“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.
To keynote or not?
This was a question I faced back in October 2021 when one of my friends asked me to consider being the keynote speaker for a virtual Drive-In conference.
The Florida Association of Colleges and Employers (FloridaACE) members come from college/university Career Services and employers who maintain active on-campus recruiting programs.
I have been a member of FloridaACE for over 10 years and have made some great contacts throughout the state of Florida.
Fun fact, I was selected as the keynote for the inaugural Drive-In Conference back in 2016. I gave my keynote address at the University of Central Florida in the building I used to work in prior to moving to FSU. Who says you can’t come home again? 😊
The Drive-In Conference is designed to be shorter than a regular conference—a day and a half instead of a full week. The concept of the Drive-in Conference is to make it accessible to a large population of attendees who can physically drive to the location and not need hotel accommodations.
COVID-19 made the concept of virtual conferences come to life and this Drive-In Conference was switched to a virtual format.
I love to spread the Inspiration Man message to any group that will sit and listen. I hesitated to accept this request because it was via Zoom, and I did not know how my message would translate on a virtual platform. I love in-person audiences and feed off the crowd when I present. A virtual keynote was a challenge to me but one I am happy I accepted—things went well from start to finish.
The 2021 FloridaACE Virtual Drive-In Conference was titled: Gulf-to-Coast Connections.
I reached out to my friend to get a better understanding of the conference title and how significant it was to attendees. Turns out the term gulf was picked so people in western Florida would not feel left out. I decided to focus on the conference in terms of how people on both coasts (Gulf and Atlantic) could connect to build Authentic Connections. Yes, I put authentic in most things I do these days. 😊
Happy to report I accepted the Keynote invitation and was able to move the crowd on a virtual platform.
I researched the term Authentic Connections to build my knowledge base as I worked to create a presentation to inspire others. There is a ton of research available, and my new task was to filter this data in a way to build the presentation.
The key to any form of connection is RELATIONSHIPS. My goal during the keynote was to highlight to the attendees how technology (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, etc.) allow us to reach a larger audience than before. There was always a mindset to catch-up with colleagues during the annual in-person conference or workshop. This was an effective way to connect back in the day, but COVID created new options/ways to connect.
We can reach out to potential mentors and colleagues by utilizing the technology we have. My keynote centered on how FloridaACE members could leverage technology and build authentic connections.
Authentic Connections should be genuine, direct, and focused. My point for the group was to highlight relationships can be built virtually, in-person or a combination of both platforms. You must want to make a connection for it to happen. Networking with an intentional mindset helps build connections too.
I would have been remiss if I did not talk about some of the challenges we face when attempting to make new connections:
- No in-person events
- Zoom fatigue
- Multiple platform (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, etc.)
Simply figuring out how and when to connect with others has been a challenge even for me.
Some folks prefer a phone call, others are all about Zoom and then you have a set who want in-person connections because they want to feel normal again. I shared with my audience it is okay to identify a preferred platform and stick with that. I prefer Microsoft Teams now when connecting with anyone not on-campus with me. The key to this I have found is to state the preference up-front and then provide a Microsoft Teams calendar invite to eliminate confusion on how/when we will connect.
The concept of recalibrate was addressed to ensure attendees understand they must adjust thought processes in today’s world. We are not going back to pre-COVID networking so finding authentic connections should be prioritized for them to happen. Following up after making a request is an outstanding way to continue to build the connections needed to make a difference in the world.
Being a keynote speaker during a virtual conference was a new experience for me but I was able to make several authentic connections during and after the event. Will see how many attendees follow-up with me and leverage the wisdom I dropped on them.
How do you make/ensure authentic connections in your world? Thanks!
“Speakers who talk about what life has taught them never fail to keep the attention of their listeners”.