“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
— Dale Carnegie
This past weekend I attended the 1st ever Financial Blogger Conference in Chicago and had the privilege and honor of being invited to give a presentation to the 250 to 300 personal finance bloggers in attendance.
I’ve been talking about this presentation on the blog for the last few weeks because this was going to be my first ever public speaking experience, which is a whole new ballgame for me. I talked about how I read Stand and Deliver by Dale Carnegie to help me prepare, and I ended up watching over 50 TED videos and a few other presentations to pick up some pointers and shape my own style.
I was nervous, but that’s a good thing. If you’re not nervous about something that you’re about to do, you probably don’t care very much. But what added to the anxiety is the fact that I was scheduled as the last presenter—and that comes with a lot of responsibility.
Unfortunately, the hotel wouldn’t allow pyrotechnics, and I didn’t have a marching band with me (kidding!), so I really had to knock it out of the park with my speech and do what I could to finish off the conference on a good note. If I bombed the presentation, that’s the last thing people would remember, and the entire conference would have been ruined.
Okay—maybe not exactly, but if you’re eating a sandwich and the last bite is nasty, the entire experience is ruined.
Arrival and Meetup
I arrived in Chicago early Friday afternoon and met up with Cliff Ravenscraft from PodcastAnswerMan.com and GSPN who was also invited to the conference to speak about podcasting. Cliff was my roommate for the weekend and it awesome to meet him in person after we’ve been talking online and working with each other for over a year now. He’s just as kind and humble a person in real life as he is online.
We had setup a get-together with GSPN and SPI fans in the Chicago area, and about 25 to 30 people came out to eat some deep dish pizza with us and hang out. The food was great, but the best part was just hanging out and getting to know each other.
This was the first real SPI meetup ever and it was just so amazing to meet someone for the very first time and the first thing they say is “thanks for everything”. I can’t even describe in words how incredible the feeling is and it just solidifies the fact that we all have the power to reach and teach a large number of people using our blogs and the internet, and really change people’s lives.
More SPI meetups will be planned for the future. I promise.
The Personal Finance Blogging Community
The personal finance blogging community holds a special place in my heart.
When I first started my 9 to 5 job back in 2005 I used to read personal finance blogs every single day. It was reading these blogs that taught me the power behind blogging and the ability of a blog to reach a ton of people, and really changes people’s lives, as they did for me. I reading a lot about saving money and investing at the time.
I still do.
So, to present material to the PF community about my own success and give back tips and strategies that would help them was a very poetic way to just thank them for everything they’ve done for me.
It’s pretty crazy because most of them already knew who I was, and in fact the moment I stepped through the doors of the hotel a number of PF bloggers sitting in the lobby immediately came over to say hello, shake my hand and welcome me to the event. They all knew me by name and even referenced specific blog posts that have helped them or events that have happened to me that only people who read or listen to SPI would know.
The entire weekend I made a lot of great friends who are now friends for life, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. I’m not exactly your traditional “personal finance blogger” as you know – since I talk more about making money online and entrepreneurship, but never once did I feel like I was out of place the entire weekend.
A lot of other cool things happened during the event:
- I won a Plutus Award for the Best Entrepreneurial Blog! Thank you to everyone who voted for me!
- I met Ramit Sethi from IWillTeachYoutoBeRich.com, who at one point (while still working 9 to 5) inspired me to ask for a raise and get paid what I knew I was worth. I got a $20,000 raise the next day as a result. Ramit is an incredibly smart dude. Go Bears.
- I watched an amazing presentation by Adam Baker from ManVsDebt about product launches, which is something I’m preparing for in the near future. It should be online for public view soon.
- I hung out a lot with Caleb Wojcik, who is a good friend and colleague of Corbett Barr from ThinkTraffic.net. Caleb is such a cool dude and he’s incredibly tall.
- I lead a 30 minute round-table discussion about using Facebook as a tool for your blog.
- And I think one of the best moments was being able to meet LazyMan from LazyManandMoney.com, who you may remember me writing a blog post about, crediting him for starting the snowball effect of growth for the SPI blog. I hugged him. I seriously did.
Now that I think about it, being last to present was perfect because by the end of the conference I wasn’t just presenting to a bunch of personal financial bloggers who I had never met before, but I was actually speaking to real friends that I made over the weekend. It definitely helped me connect with them more during the actual presentation too.
Leading up to it, I felt like I had the last final on the last day of finals week in college – I couldn’t stop thinking about it and studying all weekend.
From time to time I’d spend a half hour to an hour in the bathroom just practicing my presentation while watching myself in the mirror. Even the few moments right before the presentation a few new friends saw me pacing back and forth down a random hallway, mumbling to myself and doing breathing exercises (something I now do before I record each podcast session).
I just really wanted to crush it.
Then, I was eventually called up on stage and did my thing.
The entire presentation felt like an out of body experience to me.
I walked up on stage, and the next thing I remember is the audience clapping and handing back the microphone. I guess I was “in the zone”, a feeling I used to get when performing music on stage or during a field show. It was great to have that feeling again.
As far as how well it was received, I had no idea until after the final remarks and people lined up to congratulate me and compliment me on my presentation. I literally stayed for 30 minutes afterwards just talking to people about it, and I even asked for what I could do to improve (since I have another one coming up at Blog World Expo in a month), and nobody had anything to say but compliments and “keep doing what you’re doing”.
Not to toot my own horn, but I’m really proud of myself.
I put in the hard work to make sure the presentation was tight, and it paid off. I even made the audience laugh a few times, which is something I wasn’t sure I could do.
In Stand and Deliver by Dale Carnegie, the number one tip is to practice, practice, practice – and I did just that. I had gone over my presentation at least 50 times and even though after 50 times I still missed a few little things I wanted to say, the presentation still flowed and I got my points across with impact.
Here are some specific comments I remember people saying that really stood out to me:
- Are you sure this was your first time speaking in public? (It was, although doing the podcast definitely helped!)
- I loved that I didn’t have to read any slides. (I made the slides 1 or 2 giant words on purpose. I wanted the presentation to be between me and the audience, not me, the audience and the slides.)
- I never heard the room so quiet the entire conference. (At first, I didn’t know what this really meant, until I realized that people were quiet because they were listening and not talking to each other instead. An amazing compliment.)
- You’re a natural born speaker and motivator. (And this comment was even more special to me because it came from Money Girl’s Laura Adams, a super successful and well-known podcast host for Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a Richer Life. Who came up after the talk to congratulate me.)
- You ended the conference exactly how it needed to be ended. (Mission accomplished.)
After watching my performance on video, I definitely know there is still a lot of room for improvement. For example:
- Like I said before, there were still some little points that I missed. Nothing big, just other stories and examples that further supported my main points. Example: I really wanted to talk about Subway Jared during the “Tell a Story” segment, and the new Domino’s Pizza commercials during the transparency segment. All good though – remembering every little part of my outline will come with more practice.
- I should have walked on the stage before my presentation to get a feel for the environment I was going to be in. When I was there it was for the first time and the podium was in an awkward spot that kept me on stage left about 90% of the time. I feel like the stage-right side of the audience wasn’t being addressed as much.
- I looked up when I was thinking a lot. What am I looking at?!
- I never drank from the water bottle I was holding the entire time. I’ll probably keep the water bottle on the podium next time.
Overall, I would give myself a solid B, since it was my first time. I’m happy with how it went down, but I know there is always room for improvement. I will do a lot better – I just have to keep practicing.
To finish up, I just wanted to first thank Philip Taylor from PTMoney.com for the invite to speak at the conference. He put on an amazing event and it was super smooth and every little detail was thought of and addressed. I had an awesome time and I would absolutely love to come back next year if invited. If not, I’d probably still come anyways because of the friends I made.
Next, a huge thank you to the entire personal finance blogging community. I know there’s Blog World Expo, but it’s just so cool to see a niched community within the
blogosphere blogo-universe come together and support each other like this. Plus, you all know how to have fun and dance too. Good times.
And finally, the biggest thanks go out to you, the SPI reader, who held me accountable and gave me a ton of encouragement while I was preparing for my first public speaking gig. I’m super stoked to get it done and am even more excited to keep doing more from this point forward.
Next up, my Blog World Expo presentation on Friday, November 4th at 2:45pm in Los Angeles.
I was uncomfortable, but that’s how I know it’s taking me somewhere.