Do something that scares you – My BrightonSEO experience

11 min read by Oli Hearsum 6 Oct 2021

Have you ever wanted to accomplish something in your personal or professional life? Something that you thought was beyond you, with that imposter syndrome striking you down?

Goal-setting has long been an inherent way of life at StrategiQ. Every 3 months, we take a breather, review how we’re performing as a company as well as reviewing how we’re performing against our own hopes and aspirations. As part of this, we write down our goals for the next quarter, which tie in with our 12 month goals and, ultimately, our 5 year professional and personal goals. Historically, we would then receive our post-it notes from the last quarter, to open in front of each other, to celebrate what we’ve achieved.

One that I scribbled down this year was to speak at Brighton SEO and one that I’m constantly reminded of in my Performance Plan. Ever since I’ve been in the industry (just over 8 years), I’ve wanted to speak at Brighton SEO – this has long been an aspiration of mine. 

Taking the plunge

One lunchtime in August, I took the plunge and submitted my application, with an overwhelming sense that I would be unsuccessful. To my astonishment, Brighton SEO founder, Kelvin Newman, accepted me within 24 hours and now the nerves began to set in.

First thing to do, celebrate? Panic? Go into a state of denial? I did none of the above, I got straight on the phone to fellow StrategiQ SEO, Levi, to encourage her to follow suit. It’s less daunting when you rope a friend in, right? She, obviously, (though much to her surprise) got accepted straight away and we were in this together. Safe to say she wasn’t best pleased with me as she now also had a huge career goal to tick off, but quite a bit earlier than she’d expected to be doing it.

Oli’s announcement post – 

The lead up to the event was riddled with nerves, tinkering with slides and self-doubt. Is this of value to anyone? Am I telling people anything they don’t know already? This was accentuated when I discovered, via industry friends who had received a copy of the schedule, that Auditorium 1 was the 3000 capacity main stage.

Some last minute formatting of slides from StrategiQ Co-Director, James, and countless outtakes, I submitted my online recording. Such was my nerves, despite having an audience of ZERO at the time, I unknowingly (and fairly aggressively) thudded the arrow keys on my PC to skip slides. Back to the start we go.

Levi dealt with her nerves in a slightly different way – by pretending nothing was happening at all and doing everything last minute, including her recording (one and done for her recording – what a pro). We’re not sure who’s method was better…

The Dress Rehearsal

Being able to do a run-through in front of a safe audience at our company Strategy Days gave me the confidence ahead of the real thing the next day. Despite issues with the clicker, I received a number of lovely comments which were ringing in my ears during the journey down to Brighton.

Conversely, Levi decided to save it for the main event (you’re braver than me).

The night before

Filled with pre-match sniffles, a delicious takeaway burger and watching James endure his first Gogglebox episode (watching someone watch people watching TV), I was feeling good.

the hangover math GIF

The run-through

Being a serial overthinker, I was thinking of everything that could go wrong. What if the clicker is on a delay, what if I take a Madonna-style tumble off the stage, where do I walk while on the stage?

Luckily, James and I were able to get on stage, test the clicker and do a quick run-through. It’s safe to say that it was by far my poorest run-through to date and reminiscent of the hour’s practice before my driving test, I’d forgotten how to speak / drive!

Levi was also able to locate her room, jump up there and test out her slides before the main event. It was a good job she did though, there was almost a BrightonSEO talk with no GIFs (the horror)…

The hour before

I can’t speak highly enough of fellow speakers; Chris Byrne and Dateme Tubotamuno. All being relatively inexperienced speakers, we were constantly reassuring and supporting each other (something I love about the SEO industry as a whole). Despite this, I was still pacing around like a lunatic.

Levi enjoyed a coffee and a chat trying to forget what was about to happen an hour before hers. Apparently, pretending you’re not nervous does work somewhat?

The moment

The waiting was over, Chris had finished his session. As Brighton SEO founder, Kelvin, intro’d me to the audience, my number one aim was to navigate those pesky stairs.

The session itself went quite quickly, with the intimidating large countdown clock not distracting my flow. I caught a few friendly faces in the audience throughout my talk, which was a huge help (especially as they were laughing in all the right places).

Levi’s talk followed an insightful session by David Whatley, which gave her confidence having a warmed up crowd of Local SEO fans. With only two steps to navigate (lucky) she strode on stage and cracked on as if she’d done it a million times before. 

The relief

My initial reaction was pure relief. I’d tortured myself about this for the last few weeks and the 4.5 hours sleep the night before had begun to catch up with me.

Levi didn’t really have time to feel relieved…

The fame

While the initial feedback to my talk was really nice, the reaction to Levi’s was on another level. Hearing mutterings of ‘we need to speak to her straight after’ and following a detailed Q&A session, Levi was mobbed for selfies with adoring audience members.

Did I ever think I could? Not really.

From going with Ruth Everett, 2.5 years ago for my first Brighton SEO experience and being starstruck walking past John Mueller, to now being on the stage, it’s been some journey.

While looking on in awe to people like Ruth who have spoken at conferences, I never really thought that I would be able to do it. 

But now we can finally tick this off!

What it meant to us…

Quote from me

“It was a great experience which highlighted how grateful I am to have such a supportive network around me to celebrate each other’s successes. To anyone that doubts whether they can do it, if I can, genuinely anyone can.”

Quote from Levi 

“I’ve learned from this whole experience that the career goals you set aren’t anywhere near as far away as you think, if you genuinely care about getting there. Taking baby steps like speaking at super small online events or just pitching into a conversation are bigger steps than you think towards achieving big things. You can always do more than you think you can.  It also helps to have a colleague to push you in that direction and be able to do it in a much scarier situation to prove you can too.”

As highlighted in the dominos part of our Strategy Day session, knocking over that first domino can really have huge ripple effects both in our personal and professional lives.

Check out our slides

You’ve heard all about the preparation and delivery but if you’d like to view the contents, you can find a link to both of our presentations below;

My Slides –

Levi’s Slides 

Final thoughts

One kind LinkedIn connection commented that their goal was to be on the main stage at BrightonSEO in 2025. My reaction to that would be ‘why not 2023?’ or, even better, what about the spring event? Doing something that scares you, by its very nature, is petrifying but the feeling after was incredible. Sharing that with supportive friends and colleagues is something that will live long in my memory and is a huge career milestone for me.

But, we don’t rest on our laurels and just stop there, I knew to expect a response like the below from Andy.

If you have goals you want to achieve this time next year but just need the push, then join our growing team today. Check out our vacancies here!

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