TEDx The Journey

My Road to the TEDx Red Dot had many twists and turns…

Where it all began

In November 2017, I sat in the audience of TEDx Tallaght in Dublin, Ireland. I was so inspired by the speakers that night, I decided that I wanted to share my own story at TEDx some day. The only problem was, I had no public speaking experience, at the time.

Stephen Downey in the Audience of TEDx Tallaght 2017
Stephen Downey in the Audience of TEDx Tallaght 2017

Over the two years that followed, I must have applied to and received a rejection letter from almost every TEDx event in Ireland, as well as some in the UK.  However, I never gave up on my dream and passion to inspire others to share their own story.  Each application process was a learning experience and what I learned would feed into the next one. The goal to speak at TEDx was transforming into journey rather than a final destination.   As one door closed, I would move on the next, grateful for the amazing people I would meet along the way.

I enrolled in public speaking workshops.  I reached out to past TEDX speakers for advice.  Each action was taking me one stop further in the journey.  There are a few milestones along the journey but one of the big ones was when I joined Toastmasters.


I now had a safe space to practice speaking in public.  If I didn’t have this I would have really struggled to share such a personal story without breaking down.  This is actually something that happened, the first time I spoke in my Toastmasters club.  The speech was called the Ice Breaker and it was opportunity to introduce myself to my club.  I was really happy with the speech I had written, entitled “3 little words”.   It was going really well until the part where I wanted to share what happened in July 2014.

Phoenix-Tara Toastmasters
Phoenix-Tara Toastmasters

All of a sudden, in my mind I was transported back to the emotions at the time and I wasn’t able to talk.  I will always be grateful for what my club did that night.   They gave me the space and respect to gather my thoughts for a few seconds and continue on.  I could feel the energy and support in the room like a collective hug.  When we give a speech in our club, we all receive a feedback from from the members in the audience.  I could not believe the feedback I received from everyone.  I thought I would get lots of “growth points” about breaking down during my speech.  In fact, the opposite was true.  The word that was used over and over and again was “Brave”.  This speech and allowing myself to be vulnerable on stage, in a safe environment, were key to being able to share such a personal story.

We Can & We Will

Another big step in my journey was meeting the Amazing Amanda Delaney of We Can and We Will.  Amanda runs a networking event like no other.  She gave me the opportunity to share my story for the first time.   I had practiced the speech many times at home but I had never giving it in front of an audience.  That night at We can & We Will, I realised that all my visualising and actions were coming into place.

speaking at We Can & We Will September 5th 2019
Speaking at We Can & We Will September 5th 2019

One thing I never expected was the reaction that I received that night.  The talk was really having an emotional impact on people.   I remember afterwards I was getting into my car while Amanda and her husband Ian were talking outside.   I just jumped out of the car and gave them both another big hug.  I was so excited that my dream was finally coming true and I could see the difference it was making to other people.

I continued to practice, practice, practice with my Toastmaster group and I was invited to share my story with another Toastmaster group in January 2019.  It was the open night for a club in Dublin city centre and I thought it would be lots of new people interested in joining Toastmasters.

Stephen Speaking at Uncensored Toastmasters Dublin
Stephen Speaking at Uncensored Toastmasters Dublin

I got a big shock when the room started to fill with some of the most experienced Toastmasters in Dublin, including the divisional director.  I took a deep breath and gave it everything I could.  Afterwards I got some beautiful feedback from the members.  Some of whom, were living with grief themselves.  The momentum was building and I was seeing how much my talk was resonating with people.

At one stage, in mid 2019, a private TEDX event in the UK reached out to me after I expressed interest in speaking for them.  However, I had to say no.  It was a very hard decision about years of work but I knew I was making the right decision.  The event was taking place the day before my daughter Ciara’s ballet show.  When I checked the flights, I would never have made it back to Dublin in time.  When you watch my TEDx, you will realise why I made that decision and how important my family have been to me in this journey.  Without them, I don’t believe I would be where I am today.

The Day I was Selected.

It was 10th July 2019 and myself and my family were on the way home from a family day out.  We had always wanted to do a cruise around Dublin Harbour so that day we book the Dublin Cruise around Dublin bay and stopped off at Howth.  We had a lovely lunch but the weather was turning so we ran for the train home.   I was sitting on the Dart when the email came in.  It was so nice to be with my wife and kids when I heard the news.

For some reason, I just thought it would be another rejection but it wasn’t.  I had been selected to be one of the speakers at TEDx Ballyroan Library.  I just cried.  I couldn’t believe that all my resilience had paid off.

As it happened, there was a We Can & We Will event that night and the atmosphere was just electric.  Not only had I been selected but another member, the Amazing Tracey McCann had also been selected.   I couldn’t get over how happy everyone was for me.  Many of them had been on this journey with me and had seen the many ups and downs of my journey to get there so what a fitting place to be that night.

The Value of a Moment

The day of the talk finally came and I was 2nd last to go on.  I was pretty nervous during the day but when people started to come in I relaxed a bit.  As my wife, Amanda, always said when I practiced, “What ever comes out on the night, will come out”.  I had practiced, literally 100s of times.  Every moment I could get would be another practice.

Just before I was about to go on, there was a technical error.  This would have put a lot of people off but I took it as something very positive.  It gave me an extra minute to just breathe and relax my body before I went on.  As a result I was very relaxed going on stage.

Stephen Downey speaking at TEDx Ballyroan Library 2019
Stephen Downey speaking at TEDx Ballyroan Library 2019


Stephen Downey speaking at TEDx Ballyroan Library 2019
Stephen Downey speaking at TEDx Ballyroan Library 2019

The TEDx Video

Some of the content could be a trigger for anyone living with grief at the moment.

Some of the feedback I have received

So powerful Stephen well done on an amazing talk, it really drives home the value of a moment 😍

This was so powerful Stephen, I had goosebumps. Thank you for sharing.

I’m blown away Stephen, you told your story so beautiful. Your truly inspiring 😘

I am delighted to share this recent TEDx talk Stephen Downey, I have just watched and truly appreciate its essence, firstly imagine having the opportunity to speak at such an event, secondly to find it in himself to share such a personal story but thirdly to find a way to embrace and honour what is truly of value at a time where it would be so easy to close down in sorrow and sadness. Thank you Stephen for your “humane-ess”. Have a read for yourself and then pass it on, it may be what someone else needs to hear today ❤️

Fantastic TEDx talk from Stephen Downey on why you should value each little moment in life that will help you see how truly happy your life is. Brilliant talk

Beautiful talk by a beautiful soul. The value of a moment and finding the joy in everyday things, something for us all to live by. Well done Stephen 💜