For the second year in a row, I was excited to have the opportunity to attend The Collaborative conference in Boston, Mass. The Collaborative is a three-day experience that connects organizations in the social sector to share breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems.
There was one similarity, and ultimately difference, between this year and last that stood out to me as I checked in for my first day of collaborative learning: I was nervous.
Last year, my nerves mostly stemmed from Blood:Water being nominated for a Classy Award, the culmination ceremony of The Collaborative that celebrates 100 organizations with the most innovative solutions in the social sector. Fortunately, Blood:Water’s co-founder and director of operations, Aaron Sands, joined me for the conference and awards in 2016. He is one of the most steadfast personalities I have ever come across, and having him around made me feel more confident. Plus, I knew that if a speech needed to be made, Aaron would step up. Although we didn’t win one of the 10 awards given that night, it was an honor to be nominated among the incredible winning programs.
This year, I not only checked in as the sole representative of Blood:Water, but my name badge was sporting a new title; where “attendee” had been last year, “speaker” was in its place. Classy, our online fundraising platform and the conference’s host, invited me to lead a client session on email marketing alongside one of their top-notch team members. I was honored and, of course, accepted the opportunity to speak at a conference for the first time in my career. However, the nerves came pretty hard and fast as soon as I stepped into the first session at The Collaborative. It was something I expected and did my best to prepare for, but still somehow took me by surprise.
Our presentation was scheduled on the final day of The Collaborative, the morning before the Classy Awards, so I was worried my anxiety would grow even more as time passed. However, as I moved through day one and two of the conference, I noticed something very different from last year: the more organizations I connected with and sessions I attended, the more my nerves began to dissipate. I was constantly learning and being inspired by the people I met and heard from, who eagerly shared their lessons learned and successful moments as world changers. I began gaining confidence through the passion of others.
It was an honor to represent Blood:Water and speak to a room full of people from all levels of the social sector who had first shared with me their own expertise. Although my nerves weren’t completely gone (I’m human!), it was a highlight of my career, and one that I will never forget!
As I completed my Collaborative journey at the 2017 Classy Awards ceremony, I couldn’t help but feel so blessed to be a Blood:Water staff member and be included in a workforce that takes responsibility and intentional, innovative action in the world’s many crises. Thanks for the inspiration on so many different levels, Classy, and I’m looking forward to round three next year!