Last year I was asked to be a keynote speaker at a 6-day conference in California, and, the conference organiser advised me that the audience size would be 2,000+ people, with the previous headline speakers being Jessica Alba and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Wow! I thought. This will be taking my speaking career to the next level.
The only catch was that none of the 100 speakers invited to speak would be paid. It was positioned that no speakers would be paid because it was an honour to be invited to speak and that the exposure alone would be beneficial to the speakers.
I took a few days to consider the invitation and ultimately decided it was an excellent opportunity and that I would wave my speaking fee and speak at the event.
Fast forward to a few months later, where I regretted my decision and began to feel disconcerted about the whole thing. Poor communication and inadequate information from the conference organiser was the norm, and the limited e-mail’s I did receive made me feel like the conference organisers felt like doing me a favour by having me speak at the conference. All in all, in my gut, I had a feeling– a feeling I couldn’t quite place, which told me that something wasn’t quite right.
Fast forward again to now three weeks before the conference, where I received an e-mail from the conference organiser stating that the conference committee had decided it would be ‘fun’ to change each speakers keynote speech duration from 60 minutes to 15 minutes. The rationale being that they wanted to do ‘speed dating’ type speeches, which they felt would be more entertaining.
My heart sunk.
The keynote they had asked me to give was on my story of burnout and recovery from panic attacks and depression, and I couldn’t see how I could make the speech fun and only 15 minutes. I felt doing so would be a disservice to my audience. I knew there would be audience members going through what I had gone through regarding burnout, anxiety and depression and therefore, to make the speech ‘fun’ and 15 minutes would be woefully wrong.
While my heart sank, that familiar feeling of something not being quite right, kicked in again, however this time I was able to identify the feeling – the feeling was powerlessness. I had given my power away by allowing myself to be treated poorly by the conference organiser, and as such, I was feeling powerless – on the back foot per se.
Recognising this, I knew what I had to do. I had to take my power back.
I e-mailed the conference organiser and advised I would no longer be speaking at the event. And, I added that when liaising with speakers in the future they may wish to consider how they treat their speakers - especially when they are expecting speakers to prepare, write and memorise speeches for free when they themselves are making 3 million dollars through ticket sales.
I took my power back by saying no, this is not acceptable; this does not work for me.
And, I felt like a million bucks for standing up for myself and what I believe in.
Of course, there was a part of me thinking ‘But what about Jessica Alba, Benedict Cumberbatch or one of the other headliners I could be associated with’? But the other side of me – the side of me with a strong sense of self-worth told me it didn’t matter even if the Queen herself was headlining with me. It wasn’t worth giving up my power and self-respect. Nor was it worth doing a disservice to the audience by cramming a comprehensive topic into 15 minutes.
So how did I have the self-confidence to put myself first?
I’ll be honest - I wasn’t born with or raised to be self-confident, it’s a learned behaviour which I taught myself. Watch my video to learn how I taught myself to be self-confident and how you can too.
The key message I would like you to take away from my story is this:
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