On How To Survive Conferences And Not Get Tripped Up By A Word

At a conference earlier this week, I had to get up and share my views on our ‘company culture’ which inevitably led to the usage of the word ‘diva’.  Well because we have our fair share of divas… and martyrs in my industry. Who doesn’t?

So this post is really about that word – diva – but it is also a short ‘how to’ post on surviving conferences (we call them camps in our industry) that go on for days.

Tip #1

Play games.  For example:  I play a game where I count how many times Steve gets to use much-used and therefore stale expressions like ‘from the ground up’ or ‘yesterday’s weather’.


How many times Sally decides to abbreviate everything for the sake of clarity confusion like ‘so in XPSPR we noted that PRV didn’t happen in time for XGT to process the order’

I have a small notebook dedicated to abbreviations.  Most of which I am still stumbling through.  Sally you see, is a far superior being in every way and I’m afraid if I don’t get to understand at least 20% of what she is saying, my bosses will soon realize they made a mistake hiring me.

Tip #2

Do drink at the company dinners, if so inclined, but not too much. No one wants to hear how you’re ‘hungover’ during your ‘showcase’ event or presentation.

Tip #3

Don’t use a word during your own presentation or talk that you know always trips you up, leaving you red-faced because everyone knows ‘diva’ rhymes with ‘geezer’ but for some reason you pronounce as ‘diver’ because your neurons don’t fire as they should …and then blame your flawed tongue on the mojitos from the night before.

Do you have a word that continually trips you up, no matter how many times you practice saying it in front of the mirror?


25 thoughts on “On How To Survive Conferences And Not Get Tripped Up By A Word

  1. Perhaps someone should point out to Sally that acronyms and abbreviations went out in the early noughties as we all leaned to be inclusive 🙂 I once asked a government official what the acronym she repeatedly used stood for and she didn’t know. I wasn’t very popular with her, so I don’t encourage anyone else to do that 🙂 I hope the diva mispronunciation wasn’t a personal story. The first time I was abruptly thrown into the waters of public speaking, with no warning mind, was as a young teacher when I suddenly didn’t even remember what my own name was let alone anything else. That was a disaster!

    • Sadly the diva story is very personal and very real, Pauline. Names of course in my post have been changed for legal and job security reasons 😀 LOVE your story about asking the govt official what the acronym stood for and she didn’t know 😀

  2. One thing I don’t miss (in retirement) are the 2 day budget meetings. I was only responsible for a small piece of it but I had to sit through two days much of which included discussions on wording (should or shall and that sort). I used to take frequent bathroom breaks that included a trip around the outside of the building just for sanity. Even the lunch sucked.

    • The weird thing with me is that instead of getting better at ‘public speaking’ or presentations I have ‘worsened’ as I have got older…so much for confidence coming with age 😉

  3. Great article. After retirement, I’m doing some subbing and training of newbies, but I have avoided meetings and most certainly conferences. —- I have trouble pronouncing a name of a town near by “Gualala” I can’t seem to stop the la la las. Should be Wa-la-la. The other one is Port Hueneme, I get totally tangled like I’ve developed a stutter. Wah-nee-me. Thanks for sharing your struggles. Ha! – Lynn

    • Glad you enjoyed this post Lynn 🙂 Oh boy can I relate to your trouble with pronouncing ‘names of towns’ ! We have many weird tongue twisting towns up here 😀

  4. Ooh, I used to hate having to do presentations. Until I had to wear spectacles, oddly, and then there seemed to be this tiny barrier between me and the audience. For some reason, this little addition of some simple face-furniture gave me the confidence I needed. The word I have trouble with is CONTROVERSY – where to put the stress?
    And Yolanda – I must tell you – for some reason your posts are not showing up in my reader – I’ve chased you back here via Jill’s blog, who incidentally is also missing from my reader. I will have to check in manually every now and then I think until the fault rectifies itself – so apologies for getting here late.

    • I should wear my spectacles more often then! great tip! Jenny, thanks for bringing this to my attention. Very odd as all wordpress.com blogs should show on ‘reader’ immediately on posting…I’ll try to figure it out. No need to apologize for being ‘late’ I am so overwhelmed with work at the mo’ that I haven’t been able to keep up with my fav bloggers (like yourself) but I hope to catch up this weekend. I’m so riddled with guilt I may yet publish an ‘apology’ 😀 Yes ‘controversy’ is tricky and there are so many words like that, where you’re not sure where to put the stress; place names, people’s names etc

  5. I am not sure why my reader doesn’t get people’s posts on a regular basis, in a timely manner. I am not sure how to ‘reset’ my Reader, either. (I added to Jenny’s complaint above…)
    As far as speaking in public settings, work places are the hardest. I have spoken as a President of an organization, no problem. For a fundraiser, again felt comfortable. I could also give all kinds of speeches with Power Point, while taking graduate courses. (No, I didn’t achieve my Master’s…)
    I had to tell you, although not on the same level of embarrassment as your diva mistake but mine was in 6th grade. I was giving a book report on the Titanic, complete with a huge poster with many details, since I love drawing. I used repeatedly, hearing snickers from the students but the teacher not stopping me, the word “fuction” instead of “suction.” I was talking about how it sunk due to the suction and weight of the boat, then how it increased in speed going under the surface of the water. I pronounced it like the f-word with ‘shun’ sound after. Later, after the report was completely over, one of my friends told me what I had substituted. I don’t know other than there is a real word, “function” which could have made me confused. I didn’t read my notes, was talking from my memory (or mistaken memory.) So sorry about how you did this stumbling in your speech, but surely no one is focused on this one tiny part of a lovely speech from a special person: YOU!

    • Hi there Robin 🙂 thank you for sharing your story. I can totally understand how you confused that word. We have a friend whose daughter could not say the word ‘duck’ as a toddler and would call them f—s. Funny and disturbing at the same time. My sister is dyslexic and often ‘confuses’ words and over the years has created her own ‘lingo’ which we’ve adopted in the family. I promise I will get to read your lovely posts soon Robin – I have been inundated at work and have been burning the midnight oil, so to speak. Stay well 🙂

      • No need for worrying, I am a big late arrival to posts and leave messages not sure people read…. I just want them to know they are on my mind. Hope work gets better and thanks for the little daughter of a friend’s story, along with your sister’s story. My oldest daughter tends to need help with dictionaries and phone books. Hers is usually a spelling dyslexia, if this is possible? Stay well and sending you hugs, Robin

  6. LOL, I like #2! I dislike company cultures and rituals very much. And the “language” is appalling. A word I can’t pronounce. Oh man, probably everything. I always forget how to pronounce things.

    • Apologies for the late reply Luanne – it’s been one of those months! LOL on how you forget to pronounce things! I can totally relate, I seem to be suffering from ‘brain freeze’.

  7. Hi Yolanda,
    I hadn’t seen a post from you, so I was worried and popped over. I never got this post in my reader, so I apologize for the late response.
    Ugh! I hate public speaking of any kind. I’m great one on one, but throw in a couple more people and I’m out of my comfort zone. A word that always twist my tongue…rural. I guess it’s those “r’s.”

    • Hi there Jill 🙂 no worries. I have had a few followers say they are not getting my posts but I have been inundated with work so haven’t posted regularly…I have yet to catch up with your posts Jill – apologies! I hope you have an awesome week 🙂

  8. Hi Yolanda! Just adding my name to the list of those who didn’t see a post from you in a while and came to check in!
    For my part, years of teaching and academic conferences have cured me of most of my public speaking hangups but I do remember preparing to give my first ever academic paper and feeling the kind of excitement that has to be diluted with a little bit of terror to make it digestible.
    My husband, or boyfriend at the time, set up his apartment like the conference venue with a mock podium for me and anything at all that could be anthropomorphized lined up in rows staring expectantly at me. For my first practice run, my husband, who had been helping me in the editing stages of the paper and who knew that the phrase ‘mother figures’ was used repeatedly, joking warned me not to trip up and say ‘mother f&^kers’ instead. As he well knew, I’d been raised to think of the use of profanity as a mark of absolute failure so phrases like that weren’t really part of my vocabulary, even in moments of extreme stress. His ‘suggestion’ was intended to have the dual purpose of shocking me out of my nervousness and making me laugh at the very idea that I’d ever say anything like that aloud, let alone in front of an audience.
    Oh, the dangerous power of suggestion! Naturally, for each of my 12 trial runs, I replaced ‘mother figures’ with the alternative at least once, and sometimes without even realising it. The soft toys and sweeping brushes in my audience had never been cursed at so much! I’m sure that, miles away, my father had a headache and didn’t even know why. And I had a whole new fear now!
    I still have the draft of my paper which I used on the day of the conference. It has each ‘mother figure’ circled in red and highlighted so that every time my eye caught on those words I was to pinch the inside of my upper arm and the pain would serve as warning. I’m nearly sure I didn’t mess up on the day. There was no loud gasp during my session, nobody seemed to be looking at me strangely after my paper and no-one asked any Freudian questions in the QandA that might have made a strange kind of sense if I’d made my unfortunate substitution. But it’s not as if I could check in with anyone by casually asking ‘Hey, did you notice if I just stood in front of a large crowd of strangers and cursed at them?’
    So nowadays I’m happy to sit in meetings and conferences waiting for the occasion when someone else might turn the air blue. It makes me quite the attentive listener!

    • Glad to see you here Em! LOL! I’m afraid if my husband had gone to the same efforts I would have definitely let the curse word slip! I have been and continue to be very busy with work (day job that is turning into a 24hr job) so have not been blogging as frequently as I want to and have not had a chance to visit your blog or others 😦 am hoping to catch up this weekend. Happy Easter!

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