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Next February, at the IIeX Europe conference in Amsterdam, there will be an entire track devoted to brand new speakers – people who have never spoken at a conference before. Zontziry Johnson is one of six mentors helping our new speakers so let’s get to know him a bit better.

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Why did you volunteer to be a mentor for new speakers at IIeX?
I used to teach public speaking skills to scientists and engineers. I love helping people find their speaking style, especially when it comes to speaking about a topic they’re super interested in discussing!

What do you think holds people back from speaking?
We inherently all want to be that perfect TED Talk speaker, and if we can’t achieve that, I think we hesitate to try. It’s a bit like being a parent of a child and being on Pinterest all the time: you tend to feel like you’re not doing enough because you see the flashy stuff posted online. I think this holds true even before TED talks became the new golden standard for public speaking; we’re always nervous about messing up in front of a crowd.

What should our industry do to get more new speakers on stage?
I love the fact we’re doing more with the New Research Speakers Clubs, and I love the fact that more conferences are encouraging new speakers to come and present and participate. I think as more attendees show support for the new speakers, that will round out the whole thing; let’s let the new speakers know we’re excited for them and there to support them as they debut!

What advice do you have for new speakers?
It’s perfectly fine to be human as a public speaker. People know how intimidating it can be to get up in front of any crowd. I used to try opening my talks with jokes, but I’m not a good joke-teller. I can be funny naturally, but it falls flat when I force it. Once I accepted the fact I’m never going to be a stand up comedienne, I was able to find what worked for me as a presenter. It made all the difference in the world to speak as my authentic self.

Final words of wisdom?
Everybody can benefit from a mentor – sometimes it’s assumed mentoring is just for those starting out, the young amongst us. So here’s my first question: why can’t we have “mentoring for everyone”?

Secondly, remote mentoring is underused isn’t it – why? Skype is cool, so what’s holding us back?


Bio: I’m a self-classified geek. My desk is decked out in Star Trek toys, Flash and Captain Cold Legos, Dr Who key chains, and FireFly characters. And today, I’m wearing a Chewbacca tshirt. I love a good laugh, a thoughtful discussion, and learning. I sew, play Euro-style boardgames, dabble in coloring and drawing, and trained as a classical concert pianist (though it’s been a long time since I played in a concert). In short, variety is the spice of my life!


If you’ve never spoken at a conference before, please submit for this track. Choose any topic that touches market research like biometrics, neuroscience, eye-tracking, AI, and IoT or any traditional quant and qual methods.


If you HAVE spoken at a conference before, you can still help. First, you can march right over to the junior researchers in your office and help them fill out a submission form. And second, since junior researchers don’t always have the financial resources for travel expenses, you can support them through a sponsorship. Email anniepettit at gmail dot com to find out how you can help.

Now go submit!