I just came back from the Financial Blogger Conference (Fincon11) and I’m still trying to process it all. I’ve been to other conferences before — blog conferences like BlogHer and Blog World Expo — but none had ever had the impact that this particular one had. First, I gave a 20 minute presentation, all by myself. That was my first ever solo speaking engagement. I’ve been on panels before, but never done a solo presentation. Wow. That was an experience. Second, it was a very small conference — about 270 total attendees. That meant that I actually knew many of the people there. It’s really something special to talk to people face to face. No matter how often I had worked with some of these bloggers online, it was a completely different experience to meet them in person.
The most valuable thing I learned there, though, was the power of practice when it comes to presenting. I went through that presentation from start to finish at least 50 times. It was through practice that I was able to cut out things that weren’t relevant, even though at first I thought it would be important. It was through practice that I was able to be more efficient with my words — instead of rambling, I figured out the best way to make a point succinctly and clearly. It was through practice that I was able to make adjustments at the last minute without freaking out. For example, I had anticipated bringing notes with me, thinking I would be behind a podium. When I got there, I realized that it wasn’t practical to stand at the podium the whole time. But it was okay, since I knew the material so well, not having the notes with me was fine. Additionally, Will made a few last minute suggestions to include a mention about a current project and I felt confident enough to insert that on the fly. Lastly, instead of worrying about the material, I was able to do some creative tweaking, coming up with a joke to start the presentation off that went over really well with the audience.
Apparently Stand and Deliver was the book I needed to read to prepare for the presentation, but I didn’t know about it. I’m pretty sure though that one of the major takeaways from the book is to practice.