5:45 A.M. my alarm clock goes off. Time to get up, flight to Columbus, Ohio is at 7:45 A.M. Luckily this a quick overnight trip, so I did not have to pack much the night before.
Before leaving the house, I take one last look in the mirror to make sure my attire is perfect for my first panel appearance at a large conference. Alright, I am set. Time to call a car.
In June of this year, I sat on a panel on Diversity & Employer Branding with long term partner of my company, FindSpark.
After the panel was complete, a representative from National Urban League asked to exchange cards. Three weeks later I received an email asking if I was available to speak at this years National Urban League Conference.
First thought that comes to mind was to send this to my partner to see if she was available. I had never spoke at a large conference before; she had. The conference this year is in Columbus, OH and the Midwest is part of her territory, so this is a perfect opportunity for her.
I forward her the email.
She responds with, “I think you should do it. It will be great exposure for you”.
I never thought about me doing it, but it did appeal to me.
OK, I accept the invite to speak.
“I would be honored to speak”, is what I said in my reply.
I am confirmed.
8:49 A.M. I land in Columbus. I had already found the closest Target to the airport. Upon landing at the airport, I found a hole in the back seem of my blazer. I can’t walk around with a hole in my jacket. This is my first major conference, I have to be presentable.
9:45 A.M. I pull up to Target.
10:15 A.M. I park in front of Marshall’s
10:23 A.M. I walk into another Target.
OK, I found something.
I think to myself, Angela Rye’s session starts at 11 A.M. and I have to be present. The topic is Black Women Unite: Where the Real Power Lies.
I cannot miss this panel discussion.
11:15 A.M. I am slipping into the back of the session. Tamika Mallory, National Co-Chair for the Women’s March, just finished speaking.
Angela, in her off the shoulder platinum colored jumpsuit and carefully braid cornrows, is introducing Nina Turner.
Former Ohio State Senator and President of Our Revolution began to give what we refer to as a sermon. Nina said to the crowd “My sistas, I need you to come to our own rescue. Stop accepting second place. The lesser of the two evils is no longer acceptable.”
The crowd is roaring with shouts and praises for Nina’s carefully crafted sentences and analogies. She quota Ida B. Wells, Shirley Chisholm, Madam C.J. Walker and even said the line “What have you done for me lately” by Janet Jackson. She was telling us, that as Black women need to learn the power of not waiting. How if we keep hearing the dogs bark at us, we need to keep going.
Listening to her speak magic, power and strength is exactly what I needed to hear before my call time at 12:30 P.M.
12:58 P.M., it is almost go time. I take my seat.
Crowd looks scarce.
The moderator asks a question directed at me.
My light switch flips. Go. Time.
When the attention directed towards me, I turn on. Public speaking is something I am passionate about. Especially around topics of gender or racial diversity, professional development or social justice. I flip a switch and morph into something that I can only describe as special.
1:58 P.M. The final question has been answered and the now crowd is giving us a success clap.
A line starts to form to for some additional last minute questions. People start to ask for my business card.
Excitement. You did it.
On my flight back Ronald Reagan National Airport, I thought how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. That I was the youngest person on this panel of phenomenal women. How I was able to make connections for future speaking opportunities.
I think of my boss. My company. My partner who told me “I think you should do it”.
I am extremely grateful that I am able to carry out my passions every single day and it is considered work. I think back to one of my first post, Finding your Why?. My why is present daily. This makes me work hard to hit goals and be a true partner and leader.
I go back to thinking about the panel discussion.
This experience has fueled my fire to become something greater than I ever expected. Things can only go up from here….