Is Speaking at a Conference Worth Your Time? 3 bbcon Speakers Weigh In | npENGAGE

Is Speaking at a Conference Worth Your Time? 3 bbcon Speakers Weigh In

By on Nov 18, 2019


bbcon, professional development

Speaking at a conference might be outside your comfort zone… or maybe downright scary. Not to mention it takes time to prepare, and it isn’t mission critical. So, is it worth it?

Anytime you can share your knowledge with peers, it is a win – for you, your organization, and the social good community. The lessons and ideas you share can help your career and amplify your impact. Here’s what three bbcon 2019 speakers have to say about their experience:

Liz Smith, manager of annual giving at Cincinnati Children’s says, “I always thought I needed something ground-breaking to say in order to be a presenter. Or I had to be an expert. Over the last year, I realized sharing something different that our team was proud of helps others too. Being willing to share what worked for us while being open to what others are doing can be valuable. I would encourage other attendees to think about it in the same way. I enjoy hearing these kinds of presentations in addition to what the experts say.”

Speakers play a critical role in facilitating and advancing dialogues in an industry. The best part is that, at a good conference, it isn’t just the audience who is learning.

“What I valued most about the experience as a speaker was presenting to an engaged audience in a climate of collaboration. I was able to share some specific tactics and these were generally well received, but the neither session nor discussions following the conversation ever felt like a monologue. There was engagement, kudos and thought sharing on the ideas we presented but moreover people stayed behind the session to share their own ways of solving similar problems,” explains Jon Collins, CAE, Associate Director, Events and Partnerships for Parkinson Canada.

The connection that you gain with your audience is invaluable. When you share new or important information in a presentation, people will naturally want to connect with you. Together, you can explore the subject in greater depth and meet people you may not have otherwise. If you’re shy, it is a great way to connect with people during breaks or in the expo hall. Plus, you now have a group of people you can share ideas with long after the conference is over.

Follow Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions on LinkedIn for additional idea sharing

There are also obvious benefits for your personal brand. You are making impressions and connections that could lead to your next position. It could also lead to consulting work or a place on the speaker circuit. At the very least, it will help to solidify your current role by building credibility.

“It’s great to tell your board of directors and/or people you report to that you were selected to speak at a national conference with over 3,000 people in attendance. Makes them sit up and take notice,” says Angela Gill, Executive Director, Major Hospital Foundation. “Besides, it’s fun and you feel special being noted as an expert.”

One of the most obvious benefits of being a conference presenter is that most conferences offer a discounted rate to industry speakers. It is great way to attend some of the best conferences without spending your small (or non-existent) professional development budget.

That brings us back to the original question – is presenting at a conference worth it?

There are certainly a lot of compelling reasons to give it a try. Each of these bbcon 2019 speakers found value in a different way. They also picked a great event to be a conference presenter… in its 20th year, bbcon is a large, well-respected conference that fosters great networking and sharing.

So, just give it a try. When the bbcon call for presenters is released, submit a session you think would benefit your peers. Don’t give up! If your session is not accepted, take the opportunity to send your session idea to a blog in the industry. That could lead to becoming a regular contributor, and a great stepping stone to becoming a conference presenter!

Interested in speaking at bbcon 2020? Click here to learn more!


Melissa Whetzel helps healthcare organizations raise more money and grow their impact. As the content marketing manager for Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions, Melissa generates interest, tells stories, and serves healthcare organizations the information they need to make a difference. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Melissa spent 15 years managing all aspects of marketing and communications for nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies. She is an accomplished presenter, has served on several nonprofit boards, and is passionate about helping good take over.

Comments (13)

  • Julie Baker says:

    Great read. Yes networking, speaking and talking with others is awesome as there is so much to learn and teach with each others.

  • Sunshine Watson says:

    Speaking at BBCON this year was well worth the effort of going outside my comfort zone. It was time to give back after several years of benefiting from other community members sharing their knowledge at BBCON.

  • Sarah Kuenle says:

    Speaking at a conference is something I have been considering lately. Thanks for the helpful information.

    • Melissa Whetzel says:

      Do it! It is an incredible way to spark conversation with peers you might never speak with otherwise!

  • Alicia Barevich says:

    I think it would be really fun (though nerve-wracking) to speak at a conference!

    • Melissa Whetzel says:

      Definitely try it! Think about what your organization does well – or differently – and craft a presentation around that.

  • KaLeigh says:

    Speaking at bbcon with Angela was such an amazing experience. I completely agree with Liz’s point – you don’t have to be top of the field in something, but your experience is still valuable.

    • Melissa Whetzel says:

      KaLeigh, we loved your presentation! It is so helpful for organizations to get ideas from each other.

  • Claudia says:

    I spoke at my first conference this year. It was a great networking event and made my organizations leadership take notice. A notable moment in my career for sure.

    • Melissa Whetzel says:

      Great to hear! Maybe you can speak at bbcon next year?! The call for speakers opens January 21!

  • Kim Rich says:

    I always get more out of speaking than just the time, effort and stress that may go into it. I have no issue presenting where my org’s pain points or obstacles are as it helps others understand they are not alone if/when they are struggling. Being real and open is key. And I have walked away with solutions, ideas and friends.

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