Shine in Vancouver: Speaking With a Mission … and on Zero Sleep

by | HPC News

​In September, I had the unique opportunity to speak at Shine Bootcamp in Vancouver.

Shine is an organization dedicated to getting more women speaking on the stage at technology and business conferences — and their mission was a living, breathing thing that weekend.

Women from all over the globe packed the room to cheer each other on and take their turn on stage.

Conference scouts, Shine mentors, ardent supporters, and representatives from sponsoring companies including Unbounce, Copy Hackers, and Oki Doki were tucked in among the crowd.

The room was full to the brim with good energy and bright ideas.

As I stepped on stage at 11:10 that morning, I felt excited.

And I should have been a nervous wreck.

You see, the talk I was about to give was only a few hours old.

The story was painful to live through — but now, in retrospect, it’s a fun one to tell.

Apparently Preparation Is Not Always the Key to Success

Pretty much the instant you meet me, you can tell I’m what they call a “Type A” personality. Spend five minutes in my presence and you’ll know what an organized, deadline-driven planner I am. So when I my application to become a Shine speaker was accepted in mid-August, you know I got to work right away crafting my talk.

When I flew out to Vancouver at the end of September, my content was perfected, my slide deck was professionally designed (and gorgeous!), and I had the entire talk memorized so my nerves couldn’t possibly get the best of me on stage.

Looking out over plane wing above Vancouver

Flying into Vancouver

Jessica at Shine Bootcamp welcome reception

Me feeling confident at the welcome reception, the night before the workshopping began

But you know what they say about the best laid plans …

Part of the Shine experience is getting feedback from a professional speaking mentor the day before the Sunday conference event. Each mentor was assigned three speakers to coach, and as a group we were to practice our talks and polish them up during two workshopping sessions that Saturday.

I was prepared to make a few changes to my talk.

I was NOT prepared for the rather vague feedback I received during our working sessions that day.

And I was NOT prepared when my assigned mentor — at 4:30 in the afternoon — asked me a question that caused me to doubt my entire presentation: “Why should anyone care about this?”

By that point, I was so burned out on my talk, I didn’t even care about it.

​I knew I had to scrap my talk and start from scratch.

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The Adventure Begins

I left the event headquarters absolutely exhausted, frustrated, a little bit angry … and on a mission.

Back at my hotel room, waiting for my room service to arrive, I began getting my gear out of my backpack. I pulled out my laptop, set it on the desk … and quickly realized I had left my power cord back at the event headquarters.

My laptop was down to 15% power.

There was absolutely no way I would be able to rebuild my talk that night without a power cord.

I called one of the event organizers in a panic. She didn’t have keys to get me back in the building, but she assured me she’d call the other organizers and try to find someone who could help.

A half hour later, I got a text message: “No one is picking up. Can you go buy a new power cord?”

Just then, my room service arrived. I asked the man who delivered it if he knew of any electronics stores around the hotel. Bless him — he knew of two.

(Shout out to the AMAZING employees of the Delta Hotel in downtown Vancouver!)

So after shoving the food down as quickly as possible, I set out on foot. In downtown Vancouver. At night. By myself.

The Quest for Power

I walked a few blocks to the first store the man had told me about — London Drugs. Interestingly, the basement was one large electronics store. I found an employee and asked him for help locating an HP laptop charger with a USB-C connection.

No dice. They only carried chargers for Apple products.

Defeated, but not hopeless, I walked a few more blocks up to Best Buy. If anyone would have an HP laptop charger, it would be Best Buy!

I walked back to the computer section and found two employees standing by. I told them my dilemma.

“Sorry, ma’am, we don’t carry HP laptop chargers.”

My heart dropped into my stomach.

I looked over at the laptop display table and immediately spotted the very same laptop model that I owned. “But that’s my laptop right there! You don’t have any chargers for it?”

“Well, let’s see if we can find a third-party charger that might work,” one of the men said.

The two employees set off on the hunt.

Ten minutes later, one of the men came back to me. “We don’t have anything that will work, but we do have that HP power cord at our Cambie location. You just need to go to the train, get off two stops up, then walk across the bridge … “

I interrupted him, feeling absolutely desperate now. “I’m on foot. It’s nighttime. I’m not from here. There is no way I’m doing that — and I have to have a power cord tonight. I have to speak at a conference tomorrow, and I have to completely redo the PowerPoint deck before morning. Please. You have got to help me.”

In that moment, I actually considered pulling out my credit card and buying a new laptop (hooray for cloud technology!).

“Well, I’ll look in the warehouse — but I’ll go ahead and reserve the power cord at the Cambie store for you, just in case,” the man said, genuinely trying to be helpful in my time of absolute panic.

As he was typing the order into his computer there at Best Buy, the second man walked up with two small boxes in his hands.

A huge grin on his face, he shoved the boxes toward me. “Here you go!”

I asked him what I was looking at.

“These are Apple parts, but if you put them together, they should charge your HP laptop.”

The man had rigged an HP laptop charger out of Apple parts.

I swear, angels were singing above my head in that moment.

I jumped up and down and yelled “Thank you! You saved my life! You are my hero!”

I’m not much of a crier, but I came pretty darn close to sobbing on that man’s shoulder.

I bought the parts and all but ran back to my hotel room.

Time to Get Down to Business

It was 8:30 at night when I plugged my laptop in, opened up a fresh PowerPoint deck, and started rewriting my talk.

This time, I let that fateful question guide me: Why should anyone care about this topic?

With every word I put on the page, I thought of that question.

Yes, I wanted to solve a problem for the audience, give them real-world examples to illustrate the solutions, and ensure everyone walked away with actionable takeaways. Same goals I had for the first version of the presentation.

But this time, the most important thing to me as I was crafting this brand-new talk was why they should care.

By 3:30am, I had rewritten the talk, rebuilt the deck, and memorized enough that I knew I wouldn’t forget any major points up on stage.

I slept for three hours.

At 6:30am, I was up again to get ready for the conference.

At 8:30am, I was in the breakout room with my mentor and two teammates, practicing my presentation one final time.

At 11am, the Shine team put a mic on me.

And at 11:10am, I walked up on stage and did this …


YouTube video


Sometimes We Shine Best When We’ve Been Put Through a Tumbler

This was one of the most intense weekends of my entire life.

But it was also one of the most important.

First, because now I know I can literally craft a talk in one night and deliver it flawlessly the next day. How many people can say they know that about themselves? My speaking confidence went through the roof that weekend.

Second and finally, people really responded to my talk. I knew what I was saying was important — I’ve seen these things work to earn my clients hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales — but seeing eyes light up, seeing people taking notes, I knew it was helping people in the audience right then and there.

Witnessing the immediate responses like that was inspiring. I knew I had to keep speaking about my approaches and methodologies for content writing.

So would I speak at this event again? Absolutely. But I’m bringing two power cords next time.

Book Jessica to speak at your next event or meeting.