Is Speaking at a Conference Worth Your Time? 3 bbcon Speakers Weigh In

November 18, 2019 Melissa Whetzel

Speaking at a conference might be outside your comfort zone… or maybe downright scary. Not to mention it takes time to prepare, and it isn’t mission critical. So, is it worth it?

Anytime you can share your knowledge with peers, it is a win – for you, your organization, and the social good community. The lessons and ideas you share can help your career and amplify your impact. Here’s what three bbcon 2019 speakers have to say about their experience:

Liz Smith, manager of annual giving at Cincinnati Children’s says, “I always thought I needed something ground-breaking to say in order to be a presenter. Or I had to be an expert. Over the last year, I realized sharing something different that our team was proud of helps others too. Being willing to share what worked for us while being open to what others are doing can be valuable. I would encourage other attendees to think about it in the same way. I enjoy hearing these kinds of presentations in addition to what the experts say.”

Speakers play a critical role in facilitating and advancing dialogues in an industry. The best part is that, at a good conference, it isn’t just the audience who is learning.

“What I valued most about the experience as a speaker was presenting to an engaged audience in a climate of collaboration. I was able to share some specific tactics and these were generally well received, but the neither session nor discussions following the conversation ever felt like a monologue. There was engagement, kudos and thought sharing on the ideas we presented but moreover people stayed behind the session to share their own ways of solving similar problems,” explains Jon Collins, CAE, Associate Director, Events and Partnerships for Parkinson Canada.

The connection that you gain with your audience is invaluable. When you share new or important information in a presentation, people will naturally want to connect with you. Together, you can explore the subject in greater depth and meet people you may not have otherwise. If you’re shy, it is a great way to connect with people during breaks or in the expo hall. Plus, you now have a group of people you can share ideas with long after the conference is over.

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There are also obvious benefits for your personal brand. You are making impressions and connections that could lead to your next position. It could also lead to consulting work or a place on the speaker circuit. At the very least, it will help to solidify your current role by building credibility.

“It’s great to tell your board of directors and/or people you report to that you were selected to speak at a national conference with over 3,000 people in attendance. Makes them sit up and take notice,” says Angela Gill, Executive Director, Major Hospital Foundation. “Besides, it’s fun and you feel special being noted as an expert.”

One of the most obvious benefits of being a conference presenter is that most conferences offer a discounted rate to industry speakers. It is great way to attend some of the best conferences without spending your small (or non-existent) professional development budget.

That brings us back to the original question – is presenting at a conference worth it?

There are certainly a lot of compelling reasons to give it a try. Each of these bbcon 2019 speakers found value in a different way. They also picked a great event to be a conference presenter… in its 20th year, bbcon is a large, well-respected conference that fosters great networking and sharing.

So, just give it a try. When the bbcon call for presenters is released, submit a session you think would benefit your peers. Don’t give up! If your session is not accepted, take the opportunity to send your session idea to a blog in the industry. That could lead to becoming a regular contributor, and a great stepping stone to becoming a conference presenter!

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