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Submitting An Abstract For A National Conference: 3 Thoughts That Hold You Back

You might be sitting there wondering, “Is this the year?”

That’s what a few of the speakers and poster presenters at the 2016 NANT Conference were thinking last year at this time! They had never spoken at the national level, but had been educating parents, NICU staff and fellow therapists for years, decades even.

Some of them decided to take a leap and submitted to speak or present a poster. After all, they were doing great work that could help other units! And there they were, speaking on stage or in poster sessions to an international audience.

Decisions like this can open doors for you that you can’t even imagine. My speaking career began simply because I said YES to our medical director when asked to present at a regional conference. I was scared to death. I did it anyway. (Which makes it sound easy, but it was not. There was shaking involved. And doubt. And each of the thoughts you see below.)

After all, it was not like me to just say yes. I was not a risk-taker. I was afraid of failing, not knowing enough. Not knowing EVERYTHING. I guess things have changed. I now model imperfect action for a living. #recoveringperfectionist

It’s time to banish the 3 thoughts that keep you from clicking SUBMIT for your abstract:

1. I’M A FRAUD: “No one would want to hear me speak. I’m no expert. I don’t know enough. My inadequacies will be exposed.”

Even though you have over 10 years of experience? Or 25? Katie, who spoke in 2016, was a doctoral student – she walked right through her fear and onto the stage to speak to an international audience. Many participants had been doing this work longer than she’d been alive. She did it anyway.

Consider what you DO know, rather than focusing on what you do not know. And think back on your career and life- have you ever talked yourself out of fear? Nope. You got over your fear by walking straight through it. Again and again.

2. COMPARISON: “My project/research/speaking ability isn’t as compelling as [fill in the blank].”

This is a great version of self-sabotage. It will keep you stuck 100% of the time. [Fill in the blank] might be a fabulous speaker. But there is only one you. [Fill in the blank] couldn’t be you if she tried. Go watch 10 different TED talks and you’ll see what I mean. There is no ONE way to be amazing. Just YOUR way.

“And my abstract probably won’t be accepted because it’s not as good as [fill in the blank].”

Here’s the thing: Maybe it will be accepted, maybe it won’t. But there’s a 100% chance it won’t be if we never see it.

Or my personal favorite:

3. WAITING FOR UTOPIA: “I’ll submit next year, when my life is in order and everything is perfect.”

There is a universal assumption that there will come a time when your calendar is blank and you can finally accomplish all those things you wanted to do someday. Spoiler alert: this never happens.

The people that submit an abstract are often up til 2am finalizing their objectives or working on Saturdays to get it all done. They do not have time, they make time.

Of course there are years that are less ideal to submit, and that’s understandable. It’s imperative to respect your own vision and values and priorities. Just take notice if you hear yourself say ‘this isn’t a good year’ every year.

This is what I know: therapists want to hear from you (regardless of your discipline) if you’re doing great work that benefits babies in the NICU. Research, quality improvement, collaborative efforts to change culture or practice – your contributions help your colleagues reimagine their impact on patients, families, and each other.

There is no one like you on the whole planet. No one can teach us just like you can!

Is this the year?

Click here to submit your work. You’ll be in amazing company.