What I Learned From My First Speaking Gig and Trip to San Francisco

first speaking gig

I was recently asked to fly to San Francisco, and speak at a Financial Literacy seminar in collaboration with an all-in-one software that helps with debt settlement, lets you create budgets and track your monthly spending, while motivating you to pay down debt.

This was the first speaking gig I’ve ever done and even though I was really nervous (and feel like I royally messed up the presentation) I’m still proud of myself for doing it.

Working with them showed me just what an amazing company they are, and I know they will be doing great things. Mostly to help people change their lives and their finances with the help of the software.

Here’s some financial lessons and things I learned about myself from my first speaking gig and trip to the Bay Area.

Lessons learned from speaking

I’m not a speaker, I’m a writer

Standing in front of 2 people or 2,000 takes a lot of courage and is very scary, especially if you’re used to being behind a computer, typing on a keyboard. I admire other people (like my dad) who do it for a living, day in and day out. But it’s not for me.

It was a great experience and I’m very thankful I said “Yes” to this opportunity, because I might not have known how much I truly enjoy blogging. Speaking to a room full of people can have a good impact on a smaller audience, but the internet has made it easier to reach and help a much larger audience.

Kevin and I speaking at the Financial Workshop

Educating people about finances brings hope

After the presentation was done, Kevin (the co-founder) held a Q&A session. I was impressed with how many questions we got and the interest people showed in improving their financial situation.

It was very encouraging to myself personally, and it gave me hope that people out there really do want to be educated about money.

Lessons learned from my trip

Saving money is not worth losing your sanity

When I first arrived in San Francisco I stayed in Berkeley so I could be near the financial seminar. I looked online and found a hotel at a decent price that was within walking distance of the seminar. At least I thought it was within walking distance.

Apparently it was within a short bus ride/driving distance because it took about 40 minutes to walk there. And after traveling for 12 hours, endlessly walking through the sketchiest neighborhood, losing electricity in the middle of the night and terrible customer service, I nearly had a mental breakdown.

Using public transportation saves loads of time and money

The only time I ever use public transit is when I go out of town, because Texas is so spread out, we don’t have a lot of transportation options — plus it would take you 5 hours to get to one place.

I was hesitant at first to use the BART system in San Francisco and I almost rented a car. The main reason I didn’t was because renting a car would cost $350 for the 4 days I was there, and taking the subway was only $8 or $10 a day.

I’m SO glad I decided to take the bus and subway because (as you can see) I saved a ton of money and best of all I saved loads of time. Driving around in a busy city like that would have stressed me to the limit and taken hours of commuting. I definitely recommend taking public transit if you visit SF.

I love to travel, but I hate traveling

Discovering new cities and going on new adventures is thrilling and something I truly enjoy. But waking up at 3 am, driving to the airport for 2 hours (gotta love Dallas traffic) and eating airport food, not so much. I enjoy being at the destination, but I don’t always enjoy getting there.

Some photos I took while walking around SF
Some photos I took while walking around SF

I’m the clumsiest person on the planet

After I finally got to the hotel, showered and changed into my business clothes for the seminar, I started walking to location where I planned to meet Kevin. It wasn’t two seconds later that I twisted my ankle on god knows what and sliced my foot open. Blood was gushing out of the bottom of my foot onto my sandals.

When I met up with Kevin we had to find a local Walgreens to buy bandaids and neosporin to clean and bandage my foot. What an awesome first impression… And for the rest of the walking intensive trip, I had to hobble along with my hurt foot.

I’m very out of shape

Everyone in San Fran walks, everywhere, all the time (which was just my luck since I cut my foot on a rock). After one day of walking around I noticed how out of shape I really am and since I have short legs, I was always falling behind everyone and needing to catch up.

Towards the end of the trip I sounded like a little kid: “My feet hurt” “Can we sit down?” “I’m tired”. So I made a promise to myself and I’ve been walking every night since I got home, to build up my stamina and start working out again.

I like working on the go and connecting with new people.

I have absolutely no sense of direction

I’m not exaggerating when I say I have no sense of direction whatsoever. When I was 19 my best friend and I were traveling to my family’s campgrounds in Arkansas (which was only a 3-hour drive away) but we ended up in Broken Bow, Oklahoma and spent over 7 hours driving.

Being in San Fran was no different, except I was getting lost on foot instead of in a car. Thank goodness I didn’t rent a car or I’d still be stuck on the Bay Bridge somewhere. I swear I walked twice as much as I needed to because I kept having to turn around.

San Francisco has the most delicious food!

Pedestrians own the streets and sidewalks

In Texas if you walk across the street during a red light, you’d get mowed over — probably by a huge truck. But in San Francisco cars will stop and wait for you to cross the street, no matter what color the light is.

Cyclists also own the streets and I saw quite a few of them bolt through the intersection, crossing several lanes of traffic, never noticing if the lights were red or green. If people tried to do that here, they would probably get killed.

All the coolest startups are located in the Bay Area

I only had a couple weeks to get all the details for the trip booked, so I missed some opportunities to network with other amazing startups in the area. Besides meeting this company and ReadyForZero, I found out Credit Karma and 2 Minute Finance are in the Bay Area as well.

I’ve connected with all these awesome companies over the past few months and they are definitely some of the coolest startups I’ve encountered.

Next time I visit SF, I’ll have to meet up with them again. And this time I’ll be in shape and bring my walking shoes!

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28 comments

  1. San Francisco is such a great city! Good for you for overcoming something that is uncomfortable for you! BTW I’m like you in that I like traveling except for the getting from point a to point b part. 

  2. Robb says:

    Wow it looks like you had a great trip! Unfortunately I’m still trying to beat the “you can’t put a price on your sanity” into my head, but I’m getting there. 😉 There are a lot of times that I wish public transportation in Austin was better, although Texas cities have so much sprawl it makes it tough to get around. Also the fact it is 100 degrees outside makes me not want to walk anywhere despite the fact most of the stores I shop at are within reasonable walking distance.I have a question about your presentation, you mention credit and debit cards, but why not check cards? I’ve been using one for a while now that is provided by Visa and it is processed like a credit card and has all the fraud protections a credit card does. You can use it to rent cars and hotels – but there is a caveat, they usually will put a hold of a certain amount on there. That said I still have a couple of credit cards that I use basically to pay a couple of recurring payments because I basically have to have a credit score to rent. But I prefer to pay for stuff with cash, if I can’t do that use the check card, and keep the CC as a last resort.
    I’m sorry you don’t like speaking in public, I really enjoy doing that, for some odd reason I find it really energizing – maybe I’m just weird. =P

    • Carrie Smith says:

      You make an excellent point and I definitely agree with you! Kevin actually wrote up the presentation and had final say about the content, and I was just the guest speaker. I use my ATM card like you do, so I can still earn rewards with the same great protection. And yes, you’re weird for liking to speak in public 🙂

      • Robb says:

        I can empathize though because I work in a field that tends to attract a lot of introverts and I frequently was tasked with presenting stuff because it didn’t terrify me. On the other subject, I’ve been thinking about getting a card with Perk Street because they do cash back, as much as I like this card I have now it doesn’t really do much for me – well except save me from myself because I can’t run up a bill – but more and more places seem to be embracing the check card idea.

        • Carrie Smith says:

          I think PerkStreet is definitely worth looking into. Feel free to check out my review (or ask me questions). I use the bank personally, and I really like it. The customer service is amazing and the community is great. I don’t think you’ll be unhappy if you tried it out.

  3. Cat@BudgetBlonde says:

    This sounds like a fun trip girl!! And wow are we the same person because I can barely breathe when people are crowded in a room. However, I think public speaking is pretty fun and I know you’ll get more fabulous opportunities like this! Plus, the more you do it the more you will rock it out! You are hilarious with all the quips about your trip. I am not a huge fan of actually traveling either. Airports are the pits. But actually hanging out in a new place is definitely a good time!
    Best,
    Cat
    aka
    BudgetBlonde

  4. IdaBaker says:

    What great memories you created.  These days, especially with smartphones, using public transit is the best way to see a city, and San Francisco is a leader there. 

    Even though your feet hurt, but I bet you’re happy you stayed on foot.  It’s really the best way to see a city.  More up close and personal!

  5. I also love visiting new places, but hate the actual traveling part. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world though!  After many years of traveling for pleasure, I have learned that saving money on a hotel is rarely worth the inconvenience that usually comes with “budget” places.  Also, I never book with booking sites like Expedia.  Use it for research, but book directly with the hotel.  Hotel webites will amost always have the same rates as Expedia, and if not, call and ask if they will honor that rate. The worst rooms on the property typically go to those who book through third-party booking agents.  Booking directly also provides more flexibility if you need to cancel or change your reservation.

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Thanks for the tip! I didn’t know the worst rooms went to people that use third-party sites like that. But it makes sense and if the hotels will offer a similar price, that sounds like a much better deal. Plus I could probably earn points through a hotel rewards program. Definitely worth looking into!

  6. Cool opportunity!Keep saying Yes to scary opportunities and I’m sure you’ll keep growing personally and professionally. I know public speaking is an area where I can improve. This might be a goal for 2013 for me. 

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Thanks. It took me a good while to work up the courage to say Yes to more things in my life. Believe it or not I used to be a hermit and didn’t even like talking to strangers.

  7. Ahhh I understand. I’d rather write than speak publically. 🙂 But it was a great experience for you and so worth it (it seems.) I would love to go to SF for a few days and explore this city. I’ve heard it is quite expensive.
    Oh and saving on the hotels – lately I decided that I want to save on hotels anymore. I want a good location and a nice room. 🙂

  8. Holly says:

    I love traveling, but hate flying!  Unfortunately, I have had to make my peace with that.

    And I hear you about not having a sense of direction.  I am hopelessly lost most of the time but luckily my better half is amazing at navigating new areas.

    Great job on your speaking gig!

  9. AverageJoe says:

    Great trip details. You’re a great public speaker. Look how well you do on the podcast! I think Planwise is in SF, also. Great city and very enjoyable. But, I’m like you. I can only do crowds for a certain length of time before I need a little solitude. 

    BTW, you must have been trying to drive right past my house on your way to Arkansas!

  10. JordannK says:

    SF sounds great! It also sounds like you’ve learned a lot about yourself which is what saying yes to opportunities is all about after all, isn’t it? 

  11. I’m not afraid to get up and speak in front of a crowd, but I do get nervous. Writing is definitely easier for me. Still, I would love more opportunities to speak about the things I blog about and I recently joined Toastmasters so I could practice and improve my speaking skills. After all, my writing has improved because I write every week, and so will my speaking.

    I have also found it’s not always worth saving money when traveling if it creates a greater inconvenience! Traveling is stressful enough for me and I want to be able to make the process as easy on myself as possible. Plus my time, effort, and energy is worth something to me, too, and I like to avoid spending more self-value than I have saved up! 😉

    Have a grateful day!

    Chrysta

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