While I have been speaking professionally since 1990 (training mostly), there was a ‘bucket list’ feel to being asked to be the opening keynote for the 2014 New Media Expo in Las Vegas. The community and vibe of the conference has always felt like home to me. I’ve done other keynotes, other large audiences, other streaming talks. Somehow this stage, this audience, and this talk felt like a new step in my career. It was truly a gift to present at NMX. A gift to meet and talk to all the attendees. A gift to help the conference staff and organizers however I could. What the community has done for me – from afar – is priceless. What I can say is that if you are in any way working in this industry, you owe it to yourself to get to NMX any way you can. (SxSW is another biggie for this – sadly it’s way out of my solopreneur budget.)
Luckily my talk was the opening keynote of the entire conference, so I got my nerves out of the way early. (Let’s NOT discuss the snow storm and my four cancelled flights to get to Vegas…) As you might tell from my talk, most of what I do is “under the waterline” meaning that no one sees it. Not very glamourous or “Internet-famous” but it’s how I operate.
I’m not the kind of person that usually draws a lot of attention to the work I do. People I’ve met multiple times in person (and connect with on a very regular basis online) see me again at NMX and have little to no memory of me. This sounds harsh, but outside of my immediate circle of friends, apparently I’m just not that memorable. To walk off the stage and have people that I have known and admire (for upwards of a decade) want to talk to me freaks me out a tiny bit. It was also highly disappointing. Communities that I felt such a strong connection to have no memory of my involvement. People I’ve spoken with over the years on conference panels have no idea who I am. Hell for the most part the audience had no idea who I was.
“What people in the world think of you is really none of your business” – Martha Graham, American Dancer & Choreographer
I’m okay with all this – now – and had my head on straight even before taking the stage at NMX so I’m not as crushed over being as invisible as I once was. Back in 2008 – 2009 I would have felt differently. It’s amazing how time, experience and success change your perspective.
I should say that there are amazing people that I do know such as Chris Brogan, Lewis Howes (even though I’m convinced he never remembers me – he does), and C.C. Chapman (that’s a cheat, we worked together in the past) that always have a hug and a smile for me. Friends I’ve known locally such as Jessica Kupferman were my touchstone and newly-minted friends like Matt Cherry were always around with words of encouragement. Sweet faces and friendly voices like Linda Sherman and Amanda Blain gave me a strong shot of girl power just when I needed it most. Others that I had known and admired online such as Diane Brogan and Calvin Lee were great fun to talk to in person. Sadly, the poor weather kept many familiar faces and hopefully new friends from attending the conference. Next year, right folks?!
Back to the conference. I’ve keynoted at other conferences (not in this industry) and never really had other keynote speakers on the agenda. Because NMX is full of rock stars in my industry, hell yeah I’m going to the other keynote talks!! Well. Apparently being a keynote speaker a large conference there are rules. Fight Club rules. As in ‘keynoters do not go see the keynotes of other speakers’. WHAT? Now, no one said this rule to me. It just IS. Why? All the other keynote speakers are busy signing books and taking meetings and talking to people they flat out don’t have time to come see me. Ohhhhh. Maybe I was supposed to hide out to feign exclusivity? I have no idea. No one has explained the Fight Club rules to me (sort of like the secret In-N-Out burger menu – I’m an idiot and order the #2 off the PRINTED menu). I hung out in the hallways talking to whomever was interested. I met some brand new AMAZING people. (JR, Rosemary and the amazing trio of sisters at Her Fantasy Football I’m lookin’ at you…) It was the true purpose of why I love and attend New Media Expo.
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
So imagine my surprise when I sheepishly went up to people like Scott Stratten from UnMarketing (BIG NMX keynoter) and he hadn’t seen my talk and had no idea who I was. That’s cool. I’m a conference attendee just like everyone else. To be honest, until I met him in person I kind of thought Scott was a jerk. A brilliant and relevant jerk, but I wasn’t too keen on his way of dealing with things / people online he doesn’t agree with. My perception of him was drastically changed when I saw how he treated other people and was genuinely interested in meeting them. I had seen him speak maybe five years ago and he (to me) just came across as pissed off and chest-thumping. Now he’s just funny (and pissed off – in a good way). Lesson learned Lynette. Practice what you preach lady. Open heart, open eyes, open mind.
“People, man. People.” – JC Hutchins, American Author & Transmedia Writer
For all the failures I’ve had professionally (and personally for that matter) I’d trade nothing. It all got me to the stage at NMX. It got me to a point where I can help other people and companies be better at what they do. It is what will be the catalyst that gets me to wherever I’m going next and to every stage bigger than the one I was just on. I’ve got a few ideas in mind on what my future holds. It could be my company – or it could be another company (the job/project/keynote opportunities are astounding to me since NMX, but I do have my eye on a favorite locally) – but wherever I land it will be amazing because I choose to make it amazing. I choose to surround myself with people who value themselves and value ME. It’s been a journey to feel confident standing all on my own on the ‘big stage’ and not in the shadow of those I perceived as being better or more successful than me.
In the end we are all just people that most likely do our own grocery shopping and scrub our own toilets. No big stage keynote spotlight needed. People man, people…