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TEDX talk @ FH-Kufstein

Finding the right balance in extreme sports

by Niklas Winter

When I was told, that I would have the opportunity to give a TEDx talk, I was immediately excited. TED Talks are the reference, when it comes to inspiring talks. It is also a great opportunity to get a foot in the door of becoming an acknowledged professional speaker. On top of that, I have always really enjoyed giving presentations on my passion – extreme sports. That’s why I didn’t hesitate much and accepted the offer, although I wouldn’t earn any money doing it, which is normal when you give a TEDx Talk.

What is nice about the format: there are no restrictions on what you have to talk about. It needs to be an inspiring idea. You don’t have to follow any economic reasoning. You’re pretty free and can talk about something that interests you personally. In the beginning, however, this freedom rather overwhelmed me. After all, it’s not like you get the opportunity to give a TEDx Talk everyday. I had been reflecting upon my hobbies quite some time in the past. And now, the time had come to choose a single topic and create a coherent and concise talk out of my thoughts.
I had several topics in mind. For example, how your own thoughts can influence your performance – like in free solo highlining – or how the confrontation with death changed my life. In the end I opted for a topic which I was concerned with in my own life more recently: temperance.

So how is temperance related to extreme sports?

In my opinion self-restraint is key when it comes to extreme sports. Being able to control your dangerous or unhealthy desires, that means, practicing the virtue of temperance. If you always want more, you might break a record on the way and become famous, but in the long run you might pay with your own life. In my talk I tried to visualize how you can still strive for ambitious goals without taking unnecessary risks, using examples from my own extreme sports history. But of course, nobody is perfect and I make mistakes as well. That´s what makes extreme sports so dangerous. But if you manage to steadily progress in small steps, being modest and always staying aware of your capabilities, you will be able to lead a long and fulfilled life even as an extreme sports athlete.

I liked the apparent contradiction in it. However, now I needed to reify my idea in a coherent way and make an 18-minute presentation out of it. That was quite a challenge. I’ve never thought about the whole topic in such great detail. But that also made it interesting. To analyze your own motives and dive into your past to reflect upon lessons, which you have learned along the way.

It is quite easy to make an impressive presentation on extreme sports, just from the sole fact, that the pictures and videos itself are quite fascinating. So, you can even present seemingly boring and unattractive philosophical insights in a talk about extreme sports and people still won’t lose interest. And that’s also the beauty of it! Through extreme sports I have the opportunity to reach a crowd and point them towards topics they might be less interested in in their daily lives.

The TEDx Event in Kufstein was organized by a young and motivated team of students. In the morning of the event, I had a final rehearsal. I was quite excited to see how it turns out. I tried to practice the whole talk a few times beforehand, but you never know how you’ll feel like once you’re on stage. Being on stage was unusual. I couldn’t even see the audience, because of the bright spotlights. So, I was basically presenting into a black wall. In the end, the rehearsal went quite alright and I felt well prepared for the actual talk. I’m not very experienced when it comes to being on such a stage. But what I know from my sports experience: fear can be overcome by good preparation. It was a new situation for me, so being excited was inevitable. But since I felt well prepared, the excitement didn’t turn into fear or panic. After all, everything went pretty well! No major slip-ups. And most importantly: lots of positive feedback! That was the most rewarding part about it. To see that all the time and effort I put in paid off. I’m glad I was able to capture the audience’ imagination and maybe some of them reflected upon their own lives as well.

I hope this was just the beginning of my speaker career. I have a few more ideas and I would love to reach more people that way. I would like to open minds and spread more unconventional ideas through extreme sports.

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