What I Learned From Speaking At My First Conference
If you follow me on Instagram then you already know that a few weeks ago I spoke at my first conference ever.
And honestly, that’s pretty surreal to say.
Ever since I started my blog I knew that I wanted to do public speaking.
I just didn’t know when it was going to happen.
But back in July, I received a DM on Instagram from one of the founders of a social media conference held in Rochester, NY every year.
They were finalizing their list of speakers and realized that they didn’t have anyone there to talk about Pinterest.
So they reached out and , of course, I said yes!
But now that the conference has come and gone, I want to do a little recap.
And more importantly, I want to share what I learned from not only attending the conference but also speaking at it.
With this being my first opportunity to speak at an event like this, I was nervous as heck!
So if you’re getting ready speaking at your first conference or even if this is just something you want to do in the future, I wanna share my experience with you!
Let’s get into it.
THE CONFERENCE I SPOKE AT
If you guys live in upstate New York and are looking to learn more about leveraging social media, then you need to attend next year’s Upstate Social Sessions!
I can guarantee that after this year, I’m going back every year from now on.
But let me explain the conference that I had the opportunity to speak at.
It’s called Upstate Social Sessions.
It was a 2-day conference that ran from 8 am to 4 pm with a networking event at the end of both days.
Each talk was 50 minutes long with 10 minutes in between each talk.
There were 12 main stage talks and then 8 breakout sessions (which basically just means a smaller room focused on a specific topic).
And little old me, I was one of the 8 breakout sessions that they had!
Seriously so crazy that they not only allowed me to speak but invited me to speak.
I’ll never get over that.
The conference is filled with people talking about Instagram and Facebook mainly.
There were a lot of talks that focused on storytelling and making a connection with your audience.
But mine was focused on the power of Pinterest!
And I was the first person EVER in the past 5 years of this conference to speak about Pinterest.
So let’s get to my tips for simply attending a conference.
TIPS FOR ATTENDING A CONFERENCE
Funny enough, this was actually the first conference that I had ever been to.
If you’re going to speak at a conference, it’s probably best if you’ve attended one before so you know how to create a good presentation.
But I wasn’t going to turn down this opportunity just because I hadn’t been to a conference before.
So as a conference newbie, here are my tips for ya.
1. Create a plan ahead of time
The conference that I attended had 2 talks going on at once.
So you had to decide what presentation you wanted to attend.
And I knew this going in… but I still didn’t create a plan!
So while we were waiting for the first keynote speaker to start, I marked what presentations I wanted to go to.
Now it only took me a matter of seconds to make my decisions.
But still, just do this ahead of time so you know exactly what to expect, where you have to be, and have one less thing to worry about for the day.
2. Bring snacks and water
I know myself pretty well when it comes to food and drink.
If I don’t have enough water, I’ll get a headache.
And I get hungry very easily!
So being in sessions for 3 hours straight without much of a break… I knew I wouldn’t survive.
So I came prepared with a banana, trail mix, and a water bottle.
Thankfully, they had extra waters there and a couple of snacks that you could take as well.
But I’m really glad that I came prepared with something I knew I would like.
Just check the venue and event ahead of time if you’re allowed to bring food & drink in!
3. TALK TO OTHERS! Don’t just hide in your phone
One of the major benefits to conferences is that you get to network with people who have similar interests as you.
Now I considered myself pretty lucky because I was already connected digitally with a couple of people at the conference.
But we hadn’t met in real life.
So when I got there, I was able to talk to the people I’d already made a connection with on Instagram.
And that was really cool!
At one point I was sitting alone waiting for the next talk and Julia (@jbethjs on Instagram) came up to sit with me and just chat!
Now I could have been really closed off with my head down looking at my phone.
But I didn’t do that AT ALL during the whole conference because I knew that the connections I would make at the conference would be better than whatever I was missing on Instagram.
4. Don’t be afraid to miss a talk
Remember how I created a plan on the first day?
Well after attending 5 talks, I was drained!
So I skipped the last keynote of the day.
Here’s the thing.
I’m very much so an introvert.
So just being at an event like that took a lot out of me!
And then you add the information overload…
By the time it was 3 pm, my mind was racing, I felt dehydrated even though I brought water, and I had a headache.
So I left.
And I’m really glad that I did.
I think it’s more beneficial to attend the talks that you’re going to get the most out of instead of attending all of them because you think you have to.
Don’t be afraid to skip a talk!
Honestly, I didn’t even attend any of the presentations on the 2nd day because I was speaking.
And I’ll talk about that in a bit.
5. Share your experience on social media
Now it may be because the conference that I went to had less than 500 people attend.
Which is a smaller conference compared to some of the SUPER big ones held in the US.
But one of the nice things was that if you shared an Instagram story at the conference and tagged Upstate Social’s Instagram, there was a chance that they would reshare it.
And honestly, they shared a lot of people’s stories on their story!
So if you’re looking to make connections on IG or if you’re looking to grow your following, share your experience and tag the conference!
TIPS WHEN SPEAKING AT A CONFERENCE
Now let’s talk about what to expect if you’re speaking at a conference!
This is the good stuff in my opinion.
I was lucky that I was scheduled to speak on the second day.
So on the first day of the conference I could just attend and observe!
Which was so nice because I learned a lot about what I didn’t like in presenters. And what I didn’t want to do in my talk.
Let’s get to the list.
1. Wear what you’re comfortable in
Like I already said, I attended 5 presentations on the first day.
And at each presentation I paid attention to what the person was wearing.
I was still a little unsure about what I wanted to wear and what was appropriate.
So at each talk, I took a look at their outfit.
And you want to know what I noticed?
Almost every single person was wearing professional business clothes.
I’m talking about dress pants, blazers, tights, all of it!
And you know what I’m not comfortable wearing?
That’s just not me!
So after seeing everyone dressed pretty professionally, I decided to say eff it and do what felt good to me.
For my talk, I showed up in jeans, a graphic tee, a chunky cardigan, and Sperry’s.
And let me tell you, it was one of the best things that I did!
2. Do whatever you need to bring your best self forward
After the first day of the conference, I was dead.
I’m not kidding.
I was in bed before 8 pm that night because I was so drained from the conference.
So on the day of my presentation, I knew I had to do my normal morning routine and skip the talks before mine.
Here’s what happened…
The conference doors opened at 8 am but the first talk wasn’t until 9 pm.
So on the first day, I was there by 8:30.
And if you know me, then you know that I like to take it a little slow in the mornings.
I like to workout, make myself breakfast, shower, get ready, and then start work around 9:30 or 10 am.
So on the first day, I completely messed up my morning routine and I felt totally off all day long.
And on the day of my talk, I knew I couldn’t do that!
So instead of forcing myself to be there by 8:30 again, I took my time in the morning.
I worked out, made myself breakfast, and then got to the conference around 9:40 am.
My talk wasn’t until 11 am so I had time to watch a presentation before mine.
But instead, I decided to sit it out and just relax so I could bring my best self forward in my presentation.
Oh and I brought my Starbucks water bottle that you see all the time on my Instagram.
That’s something that I carry around and use all day long.
So bringing that was a sense of comfort for me.
Plus having water while presenting was important!
3. Bring a watch… but don’t wear it
This is a BIG tip that I learned at the conference.
There is no guarantee that there is going to a clock in the room that you’re presenting.
So I recommend always bringing a watch.
But DON’T wear it if you have a spot to set it.
Let me explain.
We had 50 minutes to give our presentations.
And they recommended that we take 40 minutes to talk and then 10 minutes for questions.
On the first day, I noticed that one presenter, in particular, kept looking down at their wrist to check the time because they didn’t want to go over.
And I’m not kidding when I say it happened at least 15 times.
Now I’m not sure if everyone else noticed.
But since I was prepping from my talk the following day, I was taking everything in!
And I didn’t like the way that looked.
So in the room that I presented in, I had a stand with a computer so I could flip through my slides.
I brought my watch but I put it on the stand so when I was flipping to the next slide I could easily look at it and no one would notice.
Seriously one of the smartest things that I did.
And I wouldn’t have known to do it if I didn’t watch someone look at their wrist too many times.
4. Nerves & excitement are the same
This was the game-changing tip I received less than 15 minutes before my talk that changed everything.
I was sitting in one of the quiet rooms that they provided so people could work if they needed to when Jaclyn from the Go To Gal came to chat with me.
And she gave me THE BEST advice that I needed to hear.
I said that I was nervous about my talk and she told me that nerves and excitement appear in the body in the same way.
So the butterflies and jitters you feel, if you keep telling yourself they are nerves, you’re just channeling it into more of a negative energy.
Where you actually get the same reaction when you’re excited!
So if you tell yourself what you’re feeling is excitement, you channel that feeling into positive energy!
Seriously, I can’t thank Jaclyn enough for telling me that.
It turned my attitude around and made my presentation start way smoother than when I was practicing it at home all nervous.
4. Include lots of slides in your presentation
I actually already knew this from my knowledge of webinars.
But presentations keep people interested!
And the more slides you have the better.
If you’re sitting on the same slide for 2 minutes, you’ve made a mistake.
So have lots of slides with information to back up what you’re saying.
For me, that meant having visuals to explain what I was saying.
Because without them, it wouldn’t have made sense!
5. Bring business cards
Jokes on me… I didn’t bring business cards.
Big mistake honestly because I had several people ask for my business card and I just had to tell them to follow me on Instagram.
Which did help my following on Instagram.
But then next time I speak, I know to bring business cards.
GET ACCESS TO MY PRESENTATION
All of this to say, Upstate Social Sessions was amazing.
And I’m so incredibly honored that I was invited to speak and had the opportunity to teach so many people the power of Pinterest.
The downside is that most of my audience doesn’t live in Rochester, NY!
And all of you didn’t get the opportunity to see me speak and hear what I had to say about Pinterest.
So… I recorded my presentation for you guys!
Yep. You read that right.
You can now get access to my Power of Pins workshop to learn more about how to drive traffic to your site with Pinterest!
Whether you are a Pinterest beginner or someone looking to learn more about Pinterest SEO, this is the workshop for you!
Cathrin (Cath) creates content that encourages bloggers & online entrepreneurs to be themselves, chase their passion, and create their success online. 1 year after started her blog (TheContentBug.com), Cath left her full-time position working in the digital marketing industry to pursue her dreams of being her own boss. In weekly blog posts, sporadic YouTube videos, and constant talking on Instagram stories, Cath hopes to spread her story and be an inspiration to others who desperately want to change their lives.