Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone: My First SourceCon [Public Speaking] Adventure

Embracing the unexpected, facing the unknown, and pushing through doubt to thrive as a first time, conference speaker.

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Sep 26, 2023

This year has been a whirlwind of “firsts” for me, and one of the most exhilarating was the opportunity to present at SourceCon, a well-known conference in talent acquisition circles. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the experience, I want to share my journey, the lessons I’ve learned, and some encouragement for those looking to venture out of their comfort zones.

Embracing the Unexpected Invitation

When the fabulous Megan Whittington, SourceCon Editor & organizer, reached out and asked if I’d be interested in speaking at the conference, I hesitated for a moment. Imposter syndrome had occasionally held me back from fully committing to certain endeavors, like my YouTube channel, @thenycrecruiter. But deep down, I knew that accepting this challenge would push me to grow and evolve. So, I enthusiastically said, “Hell Yes!”

Facing the Unknown

As a first-time attendee of SourceCon, I had seen videos of past events, but presenting in person was an entirely different beast. I’d have to stand in front of an audience and wouldn’t have the comfort of my own environment or the luxury of hiding behind a Zoom screen with speaking notes to rely on.

Preparing for the Stage

My main goal was to get comfortable in front of people! In a quick effort to prepare, I signed up for Toastmasters and made a personal commitment to speak at every meeting. Toastmasters provided invaluable insights and suggested tips when preparing a presentation.

Then came the challenge of presenting for 45 minutes. I’d never spoken for that long before. Knowing I was going to share tips about leveraging AI for recruiting, I turned to ChatGPT for assistance in creating a well-structured outline, complete with suggested time allocations for each section. 

Leading up to the big day, my fellow Toastmasters suggested finding people in the audience to connect with, people I could look at while on stage. So, right before I began, I introduced myself to a couple of folks and let them know I’d probably be making eye contact with them during the presentation. They became my anchors, and it significantly eased my nerves during the actual presentation.

The Power of Positive Affirmations

In the days leading up to the presentation, my Toastmasters mentor reminded me that the audience wanted me to succeed. They were there to learn. This shift in mindset was game-changing. I worked diligently to silence any negative self-talk and reaffirmed that I was prepared and entirely capable. I knew I could do this!

Positive Feedback and Engagement

The feedback I received after my presentation was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees appreciated my small company experience, and some asked for my presentation deck to see the ChatGPT commands I used. They found my slides engaging, thanks to the use of emojis and GIFs. What made my day was when a manager expressed their intention to reevaluate their sourcing assignments based on the insights I shared from my experience.

Encouragement for Others

If there’s one piece of advice I have for others, it’s this: Say ‘yes’ to opportunities, even if you’re unsure of what’s ahead. You can figure it out as you go. Taking these opportunities seriously, practicing rigorously, and seeking feedback are keys to success. And if it’s a speaking engagement, I highly recommend finding a local Toastmasters chapter to practice and receive valuable feedback from amazing, and extremely supportive people.

Reflection on Professional Growth

This experience made me reflect on my journey. Less than a year ago, after being impacted by the Meta layoffs, I questioned my abilities. Fast forward to today, and I’m not only attending SourceCon, but I’m speaking at an industry conference. I’ve grown and confirmed that I belong here. I have the knowledge to share, and although I won’t always get everything right, I hope to add value and inspire others to do the same so we can continue to push the TA space to a place we can be proud of. A place where people have nothing but positive things to say about our interactions as a whole.

Key Takeaways from My Presentation

A common question asked throughout the conference is, “Will AI replace recruiters?” I say, “No way, Jose!” But I do believe we will need to get used to working in leaner teams, with fewer resources until our economy bounces back. I encourage everyone to start embracing AI and ChatGPT now! Build your AI muscles. Just like when Google started, it wasn’t second nature to ask Google questions. Similarly, if recruiters don’t embrace AI, they risk getting left behind.

Furthermore, the key is not to rely solely on AI; think of it as a tool to maximize efficiencies. Leverage it for time-consuming tasks like understanding new job descriptions, talent mapping for a new role and industry, and up-level your creative writing skills. 

Until Next Time

My experience as a first-time SourceCon presenter was a transformative journey. It’s a testament to the power of stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing challenges. I hope my story inspires others in the recruiting and sourcing field to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities and to believe in their own capabilities.

Remember, every challenge is an opportunity for growth. Embrace it, and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Nominate yourself or someone you know to speak at SourceCon in the Spring in Orlando, Florida, on April 9-10, 2024, using this form.

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