on talking about Postcrossing at TEDxOporto

“i’m a pretty monkey and i know where all the bananas are!”

that’s what i kept repeating to myself before going on stage on tedxoporto in early march. my palms were sweating, my heart was racing, and in my mind, i kept coming back to matt haughey’s pretty monkey’s motto which he wrote about on a post on being an introvert and giving public speeches.

i think both paulo and i are huge introverts. we don’t enjoy the spotlight and if given a chance, we’ll scurry to a quiet corner somewhere rather than shake hands and hand over cards. so when we got this invitation to do a tedx talk in my hometown, our first reaction was a bit uneasy. we love the ted concept and have a huge deal of respect for what they do… but did we have what it takes to be on stage in front of hundreds of people? could we make it interesting enough for them?

we were skeptical… but the organizers were quite adamant and trusted that we’d do a good job. so after some back and forth, in the end we said yes – and quickly sprang into action! for over a month, we plotted, saw dozens of ted talks, took online classes on public speaking, read all the advice we could find, wrote and re-wrote… everyday, we’d finish work and come back to that speech, going over it time and over again. was the message clear? did the structure make sense? and particularly, what did we want people to take away from this?

slowly, we came to the conclusion that what we wanted to achieve through this talk was to make people rediscover the magic of receiving a postcard. i imagined many of them had probably forgotten what that felt like – so i though it was important to replicate this spike of pleasure we feel when we open our mailboxes and find something exciting there. i felt that if i could do that, if that was the one thing they would remember from my talk, then that wouldn’t be so bad!

but… receiving a postcard is not something that can simply be felt through description. so instead, i decided to ask our community if they’d help me share the feeling with the people there, by writing postcards to the attendees. and what do you know? they responded in droves, sending over 1000 postcards in a week!! the turnout was so massive that most people took not just one card home, but two! :) reading through those cards as we put them in envelopes was a really heartwarming experience. all of them were special in their own way – but many even included sweet notes like “please give ana a big round of applause, she’s nervous!” or “so you’re listening to ana talk… i’m sure she’s rocking it!”, which in some cases brought tears to my eyes. the generosity and trust of this community knows no boundaries and i knew then that i had done the right decision in accepting this task.

soooo… on the big day, spiked by adrenaline and with shaky hands, the two of us plus a bunch of tedx volunteers glued all of the 700-something envelopes to the chairs in the auditorium during a coffee break in the talks… and then i went on stage and just did it:

the whole time i was up there, it felt like my heart was going to leap out of my chest… but i’d ran through this presentation so so many times before, it just kind of tumbled out of my tongue in the right sequence. and despite my nightmares (in which i would mix the numbers and say postcrossing had 22 million members instead of postcards), i think it went ok.

looking at it now, i wished i had moved less… or been less fidgety with my hands… or slowed down and looked up more… i guess it’s pretty obvious how nervous i was. when i walked down the stairs after the talk, i had absolutely no recollection of the words i had said!

but i guess the important thing was, i felt the part. i was the pretty monkey, and i knew where ALL the bananas (aka the postcards!) were. so i told everyone, and it was fine. phew! :)

if you’ll allow me my little moment, i’d like to thank our friend joel, who first mentioned the project to norberto at tedxoporto – and of course, to norberto himself, for believing in us. to sofia & andreia for their reassuring support. i’m grateful to all the volunteers who frantically helped us glue hundreds of postcards on the chairs during the break… to my mom for ironing my clothes and fussing over me in her loving way. but most of all to paulo. i said on the talk that we did it, but truth is, he did it. my part on starting this whole postcard revolution was minimal – he’s the real deal here, and i love him for it.


14 comments to “on talking about Postcrossing at TEDxOporto”

  • gigi says:

    Wow. Good job!
    You look a little nervous but your voice is very steady. Much steadier than mine could ever be in that situation. :)

  • Kasia says:

    You were amazing :) I could see you were really stressed, but who wouldn’t be?
    At the end I have to admit, that the audience was infected by your enthusiasm :)
    Bravo!

  • Norberto Amaral says:

    Hello Ana! It was great having you on stage. You certainly made one of the best moments of the day!
    Looking back to many months ago when we first exchanged emails and I was trying to convince you two to come and give a talk… that looks so dated now.
    Thank *you* so much for accepting our challenge! As in those emails, we truly believe in ideas like yours, simple yet able to change the world.

  • Genek says:

    A m a z i n g ! … and Ana, you were just perfect ! as always :)

  • Willa says:

    Hi Ana,
    You definitely nailed it! You did an awesome job! So proud of you!!!

  • Fisherman says:

    How could they no be impressed with you Ana – cool as usual :-)

  • Katie says:

    It’s easy to forget but never, ever underestimate the power of receiving snail mail – love their reactions when they looked under their chairs! Great, great job, Ana!! :)

  • Lorand says:

    Ana, this was very nice! :-)

  • Amanda says:

    This was so amazing to watch! You and Paulo have created such an amazing community that is so magical!

  • April says:

    I find this really inspiring! I don’t do well on public speaking too, and I’m about to give one (short presentation) again as part of my work soon, but I will definitely go back to this post when I start preparing. The Matt Haughney link is also very helpful.

    Congratulations to you! :)

  • Maria João says:

    Hi Ana!

    I was at TEDx and i saw your talk. I can say without hesitation that i felt (and still feel) yours was the best.
    Finding those postcards under my chair was so heartwarming, that it brought tears to my eyes. :)
    And the result serves to prove it, because today I am yet another happy postcrosser!

    Thank you for being the prettiest monkey and for showing us the best bananas!! :)

  • ana says:

    @Maria João thank you so much for your kind words! :)

  • jouimaria says:

    Ana, gostei muito, muito de te ouvir!!
    Congratulations, the talk was beautiful and very inspiring. You did a great job! :)

  • Marisa Tomás says:

    Ana, foi muito bom teres vindo a Portugal falar sobre o Postcrossing. Como sabes, eu e as minhas colegas incluímos uma unidade no nosso manual de Inglês (Be Connected 10º, Santillana) sobre o vosso projeto. Os alunos têm adorado conhecer o projeto e são vários aqueles que se inscrevem no site. PARABÉNS pela vossa ideia fantástica!

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