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. Shannon is one of six mentors helping our new speakers so let’s get to know her a bit better.
Why did you volunteer to be a mentor for new speakers at IIeX?
The attendees of the New Research Speakers Club NYC chapter are inspiring. I’ve witnessed many empowering ‘I’m not alone’ a-ha moments since the first session where someone not just sees or hears but believes that there are many in the industry at all levels with some sort of public speaking hang up – including people considered stellar presenters. It’s been great to see the hunger to grow, the happiness in putting egos and fears aside to help each other rise up and the celebrations of victories small and big. If I can help a new speaker – even if just a little – feel more confident, know there’s someone rooting for them in the audience or relax them just before their session by getting them to laugh, it’s a win and something I can share back with the NYC chapter.
Also, I love – and consider it a personal mission – to give back to the communities that have helped me by doing the same for others. I’m pretty sure in another universe I’m a teacher or professor.
What do you think holds people back from speaking?
I think many would say it’s a lack of confidence. But I think it’s more a lack of a champion – someone that helps you understand that your supposed ‘weakness’ could be a strength such as a heavy accent making the speaker memorable or talking softly makes the audience ‘lean in’. A person that helps you discover and learn how to leverage what you are good at like being witty. Someone that encourages you, creates opportunities, teaches, connects you with others, etc…This may be a mentor, boss, friend, multiple people over time or even colleagues at a local New Research Speakers Club!
What should our industry do to get more new speakers on stage?
More senior researchers assuming the role of champions – mentoring, sharing information that crosses their desk on classes, speaking opportunities and initiatives like Annie Pettit’s New Research Speakers Club. Using online video technology for remote mentoring and coaching either 1:1 or several:1 seems like a ripe, untapped opportunity.
Conference organizers getting the word out and creating opportunities. Yes, there’s always a call for speakers but how effective is that in reaching beyond the immediate audience? Could, for example, increased efforts at sending email blasts directly to boutique companies or cross marketing to niche organizations like ADCOLOR (champions diversity and inclusion in creative industries) or the QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) help identify fresh and diverse talent?
More conference opportunities that directly target new speakers like this IIeX Europe special track Greenbook created (thank you!) and the new Young ESOMAR Society (YES) Pitch Competition at this year’s ESOMAR Congress. Or more speaking slots ‘gifted’ from one organization to another’s membership. Could standalone or conference tied mini conferences where the speakers are all new and inexperienced or perhaps even paired with an experienced colleague drive engagement?
Reducing the cost barrier at conferences and class fees. High fees for both attending and speaking are a huge deterrent for independent consultants, boutique firms and start-ups with limited budgets. And junior employees are less likely to get approval due to budget or lack of seniority. Can more price tiers be offered? Or perhaps the expansion of Initiatives that reduce or fully cover registration and/or travel costs like the QRCA’s Global Outreach Scholarship and Young Professionals Grant (Full disclosure: I chair the Young Professionals Grant committee).
Increasing speaker diversity (e.g. women, people of color, GLBT, age, professional background). Seeing a reflection of yourself on stage ‘normalizes’ and inspires but unfortunately still not often seen in our and related industries as indicated by the increasing number of efforts like the New Research Speaker’s Club, Cindy Gallop’s ardent calls for gender parity (and call outs when not) on social media and Gender Avenger’s Tally app.
What advice do you have for new speakers?
Find the intersection between what you’re passionate about at work and/or in life with your presentation topic. Then tie that answer into your talk whether it drives the topic, a theme within or uncovers personal anecdotes to use. It may take some out of the box thinking, but identifying that connection will make you more enthusiastic about your presentation. You’ll feel more confident because you know this subject matter and your passion will shine through when speaking, ‘infecting’ the audience. As author and executive coach Carmine Gallo says: “You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself.” And, chances are, even if you stumble, all anyone will remember is how engaging and informative you were.
Who are you?.
Annie asked each of us to prove that we’re real human beings… 🙂
I’m a Blerd (Black nerd) whose interests fall all over. You can most always find me engaged in science fiction (I can’t count how many times I’ve watched Star Trek, Outer Limits or read Octavia Butler), contemporary magical realism, Elizabethian era historical fiction, international fairy tales, the classics (like Franz Kafka), business books/journals (new books currently piled near my desk: MR, anthropology, story development and pop culture), watching any and all movies from the ‘30s to ‘60s on Turner Classic Movies or going down the rabbit hole reading online about anything that catches my fancy. Throw in the random logic puzzle for fun (or, frustration) with an interior design hobby, shake it up and, ta da!, you get me.
An independent consultant since 2011 with 16 years of experience, I specialize in online qualitative research and brand strategy, leveraging time spent as a comms strategist and researcher at nonprofits, ad and media agencies. My favorite projects are those where I learn something new (whether a topic, consumer type or method) and there’s a challenging problem to solve that requires thinking differently, from leveraging insights from background research (related topics, ‘river jumping’ and methods from other fields) to help define the approach as well as, in the end, storytelling to help the research live on beyond the presentation.
In addition to the New Research Speakers’ Club, I chair the QRCA’s Young Professionals Grant Committee as well as volunteer as a brand strategist for the Taproot Foundation and tutor at the East Harlem Tutorial Program.
And my mother thought I was going to be a professional violinist!
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!