Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, entrepreneur, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Presentations → Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

First follower. How to start a movement. My most popular talk.

Right there, in the audience at TED, are Bill Gates, Al Gore, Tony Robbins, the Google founders, and 200 other geniuses, and I'm backstage, about to go on.

Heart racing, I can't remember any of my lines. This talk has to be just right, I have to remember every line, or it falls out of sync with the video. I can't even remember my first line. I'm screwed.

They call my name, “Please welcome Derek Sivers!” The audience claps. I step out. The dancing guy video starts. I start talking. Somehow my unconscious did it. I had rehearsed it over 100 times for weeks, so I shouldn't be surprised, but it was such a huge relief.

At one point, I forget everything, silence, um.... I make a joke that the video is distracting. The audience laughs. Phew! I get back on track. (The TED video people edited this out, thankfully.)

When I'm done, the audience jumps to their feet. A standing ovation!

I leave the stage, leave the building, and run outside, feeling like I'm having a heart attack. But relieved.

Later that afternoon, Peter Gabriel comes up to me to tell me it was his favorite talk of the conference. Many of my heroes, including Tony Robbins, tweet about it to their followers.

And now, over 2 years later, people still stop me on the street, saying, “Are you the guy that did that dancing guy talk on TED?”

Included below are my well-rehearsed “studio” version, with no mistakes, and the version from the TED stage, nervous as hell.

Transcript and download link are here.