Talent Night 2022 Winner Malou: “When I stepped onto the stage, I felt so ready and confident. I knew I was going to nail it!”
Each year, TEDxAmsterdam Women organises a Talent Night. The goal of the competition is to offer new talent a once in a lifetime opportunity to take to the stage and give a TEDx talk. Throughout the process, the competitors are coached by a team of TED experts to prepare them for their 18-minutes on the famous ‘red dot’. Last year, Malou van den Berg applied for and won Talent Night with her TEDx talk on ‘Modern family: the challenge to be seen as just a family’. We spoke to Malou about dealing with nerves, lessons learned and how Talent Night led to something that ‘feels like the beginning of a new phase in my life’.
An obvious one to kick off with: What made you sign up for Talent Night 2022?
For a while now, I have wanted to tell others about my personal experience, the challenge as a modern family to also be seen as a normal family, and to tell our story further. Next to this, I have always had the dream of giving a TEDx talk – when I saw the Talent Night 2022 announcement, it brought these two elements together nicely.
The Talent Night application felt very accessible, because it was explicitly stated that the application process was open to people of all backgrounds and from all walks of life. And experience with public speaking was not necessary, because you receive coaching throughout the process to polish your skills. So, Talent Night immediately felt like a safe environment to take on this challenge.
How do you think your TED-talk developed from the first draft to the final version? How did TEDxAmsterdam Women contribute to this?
When I applied for Talent Night, my idea for a TEDx talk initially consisted of nothing more than sharing my personal experience, and bringing across a message. It wasn’t until further into the process, with the help of my coach Barbara (Rogoski ed.), that I was really able to develop this story into a full-fledged TEDx talk.
Throughout the process, Barbara’s coaching felt like a warm and safe bath, and I immediately had a good connection with her. She is not only very friendly and pleasant to work with, but also very clear. She gives good feedback: her “sprinkle the you” approach is a good example of this. By this, Barbara refers to the importance of personally engaging the audience with your story. I learned a lot from her. I still use her tips and tricks in my daily life now, at work for example.
What are the most valuable things you’ve learned from going through this process? And what was your biggest challenge?
The “challenge” is quite an interesting one, because in high school I used to suffer from really severe stage fright . By giving more presentations over time, that became less and I also found it more and more fun to do, but it remained a love-hate relationship. It was only after Barbara’s coaching that I really learned to enjoy it too.
Three other valuable things I learned: first of all learning that giving a TEDx talk, and any other presentation, is all about the audience. If I’m not able to engage my audience, then my presentation – no matter how strong the message – will not come across. That was a big eye opener for me!
In addition, at first I found it difficult to balance power and emotion. Throughout my coaching sessions, I learned how to balance this, how to make myself vulnerable without it detracting from the strength of the message. Also, I have learned how to structure my presentations, and to make them easy to follow.
How did you feel the day of the Talent Night finale?
After weeks of rewriting and a lot of practice, the Friday of the Talent Night finale finally arrived, and I felt really anxious. All of the final candidates gathered in the afternoon so that we could already familiarize ourselves with the setting, receive final instructions and practice our story one by one on the famous ‘red dot’. It was nice to experience the run-up to the finals together with the other candidates and our coach, Barbara. We shared the same excitement and it felt like we were one big team on the same mission. On a mission to make an impact with our story!
I didn’t feel a lot of competition between us. On the contrary, I mainly felt that we supported each other. It gave me an incredible thrill to be able to tell my story in such a setting. And when the judges called out my name as the winner of Talent Night 2022, it felt like I was dreaming. It sounds cliché, but it’s really true: what a dream to come true!
And how was it for you to ‘perform’ on stage of the main event?
Looking back at my TEDx talk at the main event, I am incredibly pleased with how I developed my talk and myself. I find it hard to rewatch my talk, but compared to my first pitch for Talent Night I see a huge difference. You learn a lot of tips & tricks along the way, also about dealing with nerves.
On the day of the main event, I had a breakdown an hour before going on stage. I had completely lost my lines, even though I knew my TEDx talk word for word. It was Barbara who was there to get me out of the frenzy and help me. Together we ran through my entire talk two more times backstage. That really gave me back my confidence and that final push in the back. When I walked towards the stage I felt really so ready and confident: ‘I’m going to nail this’, there is now only one task I have to accomplish.
What difference did Talent Night make for your life?
For me personally, it has meant a lot. I find that it got me thinking about which direction I want my life to take, regarding “public speaking” as well as the subject itself. Together with my coach Kaya de Lange, I’ve recently started working on those next steps. Next to this, I also still give talks on a regular basis and have gained a large network from Talent Night.
I received so many messages afterwards from people I both knew and didn’t know. I really felt that my message has come across well and it inspires me to look further. It feels like the beginning of a new phase in my life.
Who was (most) important to you throughout the process?
My “modern family”. I also practiced my TEDx talk with them an awful lot. I drove them crazy! I also got a lot of support from my family, my parents, three sisters, colleagues and friends. During the finals of Talent Night, a lot of them were watching the livestream. They knew I was busy preparing, but for them it was impressive to see the result. They didn’t expect it to be in such a professional setting. And during the ‘main event’ there were also an awful lot of loved ones in the theater. That really gave me a boost.
What tips would you give others thinking of entering the competition?
My first tip is: make sure you are very well prepared. Learn your text by heart! Once I had that sorted out for myself, was I able to concentrate on how I wanted to get my message across.
And a cliché to say but true: stay true to yourself. My message was very personal and pure and I wanted to keep it that way. How best to do so was also part of my training.
Why is it important for others to participate in Talent Night?
With Talent Night, TEDxAmsterdamWomen offers you an accessible way and a safe environment to tell your message. In my opinion, it is a great way to make an impact without having to deal with huge expectations upfront.
And especially if it seems a bit scary to you, then you should definitely take on the challenge!