5 lessons I learnt from my recent SANS Conference Talk

I’ve run over 100 Group Workshops / Live Webinars in the last few years. I’ve presented at many in-person Events. I’ve shared my tips on many LinkedIn Livestreams. I’ve been interviewed on quite a few Podcasts.

However, in August, I gave my first official Conference Talk, at the 2021 SANS Virtual Summit (as well as providing guidance and material for first time speakers). 🙌

I’ve reflected on the Top 5 lessons I learnt and I wanted to share it with you in the hopes that you learn something too.

#1 – Every time you level-up, your inner critic will re-appear

You can work on your mindset and be in control of your nerves, however, each time you level up (you take on a bigger audience, a more formal event or something where you believe there’s more pressure on you), you will most likely have to work on your mindset again.

Even for me, each time I level up, my inner critic will raise its ugly head!

It’s there to point out to you that the stakes have changed. That something is ‘out of your comfort zone’. As if you didn’t already know!?

For example, this is what my inner critic started to sound like a few days before the SANS Summit:

“Ok, there’s over 6,000 people registered for this SANS Summit and all eyes will be on you. You’re a public speaking coach and you SHOULD be good at this, so there is NO ROOM for stuffing this up. Imagine if you stuffed this up, what a hit to your reputation that would be….!! You better not forget what you’re saying or be nervous, what a bad look that would be!”

You see how sly your inner critic can be!? It’s trying to help, but it’s really not helpful!!

So, what I did in this case was to NIP IT IN THE BUD!! 🙅

As soon as I noticed this happening, I completely reframed what I was thinking into positive statements. My reframe went a little as follows:

“You have got this! What an incredible opportunity to share what you know with these people and to help them to better communicate, inspire and influence others as a result. You are going to give your best talk yet. You’ll be cool as a cucumber. You’re going to get incredible feedback and you’re going to feel amazing afterwards.”

The difference I felt once I did this was incredible!! 🤩

#2 – Focussing on the value will calm your nerves

If and when my inner critic popped up, I would feel the nerves in my body. I’d feel my heart rate increasing and that sick feeling creeping in… 🤒😬

However, as soon as I switched my thoughts up, I would literally feel the nerves disappearing. They would melt away. 🔥

After I focussed on the VALUE I was giving people and what the audience would be thinking and feeling and doing with this new information, I switched from feeling dread, to feeling excitement.

Legitimately excited and pumped for what I was about to deliver!

I did also dance around my house to music right before I was going to give my talk, to pump myself up and get rid of any nervous energy.  💃 That helped too!! 😀

#3 – You must completely finalise your talk weeks before 

All Conferences require you to submit your slides weeks (if not months) before the actual event.

Because of this, it can be very tempting to simply submit your slides and then figure out what you’re going to say as it gets closer to the date.

However, if you do that, you’ll be severely limited to whatever structure you’ve already locked in with your slides. This will affect the flow and the impact of your talk.

So it’s essential you bring the prep for your talk forward and do all of that before you lock-in and have to send your slides to Conference organisers.

Then you can feel confident that the slides you’ve submitted are the BEST fit for what you’re actually going to say and not the other way around (what you say is the best fit for your slides).

It’s a lot more upfront work, but it’s WELL worth it. ✅

#4 – The more you present on something, the less prep you’ll need

I’m lucky that I present on Storytelling a lot.

That means I’ve told a lot of the stories and given the tips I share in my presentations many time before. So I’ve already rehearsed and prepped each talk before, whilst actually delivering those talks.

This doesn’t mean I don’t need any practise, it just reinforces the fact that the further you go in your field of expertise, the easier your talks will be, if you’re speaking on the same thing.

It’s always harder starting out, but it doesn’t stay like that. It definitely gets easier and easier to prep the actual talk. 🙌

#5 – There will always be things you wished you did differently

You’re never going to give a ‘perfect’ presentation. 🙅

It’s not possible. We’re humans, we can always improve and with hindsight you’re probably always going to identify things you’ll tweak for next time.

However, if you focus on that you’ll have a negatively skewed view of how you went. The measure of success shouldn’t be perfection. The measure of success should be that you feel like you really connected to your audience, you made your talk as interesting and engaging as possible and people took something away that will help them moving forward.

I really like to learn from every presentation I do though, so I always reflect on what I did well and what I want to change-up next time.

If you can see any ‘imperfection’ as a golden nugget and something you can improve on next time, you’ll have a totally different perspective and you’ll be much more positive.

I hope these learnings and reflections of mine have been useful to you! ✨ If something particularly resonated, let me know.

P.S. The last rounds for my Group Coaching Programs for 2021 start late Sep. If you’d like to level up your Public Speaking or Storytelling skills and bring in 2022 as a completely different speaker, you can find out more here.