Say yes: Why I spoke at CopyCon 2017

And what I learnt at the conference

At the gym I train at, they’ve got one of those sleds that you load with weights and push while running (yeah, I’m hella hardcore. If you’ve met me in person, you’ll be laughing now). And written at the end of it for you to look at while trying to not quit is this: “Change happens at the end of your comfort zone.” It was these words that made me say yes when I was asked if I would speak on my copywriting journey at CopyCon.

presenting at CopyCon

Presenting at CopyCon

I got nerves, they’re multiplying

Once I said yes, I had a complete freak out, wondering what on earth I had agreed to. Questions like, “Who the hell do you think you are? Why do you think anyone is going to be interested in what you have to say? How the hell are you going to stand up in front of 90 people and talk?” ran through my head on repeat.

But, in spite of my fear, I said yes.

Then it came time to write my presentation. The same not-good-enough vibes started up again. I kept seeing comments in the TCCS Facebook community about how much people were looking forward to my talk and all I could think was “I don’t do anything special, what are you people hoping for?”

But, in spite of my doubts, I wrote the presentation. (OK, I had to get someone to look over it for me before I sent it to conference organiser, Kate Toon. Thanks Amanda, you earned that margarita!)


The day before CopyCon, the nerves really hit with a bang. I’d been avoiding thinking about what I was about to do, and suddenly it was very real. My tummy started churning and did not stop until after my talk was over.

I was happy to arrive at the conference with my northern beaches copywriting posse, so at least I didn’t have that “walking into a room full of people I don’t know” feeling. A few people I knew from online interactions came up to introduce themselves and I tried my best to mingle, but the urge to either vomit or faint was mounting!

Happily, my presentation was reasonably early in the day, just after morning tea. I spent the morning tea break pacing to burn off nervous energy and, thanks to a tip from the lovely Melinda Sampson from Click-Winning Content, trying to strike a power-pose to calm my nervous system.

And then, Kate Toon was up on stage introducing me (and warning everyone it was my first speaking gig and I was super nervous – thanks Kate!), and there was nowhere else to hide.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about giving my talk. I know there were some laughs at appropriate moments and I got into my flow a bit. I kept reminding myself of my own key message – “I don’t have to aim for anyone else’s version of success.”

The right message will resonate

relieved post copycon preso

Looking relieved once CopyCon presentation over!

At CopyCon there were some really experienced copywriters and I felt a bit intimidated about speaking. I mean, they weren’t going to want to hear from me about balancing parenting and copywriting – BORING!

But then I realised that there was also a mix of people just starting out, mums with babies younger than mine, people that wanted to feel hope that they can make freelancing work for them too. Those people in the crowd, they were MY audience. They were who I had to connect with. Once I remembered my own advice about knowing your audience and what they needed, writing my talk became much easier.

And you know what the MOST gratifying part of my day was, the thing that made all my angst and anxiety worthwhile? It was a lovely person called Kate (sorry Kate, I don’t remember your last name! If you get in touch, I’ll link to you!) coming up to me in one of the breaks and telling me how much she enjoyed my talk, and how much it gave her hope and inspiration that she’d be able to make freelance copywriting into a sustainable business that worked for her and her family. So, massive thanks to you Kate, for being so lovely and sharing that with me.


What I learnt at CopyCon 2017

So, aside from what I learnt about public speaking and pushing out of my comfort zone, what else did I learn at CopyCon. Gosh, so much! For a comprehensive round-up, I suggest checking out the Twitter feed, especially Emma Fletcher’s posts, and this great blog post from Libby Hakim.

But, here’s some of my key takeaways from the day:

  1. It’s a great time to be a copywriter, with plenty of work to go around
  2. Sometimes what you say no to is just as important as what you say yes to: Both the power of the anti-niche and having the courage to tell clients when they’re wrong
  3. Be brave and be your own cheer squad: Enter awards, make the video, promote yourself without fear
  4. Time is not your enemy: you need to embrace your restrictions and stop letting external forces dictate how you use your time

Some areas that I left inspired to learn more about include information architecture and and Facebook ads. Plus, it’s time to be a grown up and sort out my business finances!

CopyCon action plan

My CopyCon action plan (complete with chicken scratch handwriting!)

Did you go to CopyCon?

What were some of the biggest lessons of the day for you? Let me know in the comments!