What I Learned Speaking at WordCamp
I did it!
This year marks the third spring I’ve attended the oh so fun Atlanta WordCamp and this time I was also a speaker.
In 2015, I’d just launched my very first WordPress website. I enjoyed working with the platform, but little did I know how welcoming the community would be! Beyond the exhilarating feeling of the conference itself, I couldn’t believe all of the helpful tips and information that was available for a nominal fee. The total price for the weekend was only $40; the meals alone were worth that. I didn’t have a plan for the sessions I wanted to attend. I just went to whatever sounded interesting and enjoyed every. single. one.
In 2016, once I realized the amazing power of WordPress to help organizations bring their missions to life online, I was more intentional about the sessions I would attend, which were business focused. Once the weekend was over and my notebook was full, I sorted through my notes and considered how I could apply what I’d learned. This helped to streamline my processes and gave me more time to get to know my clients and immerse myself in the design work.
This year I was happy to give back to this generous community by presenting a design focused topic: Typography: The Backbone of Your Website Design.
Judi Knight, whom I’ve nicknamed the Godmother of WordPress in Atlanta, helped start this event four years ago. She used to host a WordPress Meetup I attended several times and I always wanted to work with her. This year I had the opportunity! She taught The WordPress Web Designer Mastery Course and seven of us were chosen to be in her class. Three of us spoke at the WordPress conference and launched our new websites before the weekend was over. Here is photo of everyone from the class who attended the conference.
Judi called WordCamp our “coming out party.” I have to admit…it did feel like a party since we worked hard to prepare and it was finally here. You can imagine my shock when I found out my presentation was scheduled for the Ballroom! It was my first time speaking in front of a group this large, and boy was I nervous. But once I started, I was in the groove and can’t wait to do it again.
Planning to speak at an event?
If you are considering speaking for the first time, here are four tips:
- It will probably take 20 times longer than you expect to prepare. If you are an expert in one area, it may take several revisions to get the info into a language that is consumable by many audiences. Getting my ideas on paper was more tedious than I expected. But eventually I had an outline which reminded me which order my slides were in. Knowing that the outline would keep me on track, I was able to speak about my ideas in a much more casual and less rehearsed way.Who knew I’d end up talking about decorating sugar cookies?
- Take time off before and after. Having projects or deadlines during the week before or after may equal not having enough sleep. I learned this the hard way. If you can, try to cushion your speaking engagement with a day or two on either side. Before the event, for practice. After the event, for a manicure or massage. You deserve one! (I’m still working on making mine happen.)
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. This event is called WordCamp — yes, Camp. This is a fun time to share and learn from each other. Which is quite refreshing. Present your topic in a professional manner, but don’t take yourself too seriously, it’s not going to be perfect. I once heard that if 80% goes according to the plan, that’s pretty darn good. That’s 80%, not 100%! I know it’s hard, but we have to remember that we’re humans and every human makes mistakes sometimes. Not knowing the answers is ok too. I literally told someone during Q+A that I didn’t know what he was talking about. I was ok with that. Once he re-worded his question, I was able to answer him…but it felt good to just be honest and say, I don’t know! At the end of the day, we’re all just campers who like WordPress and learning and S’mores. (Everybody likes S’mores, right?)
- Have fun. Of course you should understand your topic and be knowledgeable about your subject matter, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. If you are having fun, there’s a good chance that your audience will too. Breathe deep, smile and be yourself. If you can engage with the audience and be in the moment, your first speaking gig will be more fun than you expect.
For a complimentary 30 minute review of the readability of your website content, let’s chat.