain in Spain

The dialect of a language has a lot to do with the culture of the location. For example, in jolly old England, an old couple would sit down to a cup of served tea and scones and a typical American couple would munch on a big mac. My-oh-my!

Dialects have a lot to do cultural beliefs. I was talking to my cousin just the other day, who moved to Atlanta after living in London for about ten years. She told me that her early days in Atlanta were quite linguistically different. Her neighbors invited her to watch the super-bowl and she spent the evening 60% absolutely clueless since she couldn’t understand most of their talks. The language might have been the same, but the context to which it was applied was almost like gibberish to her.

We can all agree that language and culture are related right? I mean it is used to convey cultural ties. So, in the case of my cousin’s experience, I guess culture did play a huge part in her understanding of the American English dialect. So, Instead of getting into the lift, she would she would now get into the elevator. She had to accept the new vocabulary that was recognized in the States. Such as, barrister-caravan-car park-chips would become attorney-trailer-parking-lot and fries

Ask yourselves, which do you use more? American or British English? I can answer that by saying, even though I may fancy British terms, I use American English much more. Though living on a separate continent, I have come to learn so much about the language- through Hollywood, famous book sequels (Twilight), etcetera.

An article I came across (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365751/How-British-English-Americanisms-ARENT-taking-language-research-shows.html), mentions a study to what Jonnie Robinson said on the lingual wars, with reference to the word attitude. Many British volunteers chose a pronunciation of – “atti-chewed” and many American volunteers opted for a pronunciation of- “atto-tood”. This shows how the British chose a pronunciation that emphasized each vowel and consonant. The article also mentions a reference to the word garage. Americans pronounced it rhyming to ‘mirage’ and the Britishers opted for a version that rhymed with the word “marriage”.

This draws conclusions from the same fact that the British use words where the vowel and consonant are emphasized much more where as Americans do not.

“Americans can’t spell”, “The British can’t tell advise from advice”. The battle still continues and this time both nations are using linguistic weapons to take down the other – heheh!

I’ve given you my views on this and I’ve asked you about your views. When I use words ending in ‘our’ instead of ‘or’ or verbs ending in ‘yse’ instead of ‘yze’ I find it wrong. It just doesn’t feel right, so I guess it is each to their own. I learnt the language through my initial years of conditioning both at home and my immediate external environment like school.

So, I don’t think the battle is of who speaks it better or in a more coherent form. But, it is a battle of which dialect is more popular. If it really was a battle of the language then why is one comparing only American and British English? Why is one not comparing American and South African English dialects?

~Sanaya

Meeting 3 & 4

The purpose of this lesson was to get us to focus on further developing our talks. We each had to give a brief intro to our topic. Simple right? Wrong. The introduction of your TED Talk is essentially the most important part. If you can’t connect to the audience or draw their attention in the first few seconds, your entire talk is pointless because otherwise, people will lose interest and your idea worth spreading will never be spread. This is why your introduction has to act as a hook and pull the listener in.

How is this accomplished? How do you gain the attention of a crowd of people with varying opinions and interests? To find out, the members of the club were shown the beginnings of several TED Talks and asked to observe the different methods of drawing the audience in. Many of the speakers told stories, questioned the audience to get them thinking, gave an interesting fact or quote, demonstrated something, or told a joke. There were several strategies used to introduce their topics, but one aspect was the same in each Talk that we were shown. Each was unique and this is why their “hooks” succeeded.

When we tried this out for ourselves we discovered just how difficult it is to incorporate that one little spark that keeps the whole speech going. Most individuals simply stated what there topic was and stopped there. The class became monotonous as the phrase “My topic is about…” was repeated over and over. One person, however, managed to stand out. Anshuman started his Talk with a story about his childhood that had a light tone, incorporated humour, and was engaging while also subtly feeding us thought provoking concepts that conveyed the main idea of his topic.

With Anshuman’s presentation we had a relatable and less intimidating example to refer to. I think seeing someone in our own class giving a speech similar to the types of TED Talks that go on stage shows us that we are capable of creating our own TED Talk that makes an impression from the start.

~Sierra

The Second Meeting: Developing our ideas

Perhaps the most important thing about ideas is where they come from. Throughout our short time in the TED-Ed club we’ve learned that ideas developed from our passions often have a lot more impact; for when something, such as our passions, has the capacity to change us, we then have the ability to utilize that change and make a difference in the world. With this in mind, the students of ABWA TED-Ed spent our second meeting developing the previous concepts we had come up with. To make things easier, most of us worked in pairs.

For example, my fellow member, Aanshi, loves acting, and I love dance. Therefore we teamed up and together, formulated the concept of using performing as therapy and, by extension, as treatment for illnesses such as depression and anxiety. We were only able to come up with this idea because of our past experiences. In my case, dance is so much more than a hobby. It has helped me through many trying times and transformed me from a self-conscious, shy girl into a much more confident person. Dance has done so much for me which is why I feel so strongly about it, and it is because of this strong emotion that I want to help other people discover the benefits of performing. It is this emotion that gives me the ability to, with the help of my fellow members and the student facilitators, turn my passion into an idea and that idea into something bigger than any of us could imagine.

~Sierra

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Our First “TED-Ed” Experience

The Oxford Dictionary defines “passion” as a strong and barely controllable emotion. During our first TED-Ed meeting, we were asked to write down a few things that we’re passionate about. Some people took it lightly and jotted down a few words that were funny or sounded cool. Others knew exactly what to write and were done in an instant. Most of the members, however, took longer than the student coordinators seemed to expect, but it’s not hard to understand why. Strong and barely controllable emotions are not experienced on a daily basis. What constitutes a passion? How do you differentiate between a passion and something you simply enjoy or care about?

Eventually everyone had written at least three things they were passionate about. We soon found that this was the easy part. We were then asked to find a partner, discuss our passions, and morph them into “ideas worth sharing,” a very interesting and complex concept. We had to find an element that made our ideas applicable and most importantly, meaningful, and if your idea can’t help anyone or make a difference then it’s not worth pursuing. I was amazed at what we came up with. Every idea bred arguments, discussions, contradiction; something, I realize, which wouldn’t have happened if the ideas weren’t our own.

Ideas are strong tools, hand-crafted by their creator, that can be a whirlwind of change in the world. It’s awe-inspiring to contemplate the magnitude of what could be constructed with these building-block concepts that were generated in just the few hours we had. What could we do with days? Months? I have a feeling we’ll have a pretty clear picture as our TED-Ed lessons progress.

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~Sierra