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NSA Influence2022: Notes from a First-Time Attendee
Episode 426th July 2022 • Ongoing Mastery: Presenting & Speaking • Kirsten Rourke
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In Episode 4 of Ongoing Mastery: Presenting & Speaking, Kirsten shares her highlights from the NSA Influence2022 conference and her first trip to Nashville, including where to eat and why you need to wear sneakers if you’re at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Kirsten talks about being a speaker at a convention of speaker friends, the different culture and energy levels at Influence2022, and how a particular keynote speech hit an awkward note that could have been avoided.

Key take-aways:

  • What’s it like to be a speaker at a conference of speaker friends?
  • Why does the culture and energy of a conference matter?
  • How could that awkward moment have been avoided?

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Read a transcript of this episode: https://share.descript.com/view/6o3CqhqdRQF

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirstenrourke/

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Transcripts

Kirsten:

Welcome to Ongoing Mastery: Presenting & Speaking.

Kirsten:

It's a podcast and a community.

Kirsten:

I'm Kirsten Rourke, speaker, presenter, and founder of Rourke Training.

Kirsten:

And this is Kellie.

Kellie:

Hey there, I'm Kellie, producer, writer, and herder of cats.

Kirsten:

Oh, so many cats.

Kirsten:

After over 20 years of speaker and presenter, I've seen it all

Kirsten:

and I'm sharing it with you.

Kirsten:

Ongoing mastery is about continual improvement of your craft.

Kirsten:

You'll learn tips and hear from industry leaders.

Kirsten:

I'll tell you straight up what works and what doesn't, so you can thrive.

Kirsten:

Let's get started.

Kirsten:

Welcome to episode number four.

Kirsten:

Today, we're going to talk about what it was like at NSA Influence,

Kirsten:

the value of speaker friends,

Kellie:

and what it was like to be around so many people for the first

Kellie:

time since the pandemic started.

Kirsten:

That was quite the adventure.

Kirsten:

I don't know if you guys have been to the Opry Convention Center in Nashville.

Kirsten:

I have never been before, and if you take all of Disney and put a roof

Kirsten:

over it, it's kind of like that.

Kellie:

How do you put a roof over something like that?

Kirsten:

Well, let's just say that if you're going, bring sneakers, because

Kirsten:

you're going to be walking for miles.

Kirsten:

They have a full, they have at least one full waterfall.

Kirsten:

There's an escape room.

Kirsten:

There's, I, oh my God, just go to the website and take a look.

Kirsten:

It's amazing.

Kellie:

Link is in the show notes.

Kirsten:

And the reason I'm bringing that up is because I

Kirsten:

have been to a lot of conventions.

Kirsten:

This is the first convention I've been to that was all speakers.

Kellie:

And why does that make a difference for you?

Kirsten:

Well, speakers are generally, usually extroverted.

Kirsten:

We really like the sounds of our own voice.

Kirsten:

We tend to be more talkative.

Kirsten:

We tend to have more energy.

Kirsten:

And at a convention, I go to conventions for two reasons.

Kirsten:

I go to conventions to speak and to see my speaker buddies.

Kirsten:

That's why I go.

Kirsten:

When I get, went to this, instead of it being 15, 30, maybe 50 speakers with

Kirsten:

hundreds and hundreds of attendees, it was hundreds and hundreds, possibly a

Kirsten:

thousand, speakers, all in one spot.

Kellie:

That's gotta be a different kind of energy.

Kirsten:

It was completely different.

Kirsten:

You know at a convention, when you accidentally make eye contact with

Kirsten:

somebody on the elevator, and then you don't actually talk to that person.

Kirsten:

You just have glanced at them.

Kirsten:

And then you, you, you walk away, right?

Kellie:

As a native New Englander, I would be horrified to strike up

Kellie:

a casual conversation because we made eye contact for 10 seconds.

Kirsten:

Except at Influence, that happened all the time.

Kirsten:

Anytime I caught anybody's eye, the running joke became that one of us would

Kirsten:

lead with, "So what do you speak about?"

Kirsten:

And everybody spoke to everybody, all the time.

Kellie:

That sounds really welcoming and inviting.

Kirsten:

And exhausting.

Kellie:

And exhausting.

Kirsten:

So it was really, really good.

Kirsten:

But, in episode number five, we're going to talk about energy

Kirsten:

versus time, managing your energy.

Kirsten:

Super important.

Kellie:

Stay tuned.

Kirsten:

So, I definitely want to bring up that, while NSA itself was very

Kirsten:

welcoming, the space was energetic.

Kirsten:

It was connected.

Kirsten:

The group of NSA Rainbow Speakers, led by

Kellie:

Robbie Samuels,

Kirsten:

who we know from Innovation Women.

Kirsten:

We interviewed Bobbie Carlton last week.

Kirsten:

And that group is a visibility group that tries to make sure there's more

Kirsten:

spaces on more stages for women to speak.

Kirsten:

But everybody's welcome.

Kirsten:

Robbie's a member of the group.

Kirsten:

You could be too.

Kirsten:

It's a really wonderful space that Robbie's created at the NSA Rainbow

Kirsten:

Speakers group, because I'm used to, as an ally, coming in and being on the side.

Kirsten:

It's not my group.

Kellie:

Right, supportive, but not hogging the spotlight.

Kirsten:

Except that Robbie has a completely different perspective.

Kirsten:

Every person in that room was equally welcome, equally joined, and the

Kirsten:

energy was so kind and generous.

Kirsten:

It was one of the best groups I've ever been in at a conference.

Kellie:

That sounds really revitalizing, energy giving.

Kirsten:

It really was, which was super helpful because I spent a lot

Kirsten:

less time attending things at the conference than I had planned, because

Kirsten:

I didn't factor in the intensity of being around that many speakers.

Kellie:

Good for you!

Kirsten:

Which is what, actually, everybody said.

Kirsten:

I was kind of surprised.

Kirsten:

I expected to get some friction for not going to things, but

Kirsten:

that's not what happened.

Kellie:

Because everybody is in the same experience group.

Kellie:

This is what they do, and so they know what the energy is like and how

Kellie:

you have to take your own best steps.

Kirsten:

Yeah.

Kirsten:

You have to harvest your own energy.

Kirsten:

Take care of yourself.

Kirsten:

I even attended a mental health event seminar inside this conference about

Kirsten:

taking care of yourself as a speaker.

Kirsten:

It was wonderful.

Kellie:

I think that's great that they actually had that on the

Kellie:

agenda as a topic that's important enough schedule a session for.

Kellie:

That it wasn't just people in side conversations talking about this.

Kirsten:

And I, I'm not going to say anything about the fact

Kirsten:

that when Dani signed me up for events at this conference, she

Kirsten:

picked what I was attending and three of them were about burnout.

Kirsten:

That, that's just a, that's, that doesn't mean anything, does it?

Kellie:

Coincidence.

Kirsten:

Total coincidence.

Kirsten:

But, what I wanted to bring up about Influence was, it was

Kirsten:

wonderful, I'm glad I went.

Kirsten:

There was an amazing speech and I want to talk about the journey that people

Kirsten:

bring their listeners, their audience, on when they're doing big speeches.

Kirsten:

There was a speaker from NASA who was one of the leaders and gives

Kirsten:

speeches about learning from failure.

Kirsten:

And it was a powerful, big speech off the main stage to large group of

Kirsten:

National Speakers Association speakers.

Kirsten:

It was a big, big deal.

Kellie:

Learning from failure is essential, because we're all gonna

Kellie:

make mistakes and we need to be able to learn the lesson and move on.

Kirsten:

And incorporate the lesson.

Kirsten:

I'm glad he was there.

Kirsten:

I'm glad I heard that speech.

Kirsten:

And, I did leave the room twice, because I had to cry.

Kellie:

That's not good.

Kirsten:

So, the reason I'm bringing that up is not to give the guy a hard

Kirsten:

time, because he did a great job.

Kirsten:

That was a big stage.

Kirsten:

He gave a practiced, well-rehearsed, powerful oratory.

Kirsten:

And when you take people on a journey, an emotional journey, I believe

Kirsten:

that it is on you to bring them at the end to a place where they leave

Kirsten:

inspired or upbeat or optimistic, rather than in this case, devastated.

Kellie:

You don't want to leave your audience feeling raw.

Kirsten:

So what happened is, he was showing the various accidents that

Kirsten:

have happened and I happen to feel maybe more connected, I don't know.

Kirsten:

My uncle worked with NASA and Hamilton Standard, connected to

Kirsten:

the space suit program, wrote the definitive book on space suits, which

Kirsten:

we will link to in the show notes.

Kirsten:

And I, you know, not everybody is used to going to their

Kirsten:

grandmother's house and finding a space suit hanging in the bedroom.

Kellie:

That did not happen at my grandmother's house.

Kirsten:

It really should have.

Kirsten:

It's a common occurrence.

Kirsten:

I think everyone has that experience, not just me.

Kirsten:

And when I asked my uncle for my, then I think, four year old son, I

Kirsten:

wanted him to have some coloring book from NASA that he could play with,

Kirsten:

my uncle provided me pages from an engineering specifications manual.

Kellie:

As one does.

Kirsten:

As one does.

Kirsten:

So when he played the audio of Mission Control calling to the astronauts,

Kirsten:

and the astronauts not responding

Kellie:

for Challenger

Kirsten:

I was very blessed by having people to the left and to the right

Kirsten:

of me that I had just met, who were kind and compassionate people, and

Kirsten:

I'm shouting out both of them in the notes, lovely, lovely folks.

Kirsten:

One of them put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Why don't you take a walk?"

Kirsten:

And I, because we were by the door, I stood up, I walked out, and I started

Kirsten:

ugly crying by the time I hit the hallway.

Kellie:

I don't think I could have made it to the hallway.

Kellie:

When Challenger was lost, I was in high school and we watched it on TV.

Kellie:

It's, it's still an incredibly powerful moment decades later.

Kirsten:

And the speech ended with a song called "Sixteen Minutes from Home."

Kirsten:

It's a beautiful song.

Kirsten:

It is a painful song about the crew not making it home.

Kirsten:

They, they died 16 minutes from home.

Kirsten:

And at that moment, I noped right out of that room again.

Kirsten:

That was it.

Kirsten:

I was done.

Kirsten:

When I came back, my new friends were sitting there and they looked bothered.

Kirsten:

And they both said, essentially, that in their beliefs and in my belief

Kirsten:

too, when you take people on an emotional journey like that, you want

Kirsten:

to think in terms of the end of that journey, where are you leaving people?

Kirsten:

It's not that it's wrong to have people have a strong reaction to your work,

Kirsten:

but NASA's mission is about inspiration.

Kirsten:

And having that song at the end was heavy.

Kirsten:

And if he'd cut the song down to, like, 15 seconds of audio and then gone right

Kirsten:

into a rousing inspirational landing on Mars, future of travel, it would have

Kirsten:

been a completely different experience.

Kellie:

Just a couple days after this speech, on July 12th, the James Webb

Kellie:

Space Telescope released its first pictures and they are literally,

Kellie:

awesome and stunning and are revising by the second what we know about the

Kellie:

furthest reaches of the universe.

Kirsten:

They literally inspire awe.

Kirsten:

So as presenters and speakers, when you were thinking about the emotional

Kirsten:

journey that you are taking people on, because when you are speaking,

Kirsten:

when you are presenting, you are always connecting with human beings.

Kirsten:

That is your job.

Kirsten:

That is our craft.

Kirsten:

You are never just talking.

Kirsten:

It's a communication.

Kirsten:

It's an inspiration.

Kirsten:

That's what we do.

Kellie:

What is the Rourke Training number one rule?

Kirsten:

Rule number one, if your presentation or speech is not in any

Kirsten:

way modified or impacted by the audience that you have, it should be a video.

Kirsten:

Now, if you are new to this craft and the idea of adapting what you're doing live

Kirsten:

is terrifying, which it can be, what you could do is something I heard from someone

Kirsten:

recently that was pretty brilliant.

Kirsten:

She said, "I'm too scared.

Kirsten:

So what I do is, I practice and then I record a video.

Kirsten:

And then I put a LinkedIn live event up and I put the video up.

Kirsten:

And I go into the chat and I attend it, and I talk to people in the

Kirsten:

chat live while it's happening.

Kirsten:

So the work is delivered, but I'm still present."

Kellie:

And I love that way of addressing something that the

Kellie:

speaker feels is a problem and also engaging with the audience.

Kirsten:

Because when you're doing this work, it is literally about one of two

Kirsten:

things, conversation or inspiration.

Kirsten:

That is the heart and soul of every presentation or speech, period.

Kirsten:

That's all we do.

Kirsten:

And if you're not doing that, then you might as well be in an

Kirsten:

empty room with no audience ever.

Kirsten:

We're doing a podcast.

Kirsten:

This is asynchronous communication.

Kirsten:

I am communicating with you.

Kirsten:

Kellie is communicating with you, the listener.

Kirsten:

And we're going to go to the comments later and see what people

Kirsten:

say, and comment back, and have a conversation that's asynchronous.

Kellie:

And where are we going to be doing that?

Kirsten:

We're going to be doing that on the LinkedIn group for Ongoing

Mastery:

Presenting & Speaking.

Mastery:

Now, I will say that going into the internet and having conversations

Mastery:

can occasionally be fraught.

Mastery:

So you do have to factor in that sometimes people will come to your

Mastery:

stuff and they will comment and they will be the either intentional

Mastery:

or unintentional troll that week.

Mastery:

And you have to plan for that.

Mastery:

But, most of the time, people will be commenting because they'll tell you

Mastery:

what they got out of it, or what they need next, or something they learned.

Mastery:

And that is valuable because we are all on the same mission of

Mastery:

ongoing mastery of our craft.

Kellie:

So Kirsten, just to be clear, are you saying that speakers need

Kellie:

to play it safe with their content?

Kirsten:

Only if that's your branding.

Kirsten:

If you are someone whose vision and voice is geared towards every event planner

Kirsten:

knows you will never, ever say anything even slightly risque, then you should

Kirsten:

play it safe because that's your voice.

Kirsten:

If your voice is more like my voice,

Kellie:

little edgy,

Kirsten:

a little edgy, then no.

Kirsten:

But, you always have to keep in mind that it's a conversation.

Kirsten:

It is an inspiration.

Kirsten:

It is a communication with human beings.

Kirsten:

If you are not talking to humans, what is the point?

Kellie:

It is part of owning your room to attend to what your audience

Kellie:

needs to get from what you're saying.

Kirsten:

And because of that, you need speaker friends.

Kirsten:

You need presenter friends.

Kirsten:

You need people who understand the work and can give you feedback.

Kirsten:

I just did a presentation for the Forbes Business Council that I

Kirsten:

watched the recording and instantly went, "Oh God, I was too fast!", so

Kirsten:

I asked Kellie to review it for me.

Kellie:

It was standard New England speedy.

Kellie:

But it wasn't only New Englanders listening, and so maybe adjusting speed

Kellie:

downward a half tick for a broader audience would be a more effective talk.

Kirsten:

And that said, I did do a speed check during the event.

Kirsten:

I checked with the people who were live there to make sure my pacing was okay.

Kirsten:

So you're always going to be growing.

Kirsten:

You're never done, and that's not a bad thing.

Kellie:

It's a beautiful thing.

Kirsten:

Think about it this way.

Kirsten:

If you ever tank any speech, any presentation, it's one blip in time.

Kirsten:

It never continues.

Kirsten:

You have a moment and you go, "Oh, that didn't work."

Kirsten:

And then you grow from it.

Kirsten:

We're never done growing.

Kellie:

I think that is a fantastic place to wrap.

Kirsten:

Your voice matters.

Kirsten:

Find people who understand the power of that.

Kirsten:

And we'll see you next time.

Kirsten:

Thank you for joining us for Ongoing Mastery: Presenting & Speaking, the

Kirsten:

podcast for everyone who wants to work on their own skills and lift up others.

Kirsten:

If you enjoyed this episode, continue the conversation on our

Kirsten:

Ongoing Mastery LinkedIn group.

Kirsten:

The link is in the show notes.

Kirsten:

Share the love on social media and tell your friends about the podcast.

Kirsten:

Be sure to catch our next episode

Kellie:

and hit the subscribe button.

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