4.5 Things I Learned Presenting at INBOUND


I was invited to speak at INBOUND this year. If you haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t either… don’t feel bad…), INBOUND is one of the largest, most diverse conferences in the space of digital marketing. Over 21,000 people from all over the world converged on Boston, MA at the end of September to hear from inspiring speakers like Brené Brown, Michelle Obama, John Cena, and Lisa Brouwer.

Yep… me!

You might wonder how a cowboy boot wearing, leather jacket sporting, motorcycle maven preaching about living at full throttle fit in with the rest of the ultra-creative, highly-intelligent, marketing-minded, digitally-sophisticated, cutting-edge crowd.   

I wondered the same thing until I realized we were all there to change the world.

The clock was set for twelve minutes and I stepped on the stage to deliver my message of inspiration.  The journey getting to that stage was filled with adventure and I learned a few things along the road.

1. Risk NO to Get YES   

I have a strong aversion to the word NO. You might feel the same way. Fearing that I’ll hear that little word holds me back from putting myself out there. But this was one time, NO was not going to stop me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t think I’d have a chance so why not use this opportunity as practice. Maybe it’s because my spidey-sense picked up the YES vibe and I simply had to go through the motions of applying. (That has happened a few times… weird, huh?) Either way, if I didn’t risk the no, I never would’ve heard the yes.

Remember… the reward comes after the risk. We don’t put ourselves out there for fear of failure when the only failure is not risking it in the first place. Where do you need to risk the NO?  

2. Brevity. Period. 

The BOLD Talk track at INBOUND is best described as a TED talk. One idea. Twelve minutes. Boom. Done. Drop the mic. Saying in twelve minutes what I usually say in 45 minutes is hard. Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” Yep… still working on that one. 

You have five minutes to pitch your idea in a meeting. You have three minutes to convince a CEO that your product is the solution. You have 15 seconds to make a first impression.  Concentrate your message and deliver the punch up front. 

3. The Audience is the Hero 

As I was ‘walking my talk’ weeks before the conference, my mind would go blank; I’d freeze mid-sentence and fumble through the next thought. So frustrating! The focus was on my delivery and the mechanics of hitting my marks and I had completely forgotten about my audience. When I shifted my thinking to connect with the blood pumping, beating hearts, open minds of my audience, practicing was much more productive and confidence-building.

Where do you need to shift your focus from yourself to who you’re talking to? Maybe when you’re giving feedback to a direct report. Or disciplining your child. Or motivating your team. Or a coffee catch-up with your BFF. Trying letting them be the hero of the conversation.

4. Define Your Success 

Defining my success of speaking at INBOUND was a moving target. Was it a success to simply get the nod to appear on this awesome stage? Was it the number of people at my session? The flawless delivery? (Ummm… no.) The business booked after-the-fact? The connections I made with attendees and other speakers? Was INBOUND a success for me? Yes. Yes. Yes! Because I learned so much about myself (and the process for pitching a big talk) that I cannot quantify it any other way than successful. I was successful when I risked the no. As I evolve as a speaker, my definition of success will change.

What is your definition of success? Is it the money you make? The influence you have as a leader? The impact you have on the lives of others? Is success finishing the project on time and under budget?  Or is it simply that you chose courage over comfort today? Ensure that your definition of success challenges you to continue to grow and play to the edge with your gifts and talents.

.5 Bring Water

Always, always, ALWAYS bring water to the stage especially when fighting a cold! No matter what. You can watch the reel here and see why!