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Why my story? Crossing bridges at TEDxWhitehallWomen

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Last year I found myself standing on the famous red TEDx stage holding a tuning fork, a biro and a cycling shoe. No I hadn’t taken the wrong turn backstage, I was about to deliver a speech to an audience of CEOs, senior civil servants and public sector thought leaders about game changing ideas. I should also add: I had the bright idea of kicking things off with a children’s song about trolls.

If it sounds like a weird dream you’d have after eating too much cheese the night before, that’s pretty much how it felt.

I’ve followed TED and TEDx, TED’s licensed affiliate events, for a number of years, and their short videoed speeches have challenged, entertained and inspired me time and time again. Could I have a go? I have had an unusual career path so far and have overcome obstacles so knew that others could benefit from knowing it was possible to find a way through uncertainty. But there was a brick wall of a question to get over first:

Why my story?

The theme of the event was Bridges so I had to fill my two minute pitch video with something on this theme. I’d never done any public speaking before, but I had written essays at university and performed in front of live audiences (I was a professional singer before joining the Environment Agency), evidence that I could use my voice in front of lots of people without looking like too much of an idiot.

Starting with the fabled trolls that lurked under the bridges of childhood walks in Cumbria, I chose examples from singing, work and the triathlon I completed last year to show that you are capable of more than you think. It was a long bridge to cross to get from there to the TEDx stage, but I had answered the question.

I had stared down trolls big and small, both mentally and in the shape of friends and strangers. I knew that there were other people out there feeling intimidated, disenfranchised and helpless because they’d been denied the creative space, resources or encouragement to meet their potential.

Why their story?

At the Environment Agency we acknowledge that everyone has a valuable story to tell. Our bottom line isn’t profit for shareholders, it’s to protect and enhance the environment for the benefit of all. We care issues that affect us all such as: finding innovative solutions to flood defences, eradicating plastics on our beaches and in our seas. We want our people to come forward with their solutions because their contribution matters.

A diverse workforce, one filled with people with unique stories, experiences and cultural values, isn’t just about meeting targets and corporate strategies – is fundamental to the work we do.

TED’s strapline is ‘Ideas worth spreading’. It’s not enough for only the loudest in the room have their ideas realised.  We need to reach everyone, and that means unlocking all of our stories.

I’m glad I took to the stage and shared my story. I encourage you to tell yours, you never know who needs to hear it.

Watch Claire’s TEDx talk here:

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