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A 14-year-old’s day on the TEDxPerth stage

Kai Lovel
Kai Lovel
8 min read

When I watched those awe-inspiring TED Talks from around the globe, like most of us have done at least once, I never stopped to think what the process is like to have that video made.

Not necessarily the editing, or rental cost for the cameras…but more the stories, the people and the places that make those 18 minutes or less possible.

This is the story of how, when my own big idea came together, coincidentally, the TEDxPerth doors had just opened for 2018. And how, on the 3rd of November last year, I gave my first ever TEDx talk. Each section was written during that time, so it is truly a journey. For me, and for you.

April, 2018

So. For those that have been following my journey to creating a media incubator, you will know that I have an obsession with content for good, and the power of young minds.

And with those drivers and passions in my life, it’s not always plain sailing.

However, I’ve just started to observe how I’ve been able to stop these inevitable setbacks from stopping me.

I’m trying to crystallise the idea, and put it into something actionable, because I’ve been encouraged to apply to speak at this year’s TEDxPerth event. I mean, even if I just get to the first stage application, I would be able to look at that setback as an opportunity, for learning & growth.

So I sat down. With lots of sticky notes. Like, lots. And I just started writing down my thoughts. The different parts of this “turning setbacks into opportunities” mindset, the steps to take, the ways you can use, my personal experiences with it, blah blah blah.

But I realised something. If this talk is going to aim to affect and relate to every person in that concert hall, not just the seasoned business people, I needed to take it outside of business.

My challenges:

  1. Write an application for TEDxPerth 2018
  2. Use my mindset (the topic for the talk) in my own life, beyond just business. Live it.

June, 2018

Thanks to another trip to Officeworks for more sticky notes, and a lot of back and forward, I finished the application. I sent it off end of April.

And as for the second challenge from last month — as soon as I put this to myself as something to work towards, it was like these perfect setbacks, struggles, challenges and roadblocks all appeared for me.

I lost some close friends after an argument, I hit a rough patch around motivation at school which = not great marks, and, well, I still haven’t heard anything from the lovely people at TEDxPerth. And the note on their website saying that “you should expect a response within a few weeks if we want to follow up with your idea” was not giving me a lot of hope.

So, I switched my thinking. I did the steps, observed my self-talk, and not only did I harness the potential — the opportunities — that can be found in every setback you’re hit with, I realised that this mindset WORKS. Beyond, just business.


July, 2018

Specifically, Wednesday, the 4th of July.

“ Hi Kai,

Thank you for your application and interest in speaking at TEDxPerth. I am a curator with TEDxPerth and would like to discuss your application with you and your parent(s).

Let me know a time that suits.

Kind regards,


Another yay. But, what do I say? I don’t wanna mess this up.

Funny story. I did accidentally press send halfway through composing the response. Good one Kai.

But, after a great chat, my curator, Carmen, was feeling confident enough to send me over a Stage 2 application.

I’m just about to send it off, but these past few weeks have been my refining, defining and re-refining of that big idea worth spreading.

There are lots of questions that they get you to answer, and I won’t spoil it in case you want to apply, but what Carmen wants from me is, above everything else, a clear, concise, one sentence explanation of what that big idea…is.

I’m going to try this one on for size:

My idea worth sharing is the ‘turning setbacks into opportunities’ mindset — how I discovered it, and how you can use it in your life too.

August, 2018

I just got a call.

I’m speaking at TEDxPerth 2018.

August, 2018 (cont.)

Wait, hang on. Really? Really?

August, 2018 (cont.) (cont.)

Um, right. This is happening. It’s funny — I don’t actually know how to react. What’s expected? Nervousness, excitement, fear, all three, none?

Okay. Deep breaths. Breeeeaaathe. Let’s just slow it all down.

I’m going to send off all the forms they need, pencil in all the future dates on my calendar, and..wait. Wait until further instruction. Because all hell could break loose in brainville if I didn’t.

August, 2018

It’s been a couple of weeks since I got the news. I’ve been introduced to my speaking coach (and CEO of TEDxPerth), Gavin Buckley, at our first meeting, with Carmen, my curator.

In the meeting, we discussed their roles in all of this, and how we can start to flesh out the talk so far, and decide on some workflow processes.

Carmen supports me in developing the content of the talk, and Gavin supports me in delivering that content. Already they are such huge assets.

September/October, 2018

This is the time where all the magic happens.

Up until now, half way into October, Carmen, Gavin and I were catching up pretty much weekly. We’d meet at a little cafe on the river here in Perth. I’d have my notepad, they’d have their computers, and we would be jumping between mind mapping, writing small tiny sections, dot point structures, anecdote lists, Google Docs, sticky notes, emails, links, a page in my notebook that we can’t find etc. etc. etc.

We also decided pretty early on that I wouldn’t be scripting the whole talk, word for word. A waste of time for someone who has my brain. They really taught me how everyone’s brains are different, how we learn, how we think, how we recall. Fascinating. Anyway, we chose to go with a dot pointed structure for the talk. And this wasn’t just “Topic, Body, End”. This was basically one dot point for roughly two sentences. By this point, in October, I have been rehearsing nearly 10 times a week. We worked out the talk will be about 9 minutes long, so I used to get two practices in during the day. One in the morning, one in the studio at school at lunchtime.

I was just reading off the dot pointed structure until I remembered enough of it.

Late October, 2018

Today, as I write this, is the Speaker Rehearsals. It’s the weekend before the day, and everyone is a little nervous. We are meant to run through our talk, with our slides and everything, at a local university lecture theatre.

At this point, I was hearing some great feedback from Carmen and Gavin, after some of the smaller run through’s we did recently. They were feeling more than confident with where I was at, which comforted me in a way.

Side note – During the talk development, the Google Doc we were all working on had 73 revised versions. That’s a lot. And it’s amazing going back at the first few versions, just a week out of the big day, and seeing how far we’ve come – myself, the talk and the idea.

November 1, 2018

Launch party. Thursday.

Perth Town Hall.

Meet and greet, socialise, and build up the excitement for this Saturday. Great food, interesting conversations, and some reassurance when talking to other speakers.

November 2nd, 2018

Technical Dress Rehearsal. Friday


As a group of speakers, we had only walked this stage once before. Tonight was crazy. We had to walk on stage and present the first 30 seconds and last 30 seconds of our talk to a nearly empty concert hall.

Nerves. More nerves.

I came home tonight, and I sat in my bedroom and presented my TEDx talk to myself easily 10 times.

November 3rd, 2018

TEDxPerth 2018. Saturday.

The day.

No turning back.

My parents, girlfriend and I arrive at the VIP entrance around 8:30 am. Receiving our lanyards, I am directed backstage, while the others head to grab their tickets. Doors don’t officially open until 9 am, but there were 10's and 10's of people standing outside already.

I say hi to everyone backstage – Carmen & Gavin, some backstage crew, some other curators, and the 3 other speakers who, along with myself, make up the first session of talks today. I’m sitting in the dressing room writing this part as the first speaker of the day walks on stage.

I was briefly interrupted to get mic’d up.

As I was saying; it feels surreal looking around in here and seeing posters of all these musicians, comedians, artists, who all walked this stage, performed this stage, lived this stage. No pressure, Kai.

I grab my dot pointed structure out of my bag. I look at myself in the mirror, “It’s too bloody late for that, Kai.” I laughed, and started going over it again and again in my head.

And then I stop.

I think.

I feel.

I realise where I am. What I am about to do. And it’s strange. All of my nerves just disappeared, minutes before I walk on. I’m not complaining.

The stage manager calls me over the comms. I make my way down the corridors, water in hand, mic pack on, slide clicker ready to go. They point to a marked area side stage where I am meant to stand before I go on.

I hear the host (who was coincidentally Gavin) tell the audience the final number of people who are here. 1,800+. Thanks, Gavin.

I’m going to put my phone down now. We will find out if I fell off the stage shortly.

I walk off stage. I feel like I did reasonably well. 1:36 minutes overtime. Oh well, I was feeling chatty today.

My microphone and slide clicker are taken off, as the next speaker stands, ready to go.

I hear behind me as I walk out of the stage wings, “If I’m anywhere near as good as Kai, I’ll be over the moon.”


Only when I start to debrief with my fellow speakers and curators afterwards do I realise that I’m done. It’s so strange. As soon as I said my last word, it was the huge weight lifted off my shoulders. So what do I every Saturday at 11 am? What do I do at lunchtimes at school? It was such a huge part of my life, my routine..but it’s done.

The talk is available on the TEDx Talks channel right now —

November 3rd (evening), 2018


We just got home from the after party. I am buzzing. Buzzing. I am sore at the thought of meeting more people. I am unfamiliar with talking to so many new people and so many new things. But it was all so humbling, and such a privilege.

This was my first TEDxPerth event I have been too. And to have this perspective going into it, as a speaker, and fully aware of the people, the business, the time, money and expertise that was and has been put into it, I think I am more sold than ever at never leaving the TEDxPerth family. I might not be up there on stage, but I’ll try and get some great seats for 2019 ;)

January, 2018

I am so so grateful for everyone who put something in for this year’s event. Whether you were one of my awesome curators, rockstar parents (and honorary taxi drivers), supportive friends and family, or listener, whether you were there on the day or online, thank you.