Debunking the 4 Myths of Speaking at Events

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Brought to you by Data Center World

Have you ever been to an industry conference (or even an internal training or presentation) and thought to yourself, “I could have done that.” Maybe you’ve thought about submitting a proposal to speak at an industry event, but something keeps holding you back. Here are the four most common reasons people don’t submit speaking proposals and recommendations for overcoming these misconceptions.

1. I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING INTERESTING TO SHARE.

Remember the session you attended where you thought “I didn’t learn anything new. This just validated what I already know.” Bingo. You know more than you think. A topic that is straightforward and obvious to you will be brand new and even inspirational to many attendees. Drawing from your own unique experience – your stories, your successes, your failures – will help you deliver an interesting session that will be different than any other presentation on the same topic.

Are you concerned about having enough content to fill a 60 minute session? New this year at Data Center World Global, we are introducing Lightning Talks which are no more than 10 minutes. What a great way to dip your toe in the public speaking waters, especially if number two is also a concern…

2. I’M NOT GOOD AT PUBLIC SPEAKING.

I get it. This is a real thing. According to several surveys, people fear public speaking more than death. There’s even a name for it: glossophobia. But here are a few things to consider.

  • You are comfortable talking about your topic. You do it every day. By preparing your presentation, you’ll become even more of an expert.
  • Know your symptoms. Do you get dry mouth? Have water nearby. Sweaty? Wear lighter, looser clothing. Fidgety? Bring a fidget spinner. Just kidding. Don’t do that. But, do gain some self-awareness about how you feel and do whatever you can to prevent or address it.
  • Practice. This is what it all comes down to. Practice by yourself, out loud, and then work your way up. Practice in front of your pet. Then a friend or significant other. Then a small group of coworkers. I’m sure your local AFCOM chapter would love for you to present at a meeting! Continue to rehearse until you feel comfortable and have received enough feedback to fine-tune your presentation to perfection.

Still too nervous? What about co-presenting or speaking on a panel? Speaking with others can be much less intimidating since all the attention is not on you, and you can divide up the presentation preparation tasks as well. At Data Center World Global, we’re accepting for session proposals for co-presentations and panels as well as stand-alone speakers. Grab a co-worker or a group of industry friends and speak together!

Data Center World panel session

Cindy Joos, Ileana Aquino-Otero, Cindy Choboain, and Carrie Goetz (left to right) at the Women in the Data Center panel session at Data Center World 2017.

3. I DON’T HAVE TIME.

Leonard Bernstein once said “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” I’m not a philosopher, but I interpret this to mean without a plan you can’t focus and without a tight deadline you don’t have the pressure to complete your plan. For many of us, time pressure brings out the best. The Data Center World call for proposals is open until October 1, 2017. This is deadline #1. And here’s your plan: Decide on your session type, come up with a catchy title, and a compelling description.

If your proposal is selected, you will have until February 2018 to submit your final PowerPoint slides. Since you will be speaking about a topic that is familiar to you and related to your job, preparing should not be too time-consuming or cumbersome. In fact, I’m sure it will benefit your current job.

4. MY COMPANY WON’T LET ME.

You don’t have to give away your company’s secret sauce to have a meaningful presentation. Think about what you, your team, or your client does well that others in your job function or industry can learn from. There are a number of experiences you have gained that are “industry issues” and could be helpful to others, which have nothing to do with your company’s or client’s proprietary information.

If your company is not supportive, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. John Parker, an AFCOM Data Center Institute board member and a frequent speaker at industry events has some advice. “If management says no, the conversation needs to change. Speaking at an industry conference is a career builder. And when building your career, you can’t always rely on your company’s support.” Here are some of John’s tricks of the trade:

  • Submit your proposal as an independent consultant, not as a company employee.
  • If the conference is local, take a day or two off from work and attend the conference on your own. Speakers almost always receive a free conference pass.
  • If the conference is not local, check to see if the conference organizers will pay for your flight and/or hotel. (For Data Center World Global, we provide free conference registration and discounted hotel rates to our speakers.) But keep in mind that the career-building opportunity to speak, even for free, often outweighs the costs.

Just like finding out that lightning does strike the same place twice, the five-second-rule isn’t really a thing, and bats are not really blind, I have debunked the four myths of speaking at events. Submitting a proposal to speak at Data Center World is easier than you think.

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