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An Interview With... Liam O'Dell

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Need some inspiration in finalising your application for this year's TEDxBrayfordPool before applications close on Monday? Well look no further because it's that time for another interview with one of last year's speakers! This time we talked to TEDxYouth@BrayfordPool speaker Liam O'Dell, who last year, delivered a talk titled 'How control your labels, and when to let them define you".


Before we begin, don't forget to take 15 minutes out of your day, put your feet up with a slice of cake and cuppa, and refresh your memory of Liam's talk - or even better, watch it for the first time if you haven't already!

Liam O'Dell: How to control your labels, and when to let them define you

All caught up? Fantastic! On with the interview, let's hear what Liam has to say!


George: Do you remember your first experiences with TEDTalks and TEDx?

Liam: I remember seeing these videos appear whilst browsing Youtube. The thumbnail image looked all glossy and fancy, and the video titles sounded interesting, so I gave them a watch. I can't remember what the first talk I saw was, but I remember being blown away by the huge audience sizes, and the huge size of it all.

G: What did you take from these experiences?

L: I was fascinated by how they were conducted, and they certainly gave me a lot of things to think about after watching.

G: What is your favourite TED Talks, or, top three?

L: Tough question! There's so many talks and I honestly can't remember all of the ones I have seen, but James Veitch's talk about responding to spam emails is always good fun to watch.

G: What made you decide you wanted to become a TEDx speaker?

L: I've always been seen as a bit of a 'nerd' and love discussing big ideas with people, so with that being what TEDx is all about, I was drawn to speaking straight away - that, and the fact that public speaking isn't easy, and I like a challenge!

G: How did you choose your subject/topic?

L: I've always been passionate about disability as a deaf person, so I knew what I would talk about something related to that. With the theme of 'Creating Our Future', I had to have a think about how my experiences with disability could tie in to this. In the end, I took a rather personal approach, looking at the changes I went through personall, to then encourage others to make similar changes in their lives to 'create their future'.

G: How did you find the process of applying and becoming a speaker?

L: It was intense and very exciting waiting to see if I had been successful in my application. I remember having to squeeze my idea down into a very tight word count, and do a video discussion about my talk, and as much as I was buzzing to tell everyone about my idea, I was also very nervous too. I had no reason to be, of course, as I was accepted!

G: What would your advice be for those thinking of applying or already in the process?

L: It's a cliche thing to say, but DO IT! Even if public speaking is not your strong point, as long as you have an idea worth spreading, then you should definitely appy. It may only be as long as 18 munutes up on that stage, but you learn so much in such a short space of time. In my case, I've certainly learned a lot about speaking in public, of course, but also some important communication skills. It's also great for boosting your confidence too.

G: How did you prepare to deliver your talk?

L: I have to say, Chris Anderson's TED Talks book is a bible for any speaker wanting to do a talk at TED or TEDx. It really helped me to felsh out the script for my talk - making it succint, creative and not cliched. As well as that, I tried to learn blocks of my script by reciting it, before settling on cue cards.

G: What were your concerns and how did you overcome them?

L: I didn't have much time to practice my talk due to some last-minute changes to the script I was learning, so I was concerned that I would freeze and forget what I was going to say. However, I received a much-needed motivational boost from curator Andy and realised that I could have cue cards with me on the day. The end result was that i was able to use these cues to prompt certain points of my talk, and the rest went swimmingly!

G: How did you feel your talk went/how did you feel after?

L: I've talked about this with other TEDxYouth speakers, and I've dubbed it 'post-adrenaline amnesia'. In the time between giving my talk and waiting for my talk to go live on YouTube, I honestly had no recollection of my talk - save for the odd bit here and there, perhaps. It was only after watching it again online that I remembered everything. As soon as my talk finished, I felt relived and it was great to go back to my seat to see fellow speakers smiling and supportive. I thought it went okay, although there were some things which I would go and change if I had the chance.

G: What would your top tips be for those speaking?

L: Take your time! Obviously, there is a limit to how long you can 'do your thing', but it is easy to worry about whether you're over or underrunning and stumble overy our words as a result (I did!).

G: If you were ever to speak again, what would your topic possibly be?

L: I've been fascinated by the concept of so-called 'fake news' and 'post-truth' in the world of politics and journalism at the moment. I'm a third-year jouranlism student and I'm writing about it for my dissertation, so I could talk about it for hours!

G: Would you do anything differently?

L: I would definitely try and say 'the important thing' a lot less! I appreciate we repeat certain phrases when nervous, but I'd definitely change that!

G: What have you been doing since your last TED talk, what have you achieved?

L: Since TEDxYouth last year, I've been working hard at university on my degree, but I've also been doing a lot more work on deaf issues, writing some articles for the deaf news blog 'The Limping Chicken', and recently filiming a video for Ai-Media on sign language. I'm still getting the word out about disability!

G: Any other comments regarding TEDx, speaking or the experience?

L: I also want to say a huge thank you to curators Andy and Hetain for all their help during last year's TEDxYouth even, and to all the fellow speakers, workshop-givers and performers who all helped support each other.

In the run-up to the event, there was a joke coined by a fellow speaker of a 'bathmat bond' (so-called because the red dot mat we used looked rather like a bathmat) to describe how supportive everyone was, and I'd agree that there definitely was a strong bond.

There we have it, an in-depth look at Liam O'Dells experience with TEDx and speaking! If that inspired you, get applying now to follow in Liam's footsteps! Get involved!

A massive thank you to Liam for taking time out to talk to us, we will all wish him a massive good luck with his upcoming third-year dissertation!

Remember, be FEARLESS!

Speaker applications close for TEDxBrayfordPool 2018: Fearless on Monday 26th March.

If you're between 16 and 26 there's also still time to join the TEDxYouth@BrayfordPool steering team. Head over to the TEDxYouth page on our website for more information.


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