Yesterday was my last speaking engagement of the year. Yesterday was my last speaking engagement for some time. I’m not giving up speaking on the SEO conference circuit, but I am taking a break. It’s a break that’s much needed.
Since November 2012, I’ve spoken at 11 industry events (SMX East 2012, SEMpdx, PDX Bloggers, SMX Social 2012, SMX West 2013, SwellPath Presents, Emerald Marketing Association, MozCon 2013, SMX East 2013, SemTech Biz 2013, and State of Search 2013). Speaking at all these awesome events has been an incredible experience and I can say, without qualification, that I’ve been able to improve as a presenter in some way every time I’ve stepped in front of an audience. For me, the fact that I even took that step in front of an audience is huge.
I’ve never had an abundance of self-confidence. Until recently, I’ve abhorred public speaking of any kind. More often than not, I end up laughing to myself before and after I present, wondering how I ever got myself into this speaking business. Yet somehow, I’ve come to love it. I love the rush of being in front of 10, 50, 100, 1,000 people and holding their attention (or at least attempting to). I love being able to share information and new ways of thinking that can help people change the way they think or the way they do things. I love studying the art of presenting and I love trying to master the many intricacies of a giving successful talk. I love crafting a slide deck that is simultaneously elegant and insight-rich, that does not detract from the live performance yet still has value after the talk has finished. I’ve learned an incredible amount over the last year and I’m extremely grateful for every opportunity that has been offered up to me.
And nonetheless, I’m don’t have any new engagements on the horizon for the first time since I started speaking at industry events. Furthermore, I don’t have any plans to pitch any new conferences or events in the near future. Would I turn down someone coming to me with an exciting opportunity? Probably not. I’m a sucker for helping people out and, as I’ve said, I love presenting. But it’s time for presenting to take a back seat.
I’m not the kind of speaker who can comfortably throw together a deck the night before an event and nail the presentation to the thunderous applause of the audience. My typical presentation takes about 40-60 hours of work, all told: from brain storming and outlining, to deck design and rehearsal (I intend to write a post one of these days on how I prepare for my talks, but that won’t happen today). My point is that each presentation I give is a significant investment of time, mental bandwidth, and my physical and emotional health. In the weeks before a presentation, I’ll review my and tweak my slide deck countless times, I’ll record myself giving the presentation and listen to it during every spare minute I have, and I’ll have trouble falling asleep because I can’t stop thinking about how it will all play out (positive or negative). However, every time, it’s been worth it and I’ve never prepared for and given a presentation that I wouldn’t prepare for and give all over again.
That said, I just need to step back for a bit. This isn’t a switch I’m flipping today; it’s actually more of a dimmer switch that’s been slowly fading for a few months. Over the summer (after MozCon 2013), I had the amazing opportunity to take a three-week vacation to Europe with my wife. I also took a weeklong sabbatical, if you will, to do nothing but eat raw fruits and vegetables, exercise, and sit in the sun. On top of all that, I also turned thirty, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time. I can honestly say this was one of the best summers of my life and, as a result, I came out of it with a new appreciation for work-life balance. More that than, I feel like I have a new understanding of how detrimental a “life out of balance” can be to my mental, physical, and emotional health.
I also, rather involuntarily, had to go back to basics with my work at SwellPath. Members of my team had to part ways with the company, for various reasons (none overwhelmingly negative), and I feel like I effectively time-traveled back to when I started at the company. Except this time, I have all the knowledge and insight accumulated over three years that I can leverage in order to improve how the day-to-day work is done. I now have the chance familiarize myself with working “in the weeds” and, months later, I’m still redefining processes and reevaluating methodology.
So, to be completely and utterly honest, I’m scaling back on the career side of things. Up until July, I spend at least sixty or seventy hours per week on my SEO career. It wasn’t all billable time: I maybe spent 45-50 hours on a combination of client work, team management, and process evolution. The other ten to twenty hours were working on building my personal brand, the SwellPath brand, blogging, speaking, testing ideas and theories for my own edification, obsessing about industry trends and updates, etc. I also joined the board at SEMpdx as the Events Chair. All of this came at the expense of my personal life and my health. In short, I burnt out. My day-to-day was unsustainable.
Today, I find myself in uncharted territory. I’m trying to find the balance between my career and the “rest” of my life. I’ve been focusing on improving how I do things at SwellPath and practicing what I preach in my presentations. I’ve been working to achieve a better and clearer ROI for my clients. Yet I’ve also been making a concerted effort to take care of myself. I’m eating 10 times better than I did over the last two years. I’m going to the gym again. I can honestly say that after nearly four months of dedicated training and attention to diet, I’m in the best shape of my life.
What this whole “I’m not speaking for a while” thing boils down to is that speaking is the one thing I can remove from my plate without any negative consequences while I figure out how to lead a more balanced and sustainable life. Why am I writing a whole blog post on this? A few reasons:
- For the past few months, the most recent post on here has been a picture of me riding a rooster.
- I like using blogging to organize my thoughts and sort out how I really feel about things.
- I had about a dozen people ask me when my next presentation was while I was at State of Search and I wanted to address that question.
Anyhow, I guess that’s it. I’ll still be attending conferences as often as I can and I’ll be on social media, as always. But if you ever really need to get in touch, you can find me in the SERPs. Happy optimizing.
P.S. While you’re here, you can check out my last deck if you want.