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3 Things I Learned by Speaking at a Conference

The first time we do anything, we really don't know what we're doing. I'd been to a writer's conference before, but going to speak to teenagers was totally different. I had fun, learned a lot, and would do a lot of things differently next time. 

1. Arriving early is imperative. 

          My dad is amazing and drove me to the conference early. We found the room I would be speaking in later, which was great since I am significantly directionally challenged. When all the hallways look the same, it's nice to know where I'm going. Dad set up my powerpoint to make sure everything worked properly, and I figured out where I needed to stand so I can see over my laptop. Good thing I'm comfortable without a podium because I wasn't tall enough. By the time I started, which ended up being a few minutes late because the person before me went a few minutes over, I was prepared and comfortable. Arrive early and avoid many technical problems that might arise. 

2.  Stories that prove you relate are your best friends.

          I had planned to integrate my publishing story into my speech, but if I were to do it again, I would have started with the story. Because it showed the teens that I struggle too. The story wasn't a grand production, but I showed them that publication isn't as far away as it seems sometimes. The first time I went to the conference, everyone knew I was a teenager. I didn't have to tell anyone my age or the fact that I was homeschooled. When I went again, this time to speak, I received questions like, "Are you married?" "How many kids do you have?" "What did you study in college?" I soon realized that my audience might not realize that I'm a teenager just like them. Without doing a history dump, sharing a story that shows that I'm one of them was effective. People would rather hear a story from a person than facts from a checklist.

3. Pizza is distracting.

          My short speech of insight was right before lunch. I had snacked to avoid my stomach from growling, but I had not planned on the pizza sitting right next to me as I spoke. In this photo, you can see the stacks of pizza boxes just waiting to be eaten. I can't even eat pizza, (a weird digestive problem makes eating gluten extremely painful for me) but the smell was so distracting. Push through distractions, smile, and finish strong. 

Have you done anything and later realized a ton of things you would have done differently?

~ Alyson


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