I’m exhausted. Barely-keep-my-eyes-open exhausted. And yet I can’t seem to go to sleep.
For the last couple of days I’ve been in Toronto for the Technology in Practice conference. This is my favourite work event of the year. It’s hosted by Commonwealth Legal, a huge national vendor, and I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to present. In fact, this year I presented 3 sessions in 2 days. It’s a surprisingly large amount of work, considering it really just means sitting at the front of the room, talking about something you know well and prepared ahead of time.
Is it really just talking though? To some maybe, but I doubt that’s the case for most. For me, I love sitting/standing/walking around the front of the room, making eye contact with everyone I am speaking to. I want to see if they understand. I want to read their body language to see if they are interested (keep on this topic) or falling asleep (maybe say something funny). I want them to know I’m not just presenting because I like hearing myself talk. [Note: The truth of this statement is irrelevant in the current context.] I’m presenting because I have ideas, and they are dying to be let out. I have knowledge that I want to share, and leadership I want to pass on.
This conference was especially interesting because I could easily contrast it with my experience at Technology in Practice last year. In 2014 I presented on 2 topics alongside other leaders in the industry. I met people, was complimented – including someone who said I looked really young, and to this day is one of my favourite people! People asked for more information, followed me on LinkedIn, the conference quoted me on twitter. These things were all new.
12 months have passed since that conference. My experience this year was much different. I presented at 3 sessions with thought leaders, and was called a thought leader myself. I presented one session on my own; no panel, no supporting speakers. Just me. And people listened. Energy is infectious, and that’s something I learned in coaching and apply in business. I love the accomplishment of having all the attention in the room, and being able to give them a starting point to make their (work) lives better.
While I was sitting in my beautiful corner suite Wednesday night, curled up on the sectional in the living room, sipping on some overpriced sparkling water at the Four Seasons, my husband said to me “You’re a great presenter. You have a way of making people believe and care about what you’re saying.” That is a huge compliment, and I take that role very seriously. Nothing is more rewarding than having someone come up to you after a presentation and saying some variation of “I can’t wait to try this when I get back to the office.” I want to COACH people at work and teach the same way I’d teach at hockey.
Technology in Practice 2015 was a great experience for me. I got a chance to sit at the big kid’s table. The executives of the company know me by name and I had several meetings and brainstorming sessions with them. We hugged. Other thought leaders shared wisdom and advice with me, and even asked me questions. And people came to me, already knowing who I was, to introduce themselves. I was wired with a mic for my own reality show. Ok, no, it’s was for a session that was being recorded, and for being interviewed on camera (twice!).
So here’s the interesting part. It would be easy to say “Yay, I made it” like I am now part of some cool club. Because the childish part of me that thrives on praise feels a little/lotta bit like that right now. I’m not ashamed to admit that the energy from the experience does feel pretty damn good. But instead my gut instinct is challenging me to come up with more ideas to share, more content to publish, more sessions to lead. As soon as I stop striving for what’s next I might as well throw in the towel.
So I already have follow up calls lined up. I’m in the works to start a Canadian chapter of a standards organization. I’ve set a publishing date for the end of February for a paper I’m co-authoring with a director at a large US vendor that is only our first step in publishing an industry-wide workflow recommendation. I have a meeting to brainstorm about collaboration. I have some more blog posts to get to Commonwealth for publishing (I’m a week or 2 behind at this point).
The best part of presenting at a conference like this, surrounded by peers and new ideas, is that it motivates me to be better. Today I’m better than I was last year, and that was obvious by my experience. There’s a good chance if I challenge myself, I can make just as many advancements between now and this time next year.
So why am I not sleeping? Because even though I’m exhausted from the emotional energy I spent being “ON” for meetings, presentations, follow up discussions etc., I’m buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t wait to talk to my husband and tell him about the interesting tidbits from the day. And tomorrow I have to get up early to review and contribute to the powerpoint slides that I will be co-presenting at yet another conference in a few days in Cape Cod.
It’s exhausting, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, although I wish my husband and puppies were here with me. I know I earned it, but I still had to be given the opportunity. So tonight, now that I’ve finished venting my excitement, I’m going to try and sleep, and be grateful for all that I have in my life. Tomorrow, when I read this, I’m going to want to chop it to pieces because normally I’d proof read and delay publishing. It’s not my style to hit publish without several re-writes. But for this, I’m going to let my emotions and excitement do the talking, and just leave it out there as is. It’s raw, but it’s accurate!