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Eric Pickersgill TEDxBend Video “Do Our Devices Divide Us?”

The entire TEDxBend experience was an incredible one! My journey began in December 2015 and I knew the process of preparing for this was going to be a challenge but ultimately rewarding.

If you are unfamiliar with TEDx you should click this before reading on. Or, you can skip down a paragraph and click the link to watch my talk about my Removed series. Totally up to you!

I must give thanks to Diane Allen, my speaking coach, who dedicated herself to my talk. Without her guidance and feedback I would have never been able to pull this off. I also want to thank Krayna Castelbaum for believing in me and my work and inviting me to apply. Additionally, I have to thank the countless volunteers of TEDxBend who actually made this opportunity possible as well as the magical city of Bend, OR for believing in and supporting this event. Thank you to my incredibly supportive family and friends who have shaped and encouraged this work in so many ways. Angie, thank you for putting up with my constant photographing and for being vulnerable and honest so that these ideas can live beyond the walls of our home and into the lives of people around the world. Lastly, thank YOU for taking the time to read this and for supporting me and my work over the past several years.

Below is the link to my talk and if you enjoy it, please share it. I want to continue spreading this message of awareness and balance. Beyond the video is information about how I prepared for the talk and reflections on my TEDxBend experience as a whole. Thank you for your continued support!

My TEDxBend Experience
The real work in preparing my talk began in January when I started drafting countless versions of my idea. Week by week, my coach and I edited down an hour long talk into the final 11 minutes that I presented in Bend, OR. Once I started practicing the talk aloud, I began to make photographs like the one I eventually made on stage at TEDxBend. Knowing that I was photographing 1400+ audience members with film was nerve wracking to say the least. This wasn’t a photograph I could redo so I had to test everything from the wide angle lens to the exact film holder that I was planning to use for the shoot.

After months of practice I finally arrived in Bend, Oregon and had the day to walk around town and visit some breweries. The downtown area was lined with banners for the event and it was this moment that things got real for me.

The presenters were given rooms at the ridiculously fancy Oxford Hotel which is likely the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Everyone working there was incredibly friendly and helpful and they give you fresh baked cookies when you check in. Awesome. I absolutely loved the place. I was able to meet some of the other presenters and have dinner with my coach that first evening.

The event was being held at Bend Senior High School which has a huge auditorium and I was first up for rehearsal because I was the opening speaker for the event. I got on stage, wasn’t too nervous, set up the view camera for the photograph, started talking to a mostly empty auditorium and then silence, I froze. I swallowed hard, found a few more sentences and then froze again. Eventually, I made it through my talk and a wave of panic fell over me. I became terrified that I would lose my place in my talk and just freeze with the entire world watching.

That evening, Angie finally arrived and we went to a special dinner just for presenters and key sponsors of the event. We met more of the presenters, organizers, volunteers, and funders of the event over some delicious food and everyone told us about their favorite places to go walking. Seriously, everyone in Bend loves to go walking. All of the time. Eventually, someone gave me a microphone so I could participate in this icebreaker  activity and I think I said something about rain sticks and Ansel Adams. I was still in a nervous blur about my freezing episode during rehearsal and am grateful this part of the weekend was not being recorded.

The day of the event, I woke up super early, locked myself in the bathroom at the hotel and went through my talk at least 15 more times. Before I knew it I was in the shuttle with the rest of the incredible speakers, all seemingly more accomplished and important than me and we were on our way to the event. I’m not exaggerating about the accomplished part either. I was in a van with a two time olympic gold medalist, speaking coach to Brian Wilson, and a man who has climbed all seven summits of the world and has skied to both poles!

Right before the show opened I was in the makeup room where they put on the finishing touches and made me look pretty.

They set me up with my mic, brought me back stage, introduced me as a New York artist (which is half true I suppose) and then I walked toward to red circle with an enormously loud applause from the audience. This was it. I remember planting my feet, placing my left hand over my fluttering heart and then saying the first three words of my talk, “Imagine a world”.

The only other memory I really have from my talk was at about three minutes in, I can remember excitedly saying to myself, “You’re really not going to fuck this up!” All of my practice had finally clicked in and I knew I was in my zone. The talk was flowing through me and no matter what unexpected thing happened, I would be able to roll with it and keep my message on course.

I left the stage on such a high and I was showered with compliments the rest of the day. It was incredible to hear personal stories from people who had already been touched by the photographs months prior and that they and their family members had altered their device habits. The rest of the day Angie and I enjoyed the incredible stories by my fellow presenters and left feeling energized, rejuvenated, reminded of forgotten emotions, optimistic, and specifically in my case, relieved.

Photographs from the event can be found here.

Please check out the videos from the other speakers which are all posted here. The topics range from art, education, design, overcoming adversity and loss, bullying, voice coaching, sanitation, music, rethinking disabilities, celebrating the introvert, the privilege of wellness, and the power of humor to change the way we perceive the world.

After the weekend’s events, Angie and I stayed in Oregon for a few days and did some of the suggested walking around and also got in a little snowboarding. I look forward to returning some day. Lastly, thanks mom and dad for watching Charlie! 🙂

This experience is one that will forever change my life. If you’ve never been to a TEDx event, I want to encourage you to do so! They are happening all over the world and very likely near you. You can find an entire listing of TEDx events here.

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