Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

Building a TEDx Talk

This past Saturday, I delivered my first TEDx talk. I first want to thank the folks at Culture Pilot: Tim DeSilva, Javier Fadul, Grace Rodriguez, and Kara Gray plus all the other amazing volunteers who helped make TEDxHouston possible. I also want to thank my amazing wind octet: Eryn Bauer, Gina Stevens, Matt Lengas, Josh Horne, Ran Kampel, Jack Marquardt, Nate Udell, and Brett Linski. I’m not going to talk about the actual talk. I’ll wait until it’s cut and up on YouTube. I did want to talk about the act of putting the talk together. The basic gist of my talk was that as leaders, you have to decide the type of leadership that the situation requires of you. (Again – I’ll go into more specifics about that when the talk is up on YouTube).

As I was putting the talk together, I kept coming up with a variety of ways to begin. The first was a rather professional look at leadership styles. The second was to actually talk about what spawned my way of thinking about leadership as I go forward. (In this regard, I’m talking about leadership as an aspect both in my professional and private life. Perhaps the better way to describe it would be – “the way I want to live my life”.) The second was linked to an extremely personal journey that has taken place over the past 3 years. The honest truth is that I hadn’t made a decision about which way to begin the discussion until I literally put my foot on stage.

It was interesting to watch the first portion of my talk. (Perhaps surreal is a better word?) I usually feel most at home on stage. It was interesting seeing that my comfort level as I started wasn’t at my normal completely calm demeanor. To be fair – it’s the first time in a long time a speech plagued me before I actually gave it. It was perhaps one of the toughest things I’ve ever spoken about in public. People who know me know how much I hate to fail. (Not that anyone really does, but…) I agonize over things that don’t work and analyze them over and over, so I can figure out how to make it work should I ever be in that situation again. It was interesting to be on stage talking about personal experiences – love, friendship – that didn’t work as I hoped. Frankly, it was difficult.

I know the experience of going back through the past few years on stage affected my entire weekend. I think it was important, however. It’s an interesting time for me. The longest chapter in my life since college is closing, and an amazing new one is opening. I think I have been very pensive and retrospective because it is difficult to think of my time in Houston closing – no matter how much I keep trying to fight to keep at least part of it alive. It was definitely one of the most difficult talks I have given, but as I get a bit of distance from it, perhaps it is also slightly cathartic.