I forced myself out of my comfort zone earlier this week and thoroughly enjoyed it.
On Sunday afternoon I drove the length of the M4 to check in at the Celtic Manor Resort Hotel in ‘lovely’ Newport, ready to spend a couple of days at the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP) annual conference.
On Monday morning I was pleased to screen the documentary I’ve spent the past year creating, Boom! Demographics Are Destiny, to an audience of Financial Planners. They all stayed to the end, nobody booed and the feedback was good.
On Tuesday afternoon I was on a panel, proficiently chaired by Pete Matthew, during a ‘meet the experts’ session talking about marketing and communications in a digital age.
This was all interspersed with attending various presentations, speaking to providers in the exhibition hall and more networking than you can shake a stick at, on the conference floor and in the hotel bar.
It was a busy two days which dragged me firmly out of my comfort zone because, until only a couple of years ago, I suffered from an anxiety disorder called agoraphobia. This made it difficult to spend time in unfamiliar places, particularly in social situations and crowded environments where panic attacks would be brought on by the feeling of being unable to escape from danger.
As you can probably imagine, this was not a particularly fun period in my life.
But I gradually got on top of the problem by cleaning up my diet, becoming a bit of an exercise junky and learning techniques to control the feelings.
The thought of speaking to an audience of my peers to introduce a movie I’ve just made, and then knowing I needed to stay in the room for over an hour watching it with them, was inconceivable until quite recently. Spending a couple of days away from home in a crowded space, occasionally in the spotlight, is still so far out of my comfort zone that I have to occasionally pinch myself as a reminder it is actually happening.
A number of people I met at the conference commented that they rarely see me at industry events, and I was happy to share with them the reasons why that used to be the case.
I’m unlikely to become the most prolific networker the world has ever seen or throw myself into public speaking engagements over the next twelve months, but I do at least feel comfortable enough to get out a little more often and become involved with some of the events which make this profession so great.
I’m already looking forward to returning to the Celtic Manor next October for the next IFP annual conference – and hopefully spending time there without the added pressure of a documentary screening, maybe even getting time to go for a run or visit the gym!