Always Read the Comments

I do not enjoy public speaking.  I am a pretty quiet person, and I am very uncomfortable being the center of attention, especially when it comes to presenting.  My first VMworld, in 2011, I was sitting in a session and I was amazed.  I decided when I was good enough to speak at a conference like that, I had arrived, and my career would have reached it’s pinicle.  I am now looking for my next pinnacle, I am to young to have peaked.

This year at VMworld I got up on stage, introduced myself, and presented something that started as a conversation with a customer.  It was one of the most frightening moments I have experienced, but I survived, and I am better for it.  Part of what I needed to understand is the process, how to get a speaking session submitted, and more importantly accepted.  What does the audience like to hear, what is going to make them want to come back, and what is going to provide them value.

One thing I didn’t expect was the feedback from the surveys.  It was mostly positive, some constructive criticism, which I appreciated, but all in all for a first time at that venue, I was happy.  There are some areas I knew when I finished I need to work on.  I didn’t engage my audience as I had done in my practice runs, I forgot some of my key points, and I may have tried to hard with the jokes to cover up for being nervous.  All things I can work on and improve on.  What was great to hear was that the topic was relevant, and despite my stumbles, it seemed like there was interest.  I think with practice, I can turn it into just a conversation with the audience, discuss the topic, and invite them to actively participate in something that is likely impacting them in their daily lives.

As I have written before, I am very focused on community engagement.  I am working very hard to be a humble and involved person, to help others, and to just give something back.  I feel like so many have helped me along the way, and I want to make that a part of my life, helping others to succeed, and lifting them up, pushing them to new heights.  One of the biggest lessons I took from this session is how things work, what it is like, and how I can help others.  I plan to be back next year as a speaker, but this time with customers on stage.  I also plan to help others, who like me would find this to be a terrifying but rewarding experience.

My biggest regret when I was a soldier was that I was afraid to succeed, so I played it safe.  I turned down schools, promotion opportunities, and I didn’t push myself to succeed.  I am not letting that happen again, no longer will I let fear stand in my way.  My challenge to you, the reader, is whatever your fears are, ask yourself if they are rational.  Push yourself, be better, and seek mentorship.  I didn’t do this alone, and now it is my turn to help others.  I and hundreds or even thousands like me want to help you succeed so see out someone who has done this before, and get up there, and always read the comments.  Don’t take it personally, use it as a growth opportunity.

Always Read the Comments

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