On speaking at WordCamp

Attending WordCamp Sydney the other weekend was a really great time – lots of inspiring and interesting people talking about stuff that changed the way I think about, and do, my work.

The scariest part was that for the first time at a conference, I was one of the speakers. I’m not really a person who like crowds, or thrives on attention, so it was a pretty big deal for me to get up in front of a room full of people to talk.  I figured I might share a few thoughts about the whole experience.

Quiet Confidence

Whilst I don’t have a great deal of confidence in speaking in front of people, I DID have a great deal of confidence in my knowledge of what I was speaking on. My topic was responsive design and wordpress, both of which I’ve been incorporating into my work for long enough that they are kind of second nature. I feel like this helped me immensely, as I was confident with what I was talking about. It was one less thing to worry about – so i could concentrate on the actual speaking.

Letting Go

I’m a pretty easy going person by nature – so despite my nerves I tried to make a conscious decision to bring that to my talk. I hate when speakers get caught out and starting stopping and starting, and losing the flow of the talk. Once I started I figured I just needed to roll with whatever was happening.

So when I got to some miscalculations in some of my slides – i just had to roll with it. I told everyone to imagine they were the correct figures, as it wasn’t the numbers themselves that were important, but the idea behind them.

Letting go and just going with it worked really well for me – I didn’t really get nervous as the talk was going – i just kept ploughing on.

Only an outline

I haven’t had any experience really with a talk like this – so I was a little unsure about how to approach having notes to speak from. Having the entire thing written out seemed like the safest option, but I didn’t want to sound scripted. I ended up having a basic outline of what I wanted to cover that matched my slides. Bullet points of the bits I had to get across. Writing these out, and deciding on the structure really helped me get in my head the flow of what I wanted to say.

On the day – it ended up that I rarely referred to my notes – the slides themselves were a pretty good prompt as to what I wanted to say. And having written out the outline a couple of times had embedded most of the major points in my head.

I’m not sure that such a loose process would work for everyone, but it felt pretty good for me.

…and I Survived

I came out of the talk feeling pretty good. People seemed receptive, and the twitter feed (which I caught up on) seemed really responsive to what I was saying. I quite enjoyed the whole experience, and I think the WordCamp environment had a lot to do with that. I would definitely think about doing it again.

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks Dee.
    I think the whole community environment of the weekend really helped.
    It felt like people were just getting in there and doing it – so it was easy to join in on that vibe.

  2. Hi Jordan,

    None of that came across to the audience – you appeared on top of it all. It was a really good talk and I enjoyed it.

    Thanks for sharing your approach (it’s actually quite similar to mine).

  3. Hi Jordan

    Your presentation was actually one of the highlights of WordCamp for me so thanks for a great talk! Lots of responsiveness goodness to consider for future jobs and it was great to clarify that we don’t just need to optimise for small screens but for big too.

    I agree with Dee and Stephen that you’d never have known you were an inexperienced presenter – nice work.

  4. Hi Jordon,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us – it’s great getting the insights into how people prepare for presentations. Your presentation was one of the best at WordCamp! I think you had the combination of being a charismatic and engaging speaker, knowing exactly what you were talking about, and an clean and clear slide deck. Loved it! I hope you present more in the future 🙂

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