I am an American now living in the UK. I have led a life of COBIT but in the UK you need to adopt and adapt so ITIL became my framework. Practitioner as a Director at a bank. Certified in ITIL v2 and ITIL 2011. Wrote exam questions and became a trainer. ISO20000 as well. Yes - I deep dived into IT service management (ITSM) as per ITIL.
In this journey, I met the contributors to ITIL, the speakers on the circuit, the writers of blogs and books, lead sales for tools, architects for simulations, and of course conference organisers. All great people, but also quite scary as they truly know ITSM and ITIL at levels I had not considered.
Examples: service desk with no tools but just using paper, blending of agile into ITIL, making change-release-deploy all automated but without chaos. I thought what we did at the bank was great, but these “Masters of the ITIL Universe” were truly Olympic gods.
You have to start somewhere…
I would go to conferences like itSMF UK’s annual conference
or the Service Desk and IT Support Show
, and be awed by their stories and knowledge. I even tried my hand at speaking, no big deal for a Texan, but terrifying when you are doing it in a new world at a monthly British Computer Society (BCS) event. Afterwards, one of the “Gods” tapped me on the shoulder and said that dreaded UK phrase: “May I have a word please?”
I was flabbergasted when he said that my session was not only interesting but entertaining. He then further suggested I “speak at conference”! WOW! Really?!? WOW!!! And so this is how it starts, because remember everyone has to start “somewhere”.
Now it is your turn…
That’s where it begun for me. My “first time”. Now I have done it a million times and it is time for newer faces, with fresher ideas to take over. Now it is your turn to have that “first time”.Now when the “Call for Speakers” is issued for any conference it can be easy to miss it. You have to keep going to the conference website or register your interest to become aware of the opportunity. Once issued though, the rush is on. Adrenaline pours into your body as you read the various topics they will consider, review the format of the submission, and see the dates for submission and notice for when you will be notified of your success (or failure).
Preparation is key. Think about it logically. A conference is going to at minimum want to know:
• Who you are? Your biography. What you have done in ITSM or Agile or IT? What have you accomplished? What was the outcome of value to your organisation or client?
• Speaking experience: remember that at one point all of us had none, so don’t be afraid to simply state that you’re setting yourself a new challenge and this will be your first time presenting. Use the opportunity to showcase other speaking-related things you’ve done if you have, for example company workshops. But don’t worry if your experience is zero. Trust me – conferences don't want the same people over and over again.
• Title of your session: This is the hardest. You are competing for audience. If you are too cute in your title then no one will take you seriously. If it is boring, then well the perception will be that your session is equally boring. My hint do this last.
• Brief synopsis of your session: 50-500 words-elevator pitch. Think backwards! At the end of the session what 2-3 things do you want them to remember or learn? What will people takeaway from your session? Now write your pitch to sell this as your “product”.
• Longer explanation and maybe even some sample slides: sometimes they ask for this
• Why you should speak?: interesting challenge – why you? Be brave and be Texan. Brag. You have a story to sell. By the time you have done all of this you will have a title so go back and complete that section.
Hit enter. Submitted. The wait begins.
I was rejected the first time. In fact, even after speaking at Lean, DevOps, and ITSM events I am still rejected occasionally. Ah well! Look at your story. Look at those that got accepted. Adopt and adapt and try again – never forget that failure is your most important source of learning. BUT- if you do get accepted…
Adrenaline. LinkedIn and Twitter bragging. Create your storyboard, slides, practice, practice and practice some more. Did I mention practice? Conference day you have a different badge – speaker. You walk around and people notice. As your session nears, the butterflies appear in your stomach. We all get nervous. Experience does not negate these nerves.
When you do your session, look for a friendly face. Target that person. Try to find three, in each section of the room, and keep looking at them. From the audience perspective it appears you are looking at all of them and engaging all of them. Moderate your voice. Don't read your slides. They came to hear you and learn from you, they can read the slides later. Make it fun! Have fun!
Afterwards reward yourself. I get an ice cream. Some get a drink. But once you have the bug – well do it again. The good news is you do not have to create a brand new session each time. Adopt and adapt this one for a year. Then next year as you submit chose a new theme for the year.
Why did I write this?
At the end of itSMF UK’s annual conference last year (ITSM17), I was honoured to be on a panel which included James Finister and Paul Wilkinson. Two ITSM legends, speakers, and industry changers. We were looking back at what happened over the course of the conference, what the key takeaways were, and what were the overriding highlights of the event. But amongst the positive feedback (it was a very good event), we could not help but voice our disappointment at the number of “same old faces” speaking. Don’t get us wrong, ITSM17 brought a good mix of new faces to the table too (in fact the two top speakers were both new), but there were still too many old faces too.
So we issued a challenge: if you are a constant speaker at itSMFUK, please either do not submit for 2018 OR instead help find someone new to present either by themselves or with you.
If you have never spoken at a conference before, but you have an interesting story to tell… now is your time to shine! We want new voices, new words, new ideas. Scared? I was too first time around. If it helps, those of us on the panel volunteered to mentor anyone that wants to try.
Challenge issued. Do you accept?
The itSMF UK Annual Conference (ITSM18) call for speakers is now open, so please I beg, take on board the advice I’ve given in this blog – and put yourself forward! Not convinced you know what to say, how to say it, or where to start? Then take advantage of our promise of free advice and guidance. All you need to do is register your interest with itSMF UK by emailing conference@Itsmf.co.uk and they will put you in touch with one of us to be your mentor.
So what are you waiting for?