It’s Official: My TEDx talk, “Silence Isn’t Golden—It’s Red,” is Live!

Published by Daleen Berry on

That just about says it all. But it certainly doesn’t tell the backstory.

I think I’ve been speaking in public since I was about ten. Rarely do I get nervous. My TED talk was different. Maybe that’s because you know the status given to TED talks. Okay, so this wasn’t for the TED conference, but for a mini-TED, or TEDx, as the college-related events are known. Still, the people who speak at these events have set the bar really high.

That could explain why I was nervous and afraid I would forget my “lines” when I got on stage. But I didn’t, and this is probably why. When I got the invitation, it was mid-February. I had another speaking engagement a month away. The two events were nothing alike, although there turned out to be some overlap in the topic. Still, I began brainstorming right away.

Without spoiling it for you, let me just say the invitation came because of my story, as told in my memoir, Sister of Silence. Because of the way I try to get people to realize we must act differently. Steve Garguilo heard that story and suggested I speak at the TEDx Connecticut event. Steve was a huge help throughout, even though he’s several time zones away in Switzerland. He helped me to focus, and urged me to let my talk reflect what I’m passionate about. As a result, this is not like any talk I’ve given before, so I hope you’ll watch it at YouTube. (And please rate it or comment afterward.)

Aditya “Adi” Harnal did a great job leading Team TEDx Connecticut College.

This talk really did take a village. A fellow writer friend, Diane Tarantini, was among those villagers. She helped a lot, and read every revision. By the time I left for the Hawaii conference in March, I thought I had it nailed. Even while I was gone, I continued revising. By the time I returned, TEDx Connecticut College was three weeks away. Diane suggested we do a dry run with some other writers. I practiced daily at home until then, with an audience of one. I thought it was good enough. But this was a TED talk, so good enough wasn’t going to cut it. Sure enough, the dry run showed my weak spots. A local arts spot donated space to practice and writers Diane, Dorothy Ours, Buddy Guthrie, and Ted Webb gathered round to listen. (My husband was the only non-writer among us.)

Their feedback was invaluable to what turned out to be one of the best talks I believe I’ve ever given. Which goes to show the importance of not isolating yourself, when you’re working on a creative project. Or of being so afraid of falling on your face, you don’t even let anyone else hear your ideas. Feedback is crucial, and lets you walk away with a work product that’s as good as it gets.

My husband and I boarded the Amtrak in Cumberland for an entire day’s ride to New London, CT. That gave me time to edit and rehearse some more, as well as a chance to relax. (Which I really needed, since I’d been working nonstop on my talk for what by then felt like months.) From the minute we arrived, students on the TEDx Connecticut College team became like the apostle Paul: they were literally whatever I needed. Chauffeur, host, midnight-errand-runner-extraordinaire, cheerleader, coach. You name it, they became it. Aditya, Amy, Ryan, Gabriella, Morgan, Benedikt, and others I’m sure I’ve forgotten, were all wonderful.

We arrived late Thursday for Friday’s rehearsal. That’s when I did forget part of my talk. But what’s most interesting is this: I was telling a story and when I became that character, the minute I opened my mouth, out came this southern accent that I never even thought to incorporate into the talk. It wasn’t something I planned to do; it just happened. All of a sudden, it’s like I grew up in Texas, not central West Virginia. Because here, people don’t have that much of an accent. Certainly not like our southern neighbors.

The day of the event, I walked into the auditorium to see a beautiful TEDx stage. Everything was in place. Team TEDx had outdone themselves. I was torn between wanting to hear the other speakers and wanting to wanting to polish my words again and agin. But I forced myself to relax and enjoy everyone else. Until lunch, when I grabbed a few bites and then went to practice. The next thing I knew, the tech crew was fitting me for a mic and a minute later, I was on stage. I don’t even remember what I said. I just know it went better than I expected—even for my high standards.

I didn’t learn until after we arrived in New London that many of the TEDx team were graduating seniors. That means they had one month left to finish their schoolwork and prepare for graduation. Which made what they did, and the level of attention they gave to all the speakers (and in some cases, the speaker’s spouse or other family member), even more impressive. It’s obvious these are young people with an exceptional work ethic, who take pride in what they do.

That’s because that’s what TED is all about: sharing ideas and striving for the best. So when the event ended, Aditya told us we could mull over our theme and even change it, before the video went live. Which is what I did, but only after putting out a call for ideas. Originally it was “We Must Act on Red Flags” but at the brilliant suggestion of Diane, it became “Silence Isn’t Golden—It’s Red.”

As it turns out, especially in view of the Cleveland story that broke last week, that’s the perfect title for my talk.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!


Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.



m.m. · June 8, 2014 at 9:52 AM

THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR AN EXCELLENT TED TALK!! You can rightly congratulate and feel very proud of yourself! It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Best of ANY Ted Talk that I’ve observed. Your poise, content & delivery were great…I would have liked it if it included more explicitly specific “red flags” for people to act on. Thx again. MM

    Daleen Berry

    Daleen Berry · July 11, 2014 at 4:57 AM

    Thank you! Giving a TED talk was an honor, and I’m thrilled you liked it. It was hard to know what to include and what to leave out, with that little time. Perhaps I need to do a follow up? 😉

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