I am often telling my clients – entrepreneurs who take risks everyday – to step out of their comfort zone. Marketing in today’s world requires re-learning some of what you think you know and the way you do it.
So, this past week, I took my own advice. I spoke at the Ignite4 conference in Raleigh, NC. Now, I speak all the time – webinars, classes, seminars. I have spoken to groups of 5 to 500. So why would this be out of my comfort zone?
Because the format is completely unlike anything else I have ever done. You get 5 minutes. 20 slides and the slides auto-advance every 15 seconds. Generally, when you are the speaker, you are in control. You can pace it, you can forward your slides and back up if need be. Not in this format; here it was full steam ahead.
At Ignite, you walk out and the slides start moving. We didn’t get a chance to rehearse. There was no monitor to see where I was at (I had to look up at the screen above my head if I wanted to check), and there was no timer running (only the one in the back of my brain). And there were about 400 people watching me.
So what can you say in 5 minutes and 20 slides? It turns out, an awful lot. One speaker told a great story of vaccinating children in Uganda. Another, about how twitter moved him from being a DA to running the brewer’s guild. The closing speaker did a great job talking about fear, shame and self-image.
I spent 5 minutes talking about how social media has made it more important than ever for businesses to double-down and focus back on the core strategic elements of their business. And it did force me out of my comfort zone – not the topic, that I know pretty well – but by forcing me to build a very clear case and story without rambling and with all points in clear support of each other.
Generally, a speaker will spend about an hour for every minute to two minutes of presentation time in preparation. For this one, I spent 5 hours for each minute. And in the end, I still didn't feel prepared. But would I do it again? Yes, in a second. Actually, I am looking forward to the next one I can do – I already have a new topic in mind – because as uncomfortable as it was, getting through the experience and coming out thinking I did a good job was exhilarating.
So when that next opportunity comes knocking and your first thought is “I’d be nuts to do that”, give it a few minutes, figure out what is holding you back and if it your comfort zone, go for it anyway. What you find out about yourself on the other side of the experience might just surprise you.