Public speaking is something many people struggle with. As a frequent event speaker, and someone who constantly struggles with severe anxiety, every time I submit a session I get personally involved. People always say to keep it professional, but I can’t help myself,. I always feel like my very heart and soul are being sized up on an auction block. There’s anxiety about if my session description is interesting enough to get picked, if my credentials are shiny enough, if I am good enough to be selected. After being chosen, there is a tsunami of imposter syndrome feelings about how I was possibly good enough to get chosen. Is it because someone feels like they need a new face among the regular conference speaker circuit? It couldn’t possibly be that I was smart enough, or well qualified, it must have been luck.
Needless to say, the emotional rollercoaster involved with submitting sessions and having your ideas judged is stressful. Having the unsettling experience of finding out that the judging process is not taken seriously or that people are just choosing their friends can be crushing and can undermine confidence in the entire event.
Knowing about an events judging process in advance makes a world of difference. For example, at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit, they intentionally choose 50% speakers of color and 10% trans speakers, I know if my session doesn’t get picked, chances are, it’s because they are pushing hard for visibility for underrepresented groups and I wholeheartedly agree with that cause.
With the WITness Success session judging, it’s a blind selection process. I know this because I am one of the people judging. I have no idea who submitted these sessions, and if I know enough to be able to guess who submitted the session, I simply don’t vote on that one. I have a new insight to the judging process, looking at the content of the sessions, not the notoriety associated to the speaker. Some session topics have so many submissions it is hard to pick just one, but the need for session variety means there needs to be a balance of topics. As much as I would love to pick all 10 sessions on topic A, I have to pick a few of the best ones.
Ultimately, the blind selection process gives me enough confidence to face the judgement that comes with submitting a speaking session, because I know I don’t need to compete with someone else’s number of certifications, twitter followers, years of experience or trailhead badges in order to have a chance to stand up on stage and have my voice be heard.
If you have never submitted a speaking session before, find an event with a judging process you believe in, and do it!
Ashley Allen, Founder ITequilty