You can read Part I of my SupConf NYC experience here
So after months of preparation and practice, SupConf arrived! The day before the conference, we had a speakers and organizers dinner at the venue so we could familiarize ourselves with the space and also get to know each other. Aside from getting to meet so many of the fantastic people I chat and joke with on the Slack, the highlight of that night was insanely delicious cheesecake in a jar. I’d never had that before! It was dangerous! Stuffed and excited I headed home to rest up so I could come back energized fo the conference the next day.
Day 1 of SupConf was a whirlwind of socializing and listening to wonderful talks. Every one had harrowing tales to tell and sage lessons to share.
Some of the people I admire most in the support field were in the room and it was hard not to vibrate from enthusiasm and sheer smitten-ness (is that a word?) as they spoke. I’d actually told Scott, the organizer/founder of Support Driven, a few weeks before that, “There will be so many people that I admire in that room, I wish I had some sort of SupConf yearbook, so I could go around and ask my favorite people to sign it!” And so it was!
After the first few talks, the organizers came around and passed out the SupConf mini-yearbooks. They featured headshots of every attendee, their name, company, and Slack handle. It was so cool and also exceedingly handy since they didn’t do nametags or lanyards. It also included a headshot page of every speaker alongside a blank page where you could note Key Takeaways for their talk. More conferences should seriously consider doing this!
A slightly racy “GIF battle” (Support Driven folks LOVE their GIFs) officially closed out a full day of talks and discussion, after which I wandered off to take a little time to myself (and get an impromptu manicure). That evening, one of the conference sponsors hosted a smaller group of us for lovely drinks and dinner. This was a good opportunity to get to know more folks and also calm my nerves a bit before Day 2, when I had to give my own talk. Shout out to Caitlin and Carin, my new support pals in Bozeman, Montana (the Brooklyn of the Northern Rockies!) and Rex (my UK-based Ghanaian brother from another mother) who gave me a big boost of confidence ahead of my talk. I left that night knowing that when I spoke the next day, I would be amongst friends.
On Day 2, I got up early and dressed in the way Lara Hogan prescribes when she says (in Demystifying Public Speaking)
“Wear whatever makes you feel like a super hero.”
I was a ball of nerves as I dropped my kid off to school and then rushed over to the venue. I avoided any coffee fearing it would make me too jittery, and I did my best to engage with the other attendees and the other talks. However, as time grew nearer I could feel my stomach knotting up, so I went off into a quiet corner and listened to one of my favorite songs (Akosua by Georgia Anne Muldrow and then did a quick guided meditation). I wasn’t speaking until a bit after lunch and I considered skipping eating so I wouldn’t have anything weird in my teeth, but I couldn’t hold out and ending up grabbing a small bite and rushing up front so that the day’s MC (shout out to the amazing Michelle Bearheart from Trello! ) could get me wired up for the mic. I had to go to the bathroom to clip the lav mic pack up under my dress and on to the waist of my tights. I knew this was going to be the deal, but
I was committed to dressing like my own version of a superhero. And that superhero wore a dress, not a skirt or pants.
After sitting on the side of the screen through Emily’s great talk on setting career goals, I quickly reached into my dress and clicked the mic pack on. Unfortunately that was a few beats to early and shrieking feedback echo’d throughout the room. I clicked it back off for a second while Michelle announced me and then clicked it back on and walked up to the front. It turns out it was *still* too early to have it on and the first few beats of my talk were feedbacky and weird. I rolled with it and continued on.
I had great time up there, spotting faces I recognized in the crowd, hearing people laugh at funny bits, and watching nods of understanding and agreement.
At one point, I felt my throat dry up and realized I had no water but I powered through it, mentally noting that I should have that next time (or ask the organizer to provide it/remind me). At another point, I forgot my next point and had to grab my notes, but even then I felt like everyone was with me cheering me on. When I was done, I got great applause and lots of enthusiastic feedback and tons of high-fives (which I normally hate but relished on that occasion).
Watching the talk now I see where I can improve in the future, but I am genuinely proud of myself.
I think I am an engaging new speaker, and I will definitely grow and improve over time. I thank all the organizers of Support Driven for this incredible opportunity, and I am excited for my future speaking engagements as well as the growth and ongoing success of the truly nurturing SupConf community.
And without further ado, here’s the talk!