You know how I love to encourage all of you to get gutsy?
Don’t worry; I’m absolutely taking my own advice on a regular basis and last week, I crawled way out of my comfort zone when I presented a 25-minute session on Foodspotting at the Social Media Tourism Symposium (#SoMeT12) in El Paso, TX in front of more than 100 people.
Let’s rewind a few months.
When I saw the call for #SoMeT12 presenters on Facebook and Twitter, I thought, “Why not?” The company I work for has some pretty awesome social media initiatives and it would be a great opportunity to showcase our work and also improve my public speaking skills. I submitted a proposal and found out a few weeks later that I’d been chosen to present!
I’ll admit I was a little intimidated when I saw the awesome lineup of speakers I’d be joining throughout the three-day conference. The conference boasted presenters from Hootsuite, Google, Edelman, plus a host of other tourism organizations throughout the country and even internationally.
My session took place on the second day of the conference as part of what #SoMeT12 called “fast breakouts” featuring three rooms with six quick moving tactical educational sessions. I was lucky enough to be presenting in the main conference room during the first round of three presentations.
Early in the morning on the day of my presentation, I decided I needed to add a joke into my slideshow to keep things light. I came up with the idea to include one of my favorite pins from Pinterest and was super excited at the response when this slide showed up, pretty early on in my presentation.
I’m sure many of you can relate and the audience at my presentation certainly did, too. The slide got a few laughs and many nods of understanding. One attendee even tweeted the above photo to one of her friends and said “Sound familiar? This is so us.” This was EXACTLY the response I was hoping for and gave me the confidence I needed to rock the rest of my presentation.
The 25 minutes went pretty quickly as I moved through my slides and shared with attendees what Foodspotting is and how tourism organizations can use it to promote great dishes their destinations have to offer. When I finished, I fielded a handful of questions and before I knew it, I was back in my seat in the audience, breathing a big sigh of relief.
I was thrilled when I opened up Twitter and saw a flood of positive tweets about my presentation and about how excited attendees were to start using Foodspotting.
The presentation went extremely well….But I’ll be completely honest with you, I was a nervous wreck the entire morning before I spoke. I’m not new to public speaking, but this was the first time I presented at a conference of this magnitude. The morning passed in a blur as I reviewed my presentation and mentally prepared myself for getting up on that big stage with the fancy lighting and larger than life PowerPoint in front of one hundred strangers.
When all was said and done, I felt awesome. I felt accomplished and proud. THIS, I reminded myself, is why I constantly force myself to get out of my comfort zone.
What’s that saying? “The greater the risk, the greater the reward potential.” This saying couldn’t be more true, especially in situations like this. As I mentioned, I was completely nervous; butterflies, sweaty palms and all, but the feeling when I was finished can’t be rivaled. It was one hundred percent worth being uncomfortable. But then again, getting gutsy is always worth it.
So, what else did I do in El Paso besides present my session and learn a ton from nearly 250 other tourism professionals? I think my three days in Texas can be summed up in this photo collage.
Amazing food? Check! (Holy guac and chips….yum!)
Beautiful views best seen by running to the top of a cliff? Check! (Oh, and also forgetting about a little thing called elevation and altitude change. Yikes. Breathing while running is tough in Texas!)
Finding my future home in El Paso, the aptly named “Jessica Apartments?” Check! (Well…maybe not. El Paso was great but I likely won’t be moving there any time soon).
Have you ever presented at a conference? How did you overcome your nerves? Share your experiences in the comments below!