This was my 4th year attending Influence, the speaking conference for speakers to learn about speaking (it’s so meta!) and it was by far my best experience. Going to a conference year after year has a lot of benefits, and this year that was true in spades for me.

During the last year I’ve been working with my local NSA chapter as the marketing director, and I have to say, if you want to turbocharge your networking then volunteering is a fantastic way to do it! I’m passionate about community and have served on boards in the past, but this has been the most involved I’ve ever been. One of the main benefits has been the opportunity to get to know other board and chapter members, so even though I’ve been to Influence 3 previous years, this was the first year I felt like I had found “my people.”

In this spirit, it was appropriate that the weekend kicked off with a leadership session intended on helping chapters share their successes, processes and to help each other overcome obstacles. The theme for the session was “Mastering the Dance of Leadership” so it was good to be attending with our current President Patti Barsotti so we could brainstorm and bounce ideas together. One thing that I’ve noticed about NSA is that it tends to inspire long-term commitments from its volunteers, many have served as President multiple times or have continued after serving on a board to be a mentor or chapter leader in some other way. The outgoing national President John Molidor was making the rounds all week introducing himself to members and sharing his fantastically dry wit (John is a treat, we had him come in to present for NSANC earlier this year and he joined the board for dinner the night before.)

The one major bummer of the whole event for me was that the leadership session was scheduled at the same time as the Power Women session. This group of women is so awesomely supportive and encouraging and shout-it-out level inspiring, and since they were next door I could hear and feel the excitement coming from the room. Over the week though I had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with some individual women from the group which was a major highlight.

The first day started at 7am and just kept going! My friend Aram Boyd (who first invited me to meet the local Northern California at last year’s Influence) received his CSP so I was delighted to be there to whoop and clap for him and help celebrate his achievement. Then we had an incredible opening session with three immigrants sharing their stories, with laughs and tears, they showed us different ways to be masterful on stage.

I did make it to the Power Women Dance Party on Saturday night which was a ton of fun! And I’m going to keep singing the praises of this group for a few more minutes. In the private Facebook group in the weeks leading up to the event I had a chance to see what it really looks like when women are each others cheerleaders. Plus this amazing group is a gold-mine for my book interviews! All these assertive, ambitious women BUILDING each other’s confidence…whew, now that is some serious power!

For the 2nd day, my own personal theme was how impactful information can be, even if you’ve heard it before, if it’s delivered in an engaging, memorable way. Vihn Giang used card tricks to show how when you have a small piece of knowledge that you were lacking before, your whole mindset can change.

The first breakout session of a conference can really set the tone for the content aspect of any event, so thank goodness I chose well this time around! Brad Montegomery presented “Dang! I Wish Somebody Would Have Told Me That!” with humor and the kind of casual delivery that I can happily relate to. I love it when speakers get on stage and feel REAL, not overly rehearsed and like it’s the same auto-delivery every time. Brad reminded me of an important lesson for this avid reader and information consumer… it’s not always about re-inventing the wheel. As I typed on my two screens (one for live-tweeting and one for notes) I noticed that everything he was saying was stuff I’d heard/read before, but his attitude, phrasing, and relatability made it hit me in a totally new way.

I’m someone with way too many good ideas, so one of my biggest struggles is trying to do too much at once. It’s a constant battle for me as an entrepreneur to pick ONE thing and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. So when Brad said…

“I spent 1000 hours on building an online program that made $12k, can you imagine if I had spent 1000 hours on my keynote?”

…what I heard was the exact reminder I needed in the exact moment I needed it.

We ended the day on Sunday with a Chapter Reception that had a great turnout, including some members who had never been to a meeting! The conversation was immediately hopping with small groups talking among themselves. After about an hour of casual chatting we went around and introduced ourselves including sharing what we speak about and what moves us to speak. We have a super diverse chapter, with topics from friendship to leadership to grief to finances and happiness.

Sadly the jet-lag hit me hard on Monday so I missed the keynotes (which I heard were amazing) so I’ll be checking out the recordings they offered as an upsell of the event. It’s a great investment to maximize your experience of conference, with the recordings you can listen or watch every session even if you couldn’t make it in person.

My first breakout session of the day was another great one, with Melissa Nixon who had me going on both screens again sharing a ton of motivational tips geared towards getting paid what you’re worth as a speaker. No matter where you are on the spectrum of fees (from free to stratospheric) there’s always something to be learned about closing the sale and growing financial confidence.

I don’t remember NSA doing shorter presentations in the past, though I might have just missed it. But I was glad to be able to squeeze one in before a full breakout session and really enjoyed Erin Gargan’s presentation “Digital Persuasion: Amplify Your Event Using Social Media” to get some extra tips to use in all my social media marketing. Erin shared a checklist that has already improved the one I normally use with a couple of juicy ideas I’d never thought of.

My last, favorite breakout was Gerry O’Brion with “The Speakers Formula – How to Grow a Profitable Speaking Business” where he promised to share his process from the ground up, and he definitely delivered. It was a clear, step by step walk through of how he turned one free speaking gig into a dozen other paid opportunities. Plus Gerry brought his office manager Lynne who also shared her helpful tips for how staff can help grow your speaking business.

So many of the speakers at NSA are incredibly generous with sharing their journey and their content, including info packed workbooks, worksheets, example pitch letters, checklists and more. It takes the content they’re providing to a whole other level and it seriously helps to make the information ACTIONABLE which is the biggest key to making the most of any conference.

Sekou Andrews was our closing keynote and what a performer he is! My main take-away from his dynamic speech is to think outside of the box when working on self-improvement. In the last few years as I’ve started getting to know the “speaking industry” (instead of just speaking, like I have done for 15+ years) is that it can be super insular. So Sekou suggesting to look to the arts to broaden skills and style is a critical message for staying relevant and interesting.

We finished up with an evening at Epcot center, by this time everyone was in casual mode, chatting and continuing the personal connections that were being built all week. My last day was filled with yummy sushi, new and favorite friends and finally a long hot bath while I recorded nearly an hour of audio notes full of takeaways and personal goals.

If you’re interested in attending, they already have next years event on the calendar for July 14-17, 2018 in Dallas, TX and I’ll definitely be there!

Check out my storify for more tweets!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *