The average number of years of experience in the room where I was about to be presenting to 75-100 marketing VP/C-levels was likely in excess of my current AGE.
Here I was, a 28 year old “millennial” (use “get off my lawn!” voice when saying millennial for full effect) standing at the front of this room, tasked with teaching everyone something about digital marketing.
Nervous? Ha. That’s a leisurely word to describe some of my initial feelings. But that changed, and changed quickly. As I began to make small talk with attendees before the presentation began, I realized that the condescending feeling toward me that I had conjured up in my head was 100% fabricated.
These people weren’t here to judge me, they were here to learn something about digital marketing from an expert in the field.
At that point, I realized… hey! I’m that expert!
With a new found vote of confidence, I ran through the presentation (making some poor jokes along the way and soliciting some cheap laughs), nailing every slide exactly as I had practiced.
That was cool, but that wasn’t my favorite part..
My favorite part was the Q&A. That’s where I got to actually add some substantial VALUE to the audience. Yeah, sure the content of my presentation was solid, but it was generic, designed to apply to everyone.
But the Q&A? Oh man…
Actually helping these tenured professionals find answers to their most frustrating of problems on the fly was exhilarating. Not just for me, but for the audience too.
The key to success in that room wasn’t my age, or my presentation, it was providing value in real time, to those who needed it.
I left that room with more friends than detractors, more admirers and future colleagues than skeptics, and most of all, I left that room realizing that if there is one thing in your professional career that you can/should/need to strive for, it’s the delivery of value in every interaction.
That’s a learning that I’ve held on to for several years now, and one that I imagine I’ll have for the rest of my life. That experience and that takeaway also sparked a new habit, one I still stick to to this day. Each day at the end of my day I take out a notepad and I force myself to write down something that I learned that day. Sometimes tactical, most often though, more evergreen. Somedays the learnings are new, somedays they’re reminders of things I had learned long ago. Every time though, they’re humbling because the learning just.doesn’t.stop.
I hope that I’m able to help someone experience what I did in that room a few years ago. To help them realize that the only thing you need to do every day, is provide value to those around you, and the law of reciprocity will take care of everything else.
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