Behind the Scenes: Speaking at Stanford’s Medicine X Conference 2015

by julie on October 23, 2015

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What would you say if you only had 5 minutes to speak? This question haunted me all year.

See, some girls dream about their wedding day. Others dream about speaking at MedX. Or maybe that’s just me, but the main stage of Stanford’s Medicine X has been a dream of mine – the holy grail of patient advocacy meets public speaking.

When I was accepted into MedX’s ePatient Scholar delegate class last January, I started brainstorming for my 5-minute ignite talk. It had to be moving and memorable. I needed to explain narcolepsy briefly. I wanted it to be beautiful too. And tweetable!

But all this in 5 minutes? Five minutes is a real challenge. As famously said: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” -Blaise Pascal

In the months leading up to the conference, I wrote three different speeches (not three versions of the same speech – three completely different speeches). I practiced them for my local toastmasters club, they liked speech topic #1. I shared with my amazing MedX speech mentor, Hugo, who liked topic #2. Naturally, I chose topic #3.

I read books related to the topic. I re-wrote the speech. I watched past MedX ePatient talks, and was totally impressed, intimidated and inspired by the sophistication and grace of the past ePatient speakers.

IMG_6837In July, MedX’s Theo visited me in Los Angeles to capture footage for my introduction film that would play on stage before my speech. We had a lot of fun filming the various scenes, especially meeting up with Project Sleep’s blog editor extraordinaire, Rebecca Fuoco at a coffee shop.

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A few weeks before MedX, I realized that I hated my speech. It wasn’t moving or beautiful. Unsure how to make it better, I was devastated that my speech wasn’t going to meet my expectations. Nonetheless, I had to start preparing slides for the requested deadline.

The conference approached quickly. MedX’s video editor, Paul sent me a rough cut of the intro video created from Theo’s footage. The video was AWESOME. I couldn’t help but think, “Well at least the intro video will be good, even if my speech is terrible.”

On the flight to San Francisco, I tried memorizing my speech but was so distracted by how much I hated it. Was I losing my marbles?

Then, the most amazing thing happened. I arrived in Palo Alto and met my MedX hotel roommate, Andrea.

“Want to practice for each other?” she asked within two minutes of meeting.

“Yessss!” I agreed eagerly.

We flipped a coin. I lost, so I went first. Andrea listened closely and gave me invaluable feedback. She was so honest – just like me!

Still knowing almost nothing about Andrea, I was quickly swept away hearing her story as a BRCA activist, or a “BRCActivist” as she says (www.BraveBosom.com). I had goosebumps – Andrea was beyond eloquent. Within minutes, I learned so much about the challenges and hard choices facing women who carry BRCA genetic mutations closely linked to cancer.

MedX Roomies, Andrea and I

MedX Roomies, Andrea and I

Afterward I gave Andrea my feedback and we stayed up working on our speeches for a bit before calling it a night. Now, time was REALLY running out, we had meetings with a speech coach and on-stage run-throughs starting at 11:00 a.m. the next day. But more than ever, I wanted to make changes to incorporate Andrea’s feedback into my talk.

Somewhere between midnight and 6 a.m., my speech came together in my head.
I couldn’t believe it, but after months of stress and confusion, the speech went from cacophony and utter despair into a perfect harmonious symphony.

At 8:00 a.m., I opened my laptop and typed the revisions as quickly as possible. I loved it! It was simple but MedX worthy. Frantically, I edited my slides and hurried to Stanford Medical School in time to meet with the speech coach.

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Walking onto the MedX stage for my practice run was surreal and nerve-wracking. I was totally flustered, even with just five people in the audience. I got to practice three times on stage. Each try felt a little better.

Screen shot 2015-10-22 at 9.28.52 PMOn Friday, the official MedX conference began, the day whizzed by. The talks were phenomenal and thought-provoking. Friday night, I practiced more. Each time got a little better.

Waking up at 6:00 am on Saturday, I was exhausted but adrenaline got me up quickly. I dressed in my favorite bright-red dress. “Here goes nothing.”

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It’s go time! Backstage selfie.

At 9:20 a.m. on Saturday Sept. 25th, I stepped onto the MedX main stage to deliver my 5 minute ignite talk to a packed house. My legs shook slightly with nerves. I stumbled at first, but after a minute, I hit my stride and flew through the rest of the speech.

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When I said, “If you are NOT talking to your patients about the importance of social support, you are making a medical error,” the audience burst into applause! This was very unexpected and cool. I smiled big, taking it all in.

The 5 minutes flew by quickly, and as I turned to exit the stage, in the corner of my eye, I noticed a few people rising to their feet to clap. Wow!

21546836630_1d68ff9872_kBackstage, I found a quiet spot to cry, this has become my way of processing the intensity and high emotions of speaking. Eventually, I rejoined the conference and was surprised when people approached me with kind comments. This was an awesome conversation starter and I cherished the thoughtful questions and reflections.

For this ePatient, it was a dream come true! Thank you, MedX.

More Posts about MedX

Watch Video of my speech — COMING SOON!

Special thanks to:

  • Hugo for helping to guide me toward my final speech.
  • Theo for spending the day with me in Los Angeles to capture my story.
  • Paul for editing my intro video so beautifully and for caring about my efforts.
  • Andrea for being the most awesome MedX roomie. Watching you deliver your speech was another gratifying moment. You rock!
  • MedX Staff & Production Team who kept me calm and made me look good!
  • MedX ePatient Scholars who have bravely shared their story.
  • My friends and supporters who watched the live broadcast from Los Angeles, Vancouver, Canada and Melbourne, Australia!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura October 23, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Julie, you’re a superstar! Thanks for representing the sleep disorders community, and for making advocacy work sound so amazingly empowering. Your passion for this work really shines through and is absolutely inspiring!

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julie October 23, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Thank you so much, Laura!

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John Lynn October 25, 2015 at 3:05 am

Beautifully written. I could feel like I was there with you. Please let me know when the video of your talk is available. It’s the cherry I was waiting for on top.

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Beth Kosiewicz October 25, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Julie…Wow…another amazing leap forward for Narcolepsy Awareness!!!
Thank You for your passion, your honesty in sharing your very personal experiences with N and your determination to let others see the Real Side of Narcolepsy!
Thank you for all of your hard work, bravery, and dedication!!!
Hopefully if we all spread these messages then perceptions, understanding, and treatments will change for the better:)
All our best to you Julie on a job WellDone:)
Beth and Jenny K.

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