Confessions of a First Time Recruiting Conference Speaker

I did it. I survived my first major speaking gig (surely my “graduation” speech from vocational school doesn’t count) and apparently, I did more than OK. You see, the good folks at RecruitDC were kind enough to invite me to speak at a breakout session during their spring conference.
So, I decided to discuss a topic near and dear to my cold, black recruiting heart – salary negotiations.

Plenty of Fish
shutterstock_151047842Yawn inducing, I know. Some would rather listen to Vogon poetry than hear some corporate schmuck working for a gazillion dollar corporation talk about money. Even so, the presentation went great, thanks in no small part to my cheering section in the front row (I love you guys – you know who you are).
Now, I’ve attended a handful of recruiting focused conferences over the years, and come away with mixed emotions. In terms. Some are AMAZING content wise – others (most) are more of a glorified dog and pony show.
I’ve joked privately with others about the “circuit riders” who seem to do little more than professionally speak – the Talent Acquisition community’s answer to ‘those who can’t, teach.”
As much as I’ve actually enjoyed and learned from many (most) conference speakers, the one thing I really never expected was to become one of them. Not in a million years, if we’re being honest.
I don’t need the spotlight. I know my s***.
Then, a conversation with our very own Derek Zeller sparked my interest in maybe trying this speaking thing; I hadn’t even thought I’d be considered for such a gig before that fateful call. In spite of my protests, he encouraged me to put myself out there and submit a presentation proposal to RecruitDC, an annual recruiting conference for, well, recruiters in DC.
See what happens, he said. I figured I had nothing to lose, slapped together an idea, and promptly forgot all about it. That is, until I received notice my submission had been selected (imagine my friggin’ shock at that one).
S***, as they say, just got real.
[bctt tweet=”Confessions of a first time recruitment conference speaker ” username=”ATCevent”]

Reality Check

In spite of advice to the contrary, I panicked. I had never spoken at a recruiting conference before. Hell, I’ve barely been East of the Mississippi before. And I’d certainly never been to DC. But suddenly, I’d committed to getting up in front of a bunch of super smart recruiting people to talk about salary negotiations?
What the hell had I gotten myself into? shutterstock_219646546
The answer, to my relief, actually turned out to be something pretty cool, obviously. I was warned before the event my breakout session would be part of the “Advanced” program track, which apparently is code for: “don’t be a dumbass.”
So, I took a previous presentation and tried really hard to make it good enough for the tough TA crowd I’d be speaking to in DC. I had no idea what I was doing, or what to expect. I think it worked.
I survived my first conference presentation; hell, I passed with flying colours, thankfully. Which leads me to a bigger question: why the hell does anyone bother speaking at these things at all?
I mean, I have a great job, I’m kicking ass professionally, and honestly, have no need or desire for the “personal branding” or notoriety (good or bad) that comes with being “HR Famous” (which is kind of a joke, let’s be real here).
As I’ve said before, I’m really just an introvert whose inner child gets freaked the hell out in large crowds and any place that could be considered to be in public. Furthermore, why would anyone take on such a heartburn inducing topic as salary negotiations and travel across an entire friggin’ continent to a recruiting conference give what amounted to a 40 minute spiel?
It’s like I was asking to be thrown into the water without having any clue how to swim – and I felt like I was constantly running low on oxygen. I had to constantly keep coming up for air. So why do something so obviously challenging and potentially perilous as putting myself out there in public?
Simple. Because it’s HARD, that’s why.

Recruiting Conferences: The Agony and the Ecstasy

If I’m being completely honest here (or “transparent,” if you’re playing buzzword bingo at home), I’d tell you, beyond any shadow of a doubt – compensation negotiation is the WORST PART OF MY JOB. And I love my job.
Now, sometimes, it’s the most fun – I do love extending offers, especially when followed by an exuberant “YES!” Mostly, though, it makes me want to cry.
I certainly don’t have the same confidence and ability to play the “bad cop” of comp, a role that so many of my peers seem to have more or less mastered. Therefore, I study the hell out of it.
I read countless articles, try various techniques, and over the years have really come to accept that I have a certain style that works for me. It even makes the process sort of fun. And by forcing myself out of my comfort zone, developing content first for blogs, then webinars, then live presentations, it makes me better.
The studying, the practising, the trying and then, often, failing then trying something new. It’s a journey. It’s frustrating. It’s hard work. But it all makes me work harder, smarter, and more effective at doing my job. Which is to say, the payout is worth the pain.
If you’re looking for a reason to submit to speak at a conference near you – or one in some city across the country you’ve never been to before – look no further than this. Find the one topic that scares the s*** out of you. We all have one. Then, make it yours and tell the world.
[bctt tweet=”Looking for a reason to speak at a conference – find the one topic that scares you says @AlaRecruiter ” username=”ATCevent”]
You might not have all the answers. You may not be able to impart any wisdom, much less the secret to life, the universe or happiness, but it’s not about what you actually teach that adds value. It’s what you learn along the way that matters most.
Images: Shutterstock

This article first appeared on Recruiting Daily on June 2nd, 2016

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