Big Message... Don't Hold Back!

Long gone are the days when tech conferences were nothing but dry talks on details of the latest technologies. Modern ways of delivering information in an entertaining as well as informative way — such as TED Talks, PechaKucha, and NZ's own Webstock — have set a much higher bar than the snoozefests of old. And attending my first Canterbury Tech Summit this year, I was pleased to find that it pitched itself at that level: the talks were consistently well-prepared and presented, with quality speakers delivering presentations that provoked thought, rather than just thrusting information at us.

If I was to draw a consistent thread through the particular talks I sat in on, it would be “Don’t hold back”. Often the speakers talked about NZ’s place in the world, and things that we can do to play better in the global arena, but it came through in other ways too.

The keynote — and one of my highlights — was delivered by author and management consultant Harold Hillman, who used his rather extraordinary life story as a great illustration of his theme of “authentic” leadership. He talked about the temptation to hold back and hide behind established processes, when in fact this virtually guarantees that you bring nothing new or useful to your role, even though you have probably been selected for it because of your own personal strengths and qualities. His key message was to not silence your own individual voice when you are in a leadership position. You can find an earlier iteration of his talk here, delivered at TEDxTauranga in 2015:

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Lance Wiggs, founding director of Punakaiki Fund, spoke on the process of getting investors to part with their money to fund your business. In what many in the tech sector would regard as a moment of sheer terror, he asked us all to reach out and talk to someone else in the audience — and specifically find someone we didn’t already know! — and try out our elevator/funding pitch. This was a useful exercise, which we iterated throughout the talk as he gave us some helpful hints, but I think the unspoken key point here is that this is exactly what you need to do if you want funding: push yourself to...

pitch your qualities to someone who doesn’t yet know them.

Conferences like CTS will inevitably take a bite out of your precious time, but there is value in attending even just one or two a year. Much more than just topping up your brain with a few facts that could be gleaned from thirty minutes of googling the relevant websites, attending a conference like this can be a chance to pause and take a breath, absorb some thought-provoking viewpoints well-delivered by leaders in their fields, and go back out with just a little more confidence, inspiration, and drive.


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