The Conference Kerfuffle: Skills, Recipes and Expertise.

I was initially confused when I got the email, “Congratulations your presentation has been selected for the Toronto Technical Leadership Exchange.” Yippie, I’m going to Toronto. Then I read, “Please work with <name of person I do not know> who will deliver your presentation at the conference.” Whomp, whomp. It sounded like a brilliant idea in theory. Host a local conference without the expense of speaker travel.  Select the highest rated sessions from the Worldwide Conference held earlier in the year. Contact the speakers and get their materials. Have designated local speakers view the videos of the selected content and present at the local conference. 

It didn’t work out that way; vision versus reality. My designated speaker watched the video and said I can’t do this. If you want this presented, you’d better get her here. Yup, I went to Toronto. I was reminded of this recently when trying to differentiate between skills and expertise. We use them interchangeably a lot and it seems like a minor thing to differentiate. Maybe even the dictionary and official meanings don’t differ. As a concept, here is the difference. To present requires the skill of speaking to an audience. No doubt, my designated speaker could speak in front of an audience,  engage them and tell a logical story and not lose the plot. That’s a list of skills, kind of like a recipe. The skills being the recipe and my presentation and notes being  the ingredients that had to be put together.

This is where expertise comes in. He knew he didn’t have the expertise to deliver. Basketball requires the ability to run, jump, play defense and offense and score. You can write a list of the skills required. You can find people with those skills, but none of them are Steph Curry because  what he does takes expertise. I can read a recipe, I can crack eggs and stir, but, that does not mean I can cook or bake. I’ve done epic fails that make the contestants on “Nailed It” look like professionals. You don’t take a foreign language class and expect to master the language in one lesson. While it can be painfully obvious for some things, the logic eludes us at times.

Give your self the space and grace to master something. Hint, if it does not spark passion in you, you’re probably not going to master it. If that is the case, be alright with just being ok. Respect those with mastery, who have honed their craft. It’s not a matter of them documenting what they do. I had a cardiologist who was closing his practice to go teach and do research at one of the top medical schools in the country. I wouldn’t have dared say, well, since you are going, you need to tell me everything you do so I can treat myself. This week observe and consider the differences between skill and expertise.

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