The best conferences are ones that fill your head with new knowledge, your spirit with new inspiration, and your heart with new and growing connections. For me, attending my sixth National Speakers Association annual conference was all three.

This year I’m going to keep my event wrap-up short and sweet and focused on my favorite things. 

My Favorite Personal Conference Tips

I’ll start with my own personal conference tips. 

1) Do an audio brain dump at the end of the day as you go through all your interactions, new connections, and business cards.

At the end of the day, when I’m too tired to go through my notes, I do an audio-recorded brain dump using the voice recorder on my phone and as I go through all the biz cards I’ve collected that day, I mention everything I remember about the interaction, details about their work, and any personal things they said. Then I use Trint to get it transcribed and I have a nice page of notes about everyone I met and any highlights of the day that I can use later in my Event Wrap Up blog post. It’s an easy way to make sure you don’t miss anything when you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the new information and connections.

2) Have a conference buddy.

Having a conference buddy can improve your event experience in a lot of ways. I’ve had a lot of great conference buddies in the past, including romantic partners who were also attending the same event and a work colleague who shared the same professional goals. The last couple of years, my weekly accountability buddy, Robbie Samuels, and I have attended NSA (it’s where we met) and it definitely helps having someone to bounce your experiences off of and to play “wingman” to make sure you each meet beneficial and well-matched folks. Robbie is MUCH more extroverted than I am, so he’s especially awesome at introducing me to people I may otherwise shy away from. 

My Favorite Educational Sessions

One of the hardest things about attending a professional conference is choosing which sessions to attend and keeping that FOMO (fear of missing out) in check. These were my top four favorite sessions.

How to Get Smart with Top Secrets to Win More Business by Deborah Gardner, CMP and Lois Creamer

These two powerhouse speakers lived up to their reputation with this info-packed session. Both Deborah and Lois are highly respected speakers with many years of experience. It was a delight to see two speakers work so well as a duo, especially when they’re normally solo on stage. The back and forth of sharing their specialized perspective was smooth, easy, and mutually respectful. 

Deborah shared an updated way to think of event planners, now preferably known as event professionals, along with a reminder that audiences are no longer interested in being passive and want to be active participants.

Power point slides are outdated and shouldn’t drive your content. Also, panels are not as desirable anymore. It’s all about human to human interactions. In two years there will be 6 generations in your audience. – @deborahgardner #Influence19 #speaker #speaking

— Kali Williams (@KaliSpeaks) July 28, 2019

Lois is far and away one of the most generous professionals I’ve ever met. She’s always ready with super helpful advice and majorly pro tips for speakers. During this session, she gave us some important reminders about differentiating ourselves and improving our presentations.

Is it easy for a meeting professional to understand what you do? If not, they’re going to move on and pass you over. – @LoisCreamer #Influence19 #speaking #speaker

— Kali Williams (@KaliSpeaks) July 28, 2019

Powerful Profitability – Polish Your Products, Perfect Your Pitch, and Punch Up Your Performance by Julie Holmes, Lisa Ryan CSP, and Robyn Hatcher and Diane Ripstein

The Power Women Educational Session included three 20-minute sessions that covered an impressive amount of information in such compact time frames. All three presentations used humor to make their concepts memorable and shared actionable suggestions on how to improve presentations and offerings. I had the pleasure of introducing Julie Holmes to the stage where she shared a system for speakers to invent and innovate new products. Next Lisa Ryan, CSP gave “12 Tips in 20 Minutes” with way more than 12 ways for speakers to improve our pitches to speak at new conferences. Finally, Robyn Hatcher and Diane Ripstein demonstrated how to punch up the hilarity in a performance using a totally committed character. Elizabeth McCormick, CSP and Lisa Braithwaite did a fantastic job of organizing this session. 

.@DianeRipstein demonstrates how/why it can really mix things up as a #speaker if you create a character and really commit to it #PWNSA #Influence19

— Kali Williams (@KaliSpeaks) July 29, 2019

Produce a Daily YouTube Channel Working 1 Day Per Month by Nate Woodbury

I met Nate at a work retreat a few months ago where he shared a few tips on how to get a YouTube channel going and growing quickly. This session was an expansion of that information and now I feel thoroughly prepared to get my own channel started for the launch of my upcoming book

Listening to @BeTheHeroStudio share some stellar ways for #Speakers to maximize our exposure on #YouTube using keywords & highly researched niche topics. Its standing room only! #Influence19

— Kali Williams (@KaliSpeaks) July 30, 2019

The Keynote That Sells – Drive Business from the Platform Without the Pitch by Steve Lowell, CSP

This was a really stellar session that walked us through the 4 milestones of a speaking career: Obscurity, Competitive, Branded, and “The One.” His explanation of each of these stages was concise and in a very short time helped me to understand where I am now and where I want to be, plus it gave me some ideas on how to get there. Steve also modeled how to sell products and services in a way that feels in line with your integrity and your brand, which is really going to come in handy as I build my new offerings around my book.

One of my favorite things Steve articulated is that most speakers are motivated to become speakers by one of three things:

  1. a Mess — some kind of bad experience that was a catalyst
  2. a Moment — you had a flash moment that made you decide that you need to do this
  3. a Mission — you have a big picture, change the world desire

Next up is @SteveLowell talking about “The Keynote That Sells: Drive Business from the Platform Eithoit the Pitch” #Influence19 #speaking

— Kali Williams (@KaliSpeaks) July 30, 2019

Favorite Socializing

Since this was my sixth year attending Influence it has truly become like an annual reunion. Hallway interactions are a well-known benefit of conferences, but there are also lots of other opportunities to deepen existing relationships and build new connections.

Rainbow Speakers Reception and NorCal Chapter Meetup

Sunday night, I felt like I had two prom dates that I was trying to juggle! As a sponsor and member of the Rainbow Speakers Reception I definitely didn’t want to miss out on seeing all  of my LGBTQK peers and allies. But at the very same time, my local Northern California chapter was holding a meetup and there was no way I was going to miss out on seeing those fine folks either. So it’s a good thing I’m pretty fast on my feet (though the high altitude left me a bit winded!) so I managed to swing by both and still have some fantastically engaged conversations at both gatherings.

Some of the NSA NorCal chapter member

Power Women Dance Party

The Power Women group is far and away the most valuable and positive part of my experience with NSA and is the main reason that I continue to stay a member. All year we have access to a private Facebook group to ask questions, share vulnerabilities, get support, and find other women to recommend for gigs. It’s a supportive environment that really feels geared towards helping me grow. So when the leadership team announced this year’s Dance Party, I already knew that it was going to be a boogying good time thanks to previous experience! A special shout out goes to Mimi Rogers for DJing a rockin’ night and the #CloseOutCrew for being the last ladies on the dance floor.

Sunday Night Dinner with Friends

After the receptions on Sunday night, we ended up continuing a deep conversation by bringing together a few friends I already knew and a few new friends I didn’t. It was exactly the kind of serendipitous interaction that takes the NSA conference beyond the average experience. 

Speaker’s Prom

I’d never attended the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame/Cavett Awards Banquet before (also affectionately known as Speaker’s Prom) either due to scheduling or exhaustion. But this year, thanks to a mid-conference introvert’s early night in, I had enough energy to get all dressed up to enjoy the banquet dinner. Seeing everyone dressed to the nines was so much fun and it was a good opportunity to get more smiling selfies with friends. 

Favorite Keynote

Finding Your Purpose by Dr. Bertice Berry, PhD

The word “inspiring” feels like too small a word for the experience of watching this wonderful woman. I met Bertice in the line at the registration desk while I was looking for a lost sweater. We quickly clicked over our love of sewing (check out this dress she made) so I knew I had to make it to her closing session and my goodness am I glad I did. As I watched this glorious woman share her story and the lessons she’s learned along the way, I moved between having tears in my eyes to full-throated laughs and back again. 

I had the pleasure of meeting @DrBerticeBerry yesterday in the lobby of #Influence19 and she is just as funny and delightful on stage! She’s bringing down the house as the closing session #speaker

— Kali Williams (@KaliSpeaks) July 30, 2019

Favorite People

Ok, so this post didn’t end up very short, but it made my heart sweet to write it! I took way too many photos throughout the week to post them all, so here’s a selection of my favorites. In years to come, I’ll look back on this gallery and be reminded of the good times and professional growth documented here. 

If you’re already a professional speaker or are thinking of becoming one, considering joining us at Influence 2020 being held in Washington, D.C.