I’ve been a somewhat MIA blogger lately while preparing for the relaunch of one of my “little engines that could” (in this case, AgentStream) after months of tedious work. On Nov 15th after a two week delay, its day in the sun came, which was also the day of my flight to the PhoCusWright Conference.
As my alarm went off around 3:30am, beckoning me to HQ where my developers had already begun working their magic, I wondered how dumb I could possibly be to allow this all to be happening on the same day.
The good news is it kept me busy – I had little time to get nervous before my week of surreal opportunity that was waiting for me at PhoCusWright.
For those of you who caught a post of mine from a few months ago, the story of what has resulted is still too unbelievable to put into words.
But suffice it to say that random post became the catalyst that changed my professional trajectory for the last quarter of 2010… it birthed an incredible opportunity to attend the PhoCusWright Conference and meet 34 other awe-inspiring young travel industry leaders as a part of the inaugural “Class of 35” and first annual Young Leaders Summit, as well as participate in the Center Stage event as a “Talkbacker” interviewing keynote speaker Razorfish President, Pete Stein.
Pete was incredibly gracious and seemed to be the crowd favorite of all keynote speakers that week as he spoke on the future of interactive marketing, social, mobile, tablets and beyond.
His easy-going personality made it not quite as impossible as what this Nervous Nancy had imagined to relax, and other than the fact that I could feel the entire room wondering “What the hell is a ‘Manager’ of anything doing on the stage at PhoCusWright?” as my title was announced, I was able to muster up the gumption to step on stage in front of 1,000 of my industry’s top senior leaders and executives.
No big deal….?
I believe I described this scenario to a few of my friends as basically speaking in front of a crowd containing all of the decision-makers in my industry who would ever be interested in doing business with me in any way, shape or form down the road… or hiring me if I screwed up this opportunity so badly my current employer couldn’t bear to claim me any more. No pressure.
Can you tell I’m a sensationalist? I like to think of it as a sobering realist.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to experience the negative outcome that any of my sobering reality scenarios proposed.
What I did experience were a few small learnings that aren’t yet natural to a rookie like me going on stage at any decently-sized event:
1) I should’ve pulled my hair back.
No one wants to see you flicking hair out of your eyes on stage. And the microphone is a challenge to secure behind your ear with hair all over the place.
And what do you get when you, out of habit, try to flick hair out of your face right next to where the microphone sits? You guessed it.
I used to pull my hair back for every interview – even during my graduate intern case competition at Sabre just three years ago for which I also forced the other females on my team to do the same – but I guess the casual culture in our office has shaken out of me (and I haven’t minded, I might add…) any Armani suit-wearing, formal corporate appearance habits I picked up during grad school.
Shame on me – I should know better.
2) You always think you look more visibly nervous to the audience than you really do.
When I watched the video of my session, I was pleasantly surprised… that’s because I felt like the entire room could see right through me and my nerves.
We are our own worst critic, and the audience rarely wants to see someone fail… those are two things I must remember to always tell myself.
3) When in doubt, stick to the script.
I have a terrible habit of thinking faster than I speak, and while I work out the thoughts in my head, my mouth keeps rambling on nonsense.
So, knowing this happens more often when I’m nervous, I meticulously wrote out my questions I planned to ask. While my bad habits still kicked in at times, I fortunately caught them before the rambling went down the path of no return, and relied on my script… hopefully without looking like I was relying on my script.
Wasn’t I just asking short, simple questions you ask? Yes… but this rookie knew that on a large stage with bright lights, that might not be as easy as it sounds.
And for someone like me who embraces verbosity like kid left alone with a giant ice cream cone, I need a script for 10 words more so than even 10,000.
4) Don’t be the moron who forgets a professional binder to house your notes.
I was. And that morning I imagined walking up on stage with the snazzy “Office Depot” legal pad I use to take notes on each day at work… not happening.
But holy crap, what else did I have with me? Nothing.
So, I improvised.
You know those leather notebooks and binders hotels usually use to display all of their property info, room service menu, etc?
Well, my room was one notebook short for most of the morning… I just prayed I wouldn’t drop it on accident and become a live on-stage advertisement for Westin and all of its leather-embossed logo glory.
Yep, I’m that girl.
The entirety of my experience from last week still hasn’t sunk in – nearly 7 days later – but what has sunk in is how blessed I am to have been given the opportunity to step foot on that stage, and I sincerely hope that the new Class of 35 initiative will give many others like me the opportunity to do the same for years to come.
I met some wonderful people last week, including many from PhoCusWright who added one more challenge to the list when presenting me with Eugene the Unicorn, who gave my suitcase’s zipper a run for its money, but came out with a victory and is today my cubicle’s new pride and joy (Many thanks again to Bruce, Tahnee & Eugune [the guy, not the unicorn] for that fun surprise).
I can’t say thank you enough to the incredible leaders – from both Sabre and PhoCusWright – who are the reason this opportunity evolved into all it became. I’m lucky to be exposed to such individuals so early in my career, and I will never forget the kindness shown to me throughout this entire process.
I was given a shot not many are given… and I am humbly grateful for luck, preparation and generosity of others intersecting at just the right time.
A week ago I would have never guessed that out-punting my coverage could’ve been this fun… but it sure as heck was.
Thanks again to all.