Lessons from My Debut as a Public Speaker

Be careful what you wish for because it just might happen.

This is something I’ve been repeating to myself ever since I started on this journey. Setting your intentions and letting the universe know about those intentions lead to results.

Before we go any further, you should know that I have intense stage fright. I’m an introverted writer, and the second you put me in front of people, I get tongue-tied. Or worse, I get overly chatty, and not always in a delightful way. (I even snort).

At the end of 2016, I told a few close friends that I wanted to add “Speaker” to my list of titles. I submitted proposals to a couple of conferences. I received a few lovely rejections, which I fully expected. Thanks to the incredible group of people who have been my support system this past year, I got my first speaking opportunity at this year’s Content Marketing World as part of a panel for a session on Leveraging Content to Elevate Community.

I was going to be a speaker at my favorite conference!

I WAS GOING TO BE A SPEAKER.

*cue panic*

Then, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, the CMI team reached out to ask me if I’d be interested in being part of Joe Pulizzi’s Content Inc. lab on Friday after the conference. Without hesitating, I responded with a resounding “YES!”

Wait. Why in the world would they ask me?

I kept waiting for them to email me back and say “Oh, sorry. Our mistake. We meant to ask someone else.” They didn’t. Instead, we started planning the workshop.

Had I ever done a workshop like that before? No.

Did I have any idea what I was getting myself into? No.

Would I give it my all? Absolutely.

On September 7, I sat on stage with five incredible professionals and earned my Speaker title during our first session. On September 8, I led a workshop on using content to scale an audience to a room full of small business professionals where I felt in my element.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned during my debut as a conference speaker.

Lesson one: Slow down and be mindful of your time.

My most prominent nervous tick when it comes to public speaking is the way I speed up. Speaking fast is beneficial if I’m giving an Ignite talk but not so much when I’m breaking down content marketing principles in a workshop. During my Content Inc. workshop, I sped through my hour long presentation in about 30 minutes. Now when I talk fast, I still enunciate. This is something I’m intensely self-aware of due to my accent.

It still doesn’t slow me down. In this particular instance, it did give us a lot of opportunities for people to ask me questions, but it also meant that I plowed through my content.

Note to self: Practice. Practice. Practice. No matter how well you know the topic, practicing will help calm your nerves.

Lesson two: Know your weaknesses and ask for help.

Presentations are my Achilles heel. I have a hard time visualizing flow and don’t even get me started on Powerpoint. In hindsight, I should’ve asked for help when working on the slides for my Content Inc. workshop. It wasn’t awful, but it also wasn’t the best it could’ve been.

The good thing is that this was the first time I gave this presentation, and I have the opportunity to improve.

Note to self: Reach out to people to give you feedback on your presentation.

Lesson three: Recognize your stress triggers.

My nerves finally got to me Wednesday morning, 24 hours before my first time on stage at Content Marketing World. I woke up at 4 am and let’s just say that I couldn’t hold any food or liquids down the entire day on Wednesday. This left me quite weak until I was able to eat a burger at dinner.

When I’m extra stressed, I lose my appetite and tend to gorge on caffeine. This doesn’t bode well when I’m traveling to a weeklong conference where I’m already expelling energy as an introvert.

Note to self: Hydrate, don’t rely on conference food, and take it easy on the coffee the day of your speaking engagement. 

Lesson four: Own yourself

One of my favorite speakers is fellow introvert and writer, Ann Handley. Every single person who has seen her on stage walks away feeling delighted and inspired.

Ann owns who she is. Her personality shines through with every word, every gesture, the way her presentation flows. Although I wish I could be just like Ann, there’s only one Ann Handley.

So, I embraced what makes her so great as a speaker: She owns herself and everything about her personality when she’s on stage.

That’s what I did. I began my Content Inc. lab workshop by introducing myself.

Owning who I am from the start made me feel a lot more comfortable, and it set the mood for my audience.

Bonus: We all bonded over our love for the Oxford comma.

Lesson five: Leave your life at the door

From the minute I set foot in the room where I was speaking, I closed the door on everything happening in the outside world, including my life. The second I’m commanding the attention of my audience, they deserve my full attention in return.

I was present in that room, and the only notifications that mattered were the questions coming from the individuals in front of me.

The more engaged I am with my audience, the more invested they’ll be in what I’m saying.

 

What are some of your favorite tips for being a successful speaker?

#TuesdayThrees: Keys to Being a Successful Ghostwriter

I’ve always considered writing to be my passion.

My mom taught me how to read and write when I was four, and the running joke of my life has been that no one has been able to stop me since.

However, it was never supposed to be a career path, especially ghostwriting.

When I went into law, writing would be a crucial part of my career, but to get paid to be a writer? That seemed utterly ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, I wrote under a pen name for the first part of my freelance career.

I wrote for content mills, for local real estate companies, and for agencies that paid me next to nothing for my work.

I was essentially a glorified ghostwriter, and ironically, there’s really no glory in being a ghostwriter. (more…)

7 Ways to Be a Rockstar During Twitter Chats [Plus A Calendar]

Confession: I am obsessed with Twitter chats.

In my opinion, Twitter chats are one of the best ways to connect and engage with others on Twitter without having to leave your comfort zone. Even so, a Twitter chat feel intimidating if it’s your first time, especially because they can move relatively fast. I’ve been participating in Twitter chats regularly over the past couple of years, even having the honor of being a guest host on a couple of my favorites.

By the end of this blog, you’ll be armed with tips to help you become Twitter chat rockstar, a list of my favorite chats and a Google Calendar to bookmark, so you never miss your favorites.

First, the basics.

What is a Twitter chat?

You’re already familiar with hashtags on Twitter. A Twitter chat is a designated hashtag where a group of users meets a dedicated time to discuss a predetermined topic.

For me, it’s the perfect networking event: I don’t have to leave my comfort zone. It moves pretty fast. It’s on my favorite social media platform, and more importantly, I don’t have to bring a business card.

If you have just one hour a day to dedicate to Twitter, spend that time participating in a Twitter chat.

Why should you participate in Twitter chats?

The key to being successful on social media is engagement, and a Twitter chat is the perfect conduit for engagement. By attending Twitter chats, you will:

  • Increase exposure for yourself, your company, and your content
  • Display your expertise by sharing knowledge around a relevant topic
  • Create valuable connections with businesses and individuals within your industry
  • Have the opportunity to learn something new

Now, on to the tips.

(more…)

What do the new Twitter changes mean for you?

Our favorite platform Twitter just announced a few upcoming changes that have me pretty excited. It’s no secret that I love Twitter as a platform. When used correctly, it’s one of the best tools to #AmplifyYourBiz. So what are these Twitter changes and what does it mean for you? They all have to do with doing more with the 140-character limit that makes the platform special (at least it does to me.) (more…)

Harnessing the Power of Online Reviews for Your Small Business

When my brother’s car broke down last month, and the dealership quoted him a ridiculous price for fixing it, we turned to the internet to find a local mechanic. He’s new to this city, and I’ve never actually needed to get my car fixed – so we went down the list of small businesses that came up.

There was the specialty shop where I had gotten my oil changed. We went there first without looking at any reviews. His quote was lower than the dealership, but we didn’t want to commit before shopping around a bit more. There was a little muffler shop with 55 reviews on Yelp – and what’s more, they were all POSITIVE reviews. I looked up the address for the muffler shop. It was located on a street I’ve driven down hundreds of times in the past two years, but had no idea it was there.

We drove up – I actually passed it the first go. The location itself is hidden by trees, and even walking by it on the sidewalk, I would never notice it. The little garage looked run down – and the lot is tiny. We walked in to a tiny room with just a desk, two chairs, and the owner at the computer. He was on the phone when we walked in. He asked us how he could help, we told him our predicament, and he said he would call us in 15 minutes with a quote after doing some research.

If we had walked in without seeing those positive reviews, I would’ve told my brother we should move along and find another option. He called my brother with a quote, and we decided we would have his car towed there. When we went back in with the car, he asked us how we had found him. When we told him he had great reviews online, he was genuinely surprised. As an unassuming small business owner, he had gotten two new customers simply because of word-of-mouth.

My brother and I were part of the 90% of consumers who read online reviews before visiting a business. According to a survey from business2community, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in a business’ revenue, and a negative review can cost you 30 customers.

There’s no longer any doubt when it comes to the power of online reviews. So, how can a small business owner encourage their customers to leave those reviews?  (more…)

6 Tips for Freelancer Success (from a failure)

If you missed my Confession: I’m a Failure post, you can read it here.

If you’re going into freelancing full-time, have a plan. I know it seems like the sexy alternative to the drone of the 9-5 office life. Escaping from your cubicle, working remotely, getting to do what you love every day – it’s the dream. On the other hand, it can also seem like the best option when you’ve got a box in your hand in the back of a cab on a hot summer day. However, the nuances of freelancing are exhausting. The depression that comes with the fear and uncertainty is crippling.

If you’re not intentional with your decision to go into freelancing, it will knock you down and make you crawl up a jagged wall.

I had no plan. I had no savings. I had no safety net. I was just stubborn.

Define what success means for you.  What’s your end game? What does success look like for you? Are you freelancing just to make some extra money on the side of your full-time job? Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to make a million dollars? Will you give up freelancing if the perfect full-time job fell in your lap?

If you don’t know what success looks like, it’s easy to be indecisive. If you have at least an idea of success and your path to it, you can be more selective and intentional with the opportunities you pursue. I didn’t know what success looked like for me, so I took on way too many projects, stretched myself way too thin, and ultimately sacrificed the golden opportunities for the dead-end ones.

Do a reality a check about your life. Freelancing impacts every single aspect of your life. How are your relationships? Are you in debt? What’s your working style? How do you handle adversity? What are your goals? What’s your back-up plan? Do you have a good support system?

This was the biggest contribution to my failure. I was in a new relationship I was ultimately unhappy in, I had family issues I was dealing with, on top of debt, and the ridiculous pressure I put on myself to finish school. All of this was on top of diving into freelancing full time without a plan.

Stop the comparison game. This is the worst thing you can do. Especially in the age of social media, when there are constant blog posts about the success of others. How to quit your job and travel the world. How Y made her first million before the age of 19. There are things to aspire to, sure, but that’s where defining YOUR success comes into play. If you start comparing your progress with others, you will stumble and fail. Your individual circumstances differ from others. Your success will never be identical.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to success.

Never hesitate to ask for help. It feels like a dog-eat-dog world out there, and sometimes it is. The one thing I’ve learned since the beginning of this journey is that there are people who WANT to help you succeed – but you have to ask for it. Turn down the stubbornness, turn up the vulnerability, and be honest. You cannot do it all. Despite the endless amount of information available on the web, nothing beats a 1:1 conversation over coffee with someone who has been there. Remember that everyone is busy, so when you reach out, be clear and concise.

Respect their time, their expertise, and you might be surprised at where it leads.

Know your worth. Even though I was a communications professional with experience, I still thought freelancing meant I had to start from scratch. I cannot tell you the number of articles I wrote at a penny per word. I still get stressed out when I think about the clients who called me at 10 PM to yell at me about something that wasn’t my fault, and out of my scope of work – but I let them because I thought that’s how things worked. Do a gut check. Think about your experience and the value you bring to the table.

Don’t let others dictate your worth. Define it, and stick to it – no matter how scary it may feel.

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