I bumbled — uhhhh, ummm. My brain was mush after helping plan and execute the conference. I asked Lisa if I could think for a minute and come find her once I’d cleared my head. As soon as she stepped away, it hit me: what I learned, especially from working with the more than 75 presenters who spoke and gave workshops, and from the many others who kind of wanted to speak but felt they had nothing to add and so didn’t speak, is that no matter who you are, what role you’re in, what the size of your company is, or where you are in your career, you have something valuable to share.
There’s a lot of negative self-talk out there — “I don’t have anything important to say” or “I outlined my talk, but I feel dumb — everyone already knows all this stuff!” As I recruited and worked with Expo speakers and workshop leaders, several were reluctant to share their expertise. Several downplayed their experience. Several felt like imposters.
This doesn’t only happen in the speaking world. It happens in the writing world and in the blogging world as well. Several years ago I was part of a writing group. We met once a month to critique each other’s writing and to talk about the craft. A carpenter in the group told wild tales of the things he’s seen on construction jobs, but he never wrote them. When we asked why not — he had a goldmine of stories — he seemed surprised. “I only write about stuff that happens when I leave town. New stuff. Everything else is just the boring same old same old.”
The thing is, what’s same old same old to him was brand new to the people in that writing room. The things he took for granted were novel and interesting to those of us who don’t know what it’s like to be a carpenter, who don’t live his life, who don’t see the world through his eyes or speak (or write) it in his voice.
The things we take for granted, the things we think are boring and normal and “everyone knows all this stuff already” are the very things that others are hungry to know more about. None of us work in the exact same environment, with the same parameters, in the same role, with the same people, but we are all trying to solve similar problems. We want to understand what it’s like to work in certain roles or with certain team sizes or under certain conditions, and we want to know how others have approached the issues we’re trying to navigate.
As we all know from life experience, 15 people can be present in the exact same circumstances at the exact same time — can be witness to a conversation, participants in a meeting, on the sidelines of an event — and walk away with 15 entirely different experiences. If they each told the story of the shared experience, every story would be different.
So that’s what I learned at Expo. We each have a voice that is our own. We each have a unique perspective. Nobody can share Sarah’s expertise but Sarah. Nobody can share John’s experience but John. When the negative self-talk starts, we need to remember that we are the only one who sees the world through our eyes. We are the only ones who can tell our stories.