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10 Myths of Conference Confidence: Busted!

conferences Jul 25, 2023
Title: 10 Myths of Conference Confidence Busted

Written by Torie Mollett (@TorieTeaches)

  1. “I have nothing to share…”
  2. “I’m not *insert person’s name*...”
  3. “They probably won’t accept my proposal…”
  4. “I’m too new to this position/field so it’s not my place to present…” (Imposter Syndrome) 
  5. “Nobody will come to my session…”
  6. Stage Fright
  7. “I don’t want to present alone…”
  8. Cost
  9. Travel Scaries
  10. “I don’t even know where to apply…”

So many conferences, so little time. Where do I apply?  Where is the conference?  Can I afford it? I just know I’m going to get sweaty, aren’t I?  Attending, let alone presenting at, a conference can be overwhelming and lead to many probing questions.  Those questions, and the accompanying anxiety, have crept into my mind or else I wouldn’t be writing this.  With that in mind, it’s time for some honest talk.  In this post, I’ll encourage you to challenge those pesky doubts and fears, those that sneak into your mind when you're given the chance to amplify your voice, yet find yourself prepared to let the opportunity slip away...once again.

Myth #1 - I have nothing to share. 

Yes, you do. Let’s start there. This is Imposter Syndrome at its finest. You were hired to do the job you’re doing because of the skills, ideas, and overall professional fabulousness you have to share. If your boss, colleague, or even a friend has encouraged you to submit a proposal, it’s because they know without a shadow of a doubt that you have insight worth sharing. We tend to be our own worst enemies, backing ourselves into corners and boxes by generalizing our fears into this simple, yet destructive, self-deprecating quip. We, you included, are all different folks with different strokes, experiences, ideals, and insider knowledge. Nobody will see ideas and concepts the exact same way you do.  With this in mind, you do have something to share – your perspective. Your voice is worth sharing and hearing. Share it and invite others to the table for discussion. 

Myth #2 - I’m not *insert name of highly qualified so-and-so*. 

Well, no offense, but DUH. You’re you and that’s all anyone wants you to be, contrary to what the brain gremlins are whispering to you. The highly qualified so-and-so that you’re mentally competing against likely has the same inhibitions as you because, say it with me, we are all human! If the audience wants an opportunity to sit in so-and-so’s audience, they can do so when that opportunity presents itself. Your proposal isn’t selected under the guise of your performing as another entity. Your proposal isn’t reviewed under the assumption that you are another person. Your proposal is yours and that’s what those reviewing your work are expecting and, dare I say, hoping for. Let’s be serious, we live in a world of technology that allows for constant, swift, and usually harsh comparisons. Think of social media where it’s common for our own posts to follow directly after, I don’t know, Rihanna or some other seemingly perfect being. Our world is a constant cycle of comparison, so of course this anxiety will spill into other areas of life, even professionally. Those brain gremlins work hard, but resilience works harder. Your audience won’t be expecting someone else when you propose or present, they’ll expect you. So, give the people what they want. 

Myth #3 - They probably won’t accept my proposal. 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You have no way of knowing whether or not your proposal will be accepted. Are you afraid that if it isn’t accepted, this is a dark reflection of your character and humanity? You may not believe me when I say this, but it has no reflection whatsoever on your character or your worthiness as a professional. It simply means to try again, this wasn’t the right time or place. Are you afraid that your proposal will be accepted which means you’ll then have to be vulnerable, step outside your comfort zone, and take a leap of faith? Well, an accepted proposal means all of that, which is a good thing! Comfort zones are important but not meant to be a cage or restriction. Maybe you genuinely have no interest in presenting and that’s your own business, but you’re here now, reading this post, making me think you do have something you want to say. Say it. Send it in. Repeat if necessary. 

Myth #4 - I’m too new to this position/field, it’s not my place to present. 

Everyone has a place. There is room for everyone, new and veteran alike. Being new to a position or a field certainly comes with worries that (hopefully) fade over time. Being fresh to a role is not synonymous with ignorance. There is a reason that you’ve been brought into a specific role and I’m willing to surmise that it has at least a little something to do with your perspective and the expertise you bring to the table. Additionally, don’t put the cart before the horse, we’re just talking about a proposal. Take that step before letting the brain gremlins wreak havoc all over your good time. You’re never too new to a role to have insignificant input, that’s the anxiety talking. If you have something to share for the greater good, if you want to spark discussions, if you want to take a chance and aim for a new experience, submit your proposal. It is your place to present.  

Myth #5 - Nobody will come to my session. 

Isn’t that actually a relief if you are stressed out beyond your mind? Just kidding. Truth is, someone will likely show up…take a chance and submit a proposal. Next! 

Myth #6 - I don’t want to present alone! 

I have good news, you don’t have to!  Of course, you can opt to submit and present by yourself but if that’s not your jam, you have the option to have a co-presenter. This can be a work buddy, and former colleague, a mentor, or professional friend of choice. Find someone that matches your professional energy, or compliments it, and brainstorm topics, ideas, and some session details. Submit that proposal before the deadline of your chosen conference comes and goes before you realize it. 

Myth #7 - Stage Fright

It’s totally fair that you may be feeling anxious or nervous about presenting in front of a crowd in a new environment. A lot of people will tell you that since you’re an educator of some sort, it should be a snap for you to just get up and be vulnerable in front of any crowd in any space, anytime. That’s simply not true.  I’m here to tell you that it’s totally valid and normal to get stage fright butterflies. Take it from someone that has spoken in front of a variety of different audiences and, despite my training as a classroom teacher, I still get the nervous butterflies every time. However, as valid as these feelings may be, it may not be in your best interest to use them as a reason to keep yourself from pushing your boundaries (safely) in a new way. Odds are, you have something wonderful to share that will resonate with someone, probably a few someones, in your audience. This makes the risk-taking worthwhile. Additionally, nothing beats the feeling of being on the other side of a project that took so much effort and consideration. What you’re feeling in that moment is hard-earned pride and that particular brand of self-satisfaction is hard to beat. 

Myth #8 - Cost 

It’s a fact. Conferences cost, and some of them cost a lot, especially when travel and hotel costs are included! This is where we get creative. First, think small - find a local conference in your area. This could be in a consortium of school districts like one we have here in Southwest Ohio: High AIMS. These conferences often cost very little, or your school district may be a member so the “presenter” cost is free! Sometimes, the school district pays a set amount and receives x-number of “attendee seats” to offer individuals. Even cooler? Some of these consortiums pay the school districts to send speakers!

Second, delegate. Delegate the job of convincing your district to send you to a conference by using the form letter offered by many of the conferences. Let them do the work of arguing your trip for you.

What about travel and hotel costs? This is where you have even more options! Consider presenting virtually. If virtual isn’t your thing, consider “phoning a friend.” Remember, you can co-present with a buddy! Submit a proposal to a conference in your state or the one next door and carpool, share a hotel room

What? You’re thinking bigger than your own state? Well, did you know that many of the big edtech tool companies pay for individuals who present sessions that include their platform? Contact your favorite edtech tool company and ask if they would consider sponsoring your conference expenses if your proposal is accepted.

Myth #9 - Travel Scaries

Trust me, I get the fear. You’re talking (hypothetically) to someone who really clings to her routine. I love nesting in my home, being amongst my beloved pets, and winding down my days in the ways that feel most comfortable to me. You may think about the time constraints of traveling, the possibility of room and board either alone or with a colleague, or being in an unknown place. I know I thought of all those things and more. Again, I like my nest, my way, on my time. Again, I’m going to say that these are real concerns, with a time and place; however, in the words of my good friend, “Torie, I would love to travel for work. It might be work, but it’s an experience and opportunity you might not get otherwise. So, go. Embrace it, live a little.”  

I hate it when my friends are right. 

Okay, that’s a little harsh because in the end, I’ve been very happy with my travel experiences for work. Yes, I was out of routine, I was with my colleagues 24/7, I was tired, and I missed my bed. You know what else? I experienced a new and beautiful city or two, ate at fantastic restaurants, bonded with my colleagues on a different level, and felt so very accomplished when all was said and done. Listen to your friends - take the opportunities when they come around and make sense. Consider these experiences to be adventures and know your comfortable home will feel all that more cozy after some adventurous distance and hard work. 

Myth #10 - Okay, okay. I hear you, but I don’t even know where to apply. 

You know that thing called the internet? You can easily search edtech conferences if you’re not sure where to start. Keep tabs in the various edtech-related groups and PLNs you may be a part of - many of them will alert their audience when submission windows open. Maybe you already know which conference(s) you’d like to attend or present at. Regardless of how you learn about the conference, go to their website and find their proposal portal

When, you ask? It varies widely - some conferences open the portal just a few short months before the conference. Others have a deadline that is nine months before the conference. If you miss this year’s window, there’s always next year!

In the meantime, if you want to peruse a list of upcoming edtech conferences, check out Patrick Lowenthal’s site. He has published a list of 2023-2024 conferences, all with brief descriptions and links to their sites!

Now that you have seen how these myths are busted, take a chance and prepare to submit the great idea swirling around in that noggin of yours. You know you want to... We'd love to hear all about it!

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