If you’ve never spoken at a WordCamp before (or even if you have) it can feel difficult to apply to speak for any number of reasons. Overcoming obstacles to speak at WordCamp isn’t easy. Do any of these reasons sound familiar to you?

  • Not sure what topic to propose
  • New to WordPress and don’t feel qualified
  • Feeling like an “imposter”
  • Inexperience/Fear of public speaking
  • Unsure of/intimidated by venue size
  • Travel finances
  • Time/date conflicts
  • Childcare needs
  • Slide deck concerns

Let’s break these down into reasons you SHOULD apply to speak at WordCamps, overcoming those obstacles together.

Not sure what topic to propose.
New to WordPress and don’t feel qualified.

Every single person in the WordPress community has experiences that could be valuable to others. Whether it’s a story about how you started your blog to how you select plugins to anything more or less technical.

Every topic is a good topic to someone else.

That doesn’t mean that every WordCamp will select every topic (they can’t, due to time constraints) but it does mean that eventually your topic will find its outlet.

Still not sure what topics to propose? Ask your friends and colleagues to look at your list and give you some feedback. Or tweet them out with the hashtag #WordPress.

Feeling like an “imposter.”

Here’s a little secret: most speakers have felt imposter syndrome at one time or another. It’s true.

The first time I spoke at a WordCamp, I presented the topic “The Hidden Features of WordPress.” I was so nervous that someone would challenge me and say “that’s not true” or “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Guess what? No one did. As a matter of fact, people asked questions. And they followed me on Twitter. And they applauded!

It turns out that we all belong. When you research a topic, you’re the expert in the room. People in the audience came to hear and learn – not to challenge you. So own it. You belong.

Inexperience/Fear of public speaking.

As the saying goes “there’s no time like the present!” Once you’ve given a talk on a topic you’re passionate about, you’re no longer inexperienced. Maybe starting at WordCamp feels intimidating, so why not try doing a talk for your local meetup first? Smaller groups with familiar faces can be less intimidating and a great way to get started.

If you have a complete fear of public speaking, but still have a desire to give a WordCamp talk, then I suggest finding a coach who can help you work out your talk from the pitch to the presentation. Coaches are great for that!

Unsure of/intimidated by venue size.

Big open spaces can feel intimidating. Big open spaces filled with people even more so. Now put you on a stage and have all those people looking at you and it can be downright terrifying. But there are a few ways to navigate this:

  • Specify in your talk submission that your talk is better for a smaller/more intimate audience.
  • Practice with a small audience and work your way to larger spaces.
  • Find a good coach to help you with your confidence. You can do it!

Travel finances.

Let’s face it. Money doesn’t grow on trees and travel costs money. Real hard-earned money. So how can you go to WordCamps with travel expenses making it hard to do?

  • Be strategic. Maybe you can’t go to every WordCamp you want to, or can’t afford the plane fare to faraway places, but could you manage to go to a closer camp or two? Driving to a WordCamp makes the financial venture much easier.
  • Sleep on a couch. Do you have friends in your destination city? Finagle an invitation to couch surf. You’re so busy at WordCamps that you really only need a place to sleep…not a huge hotel experience.
  • Fundraise. Create a page on your website for fundraising for WordCamp travel. Tell your friends and family to contribute there instead of other gifts they might offer you.
  • Seek sponsorship. Maybe one of the WordCamp sponsors is looking for someone to represent them at WordCamp. That could be you! In trade for some sponsor table time, your trip could be compensated. (And sitting at a sponsor table means you meet almost everyone!)

Time/date conflicts.
Childcare needs.

This is the most difficult conflict, for sure. If the dates of a WordCamp conflict with family or other obligations, then all you can do is make a decision as to which you attend. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Add the date for the same WordCamp the next year as soon as it’s published. That way you can avoid conflicts in the future.
  • Choose an alternate WordCamp to attend. (There are so many to choose from!)
  • Find a sitter for the time you’ll be away. Maybe a family member or close friend can stay with your kids…or come with you, and make it a family trip! (This works really well for WordCamps that include a KidsCamp!)

Slide deck concerns.

If you’re worried that your slides aren’t as good as you think they should be, don’t panic. There are a lot of ways to get them to where they will stun and shine!

  • Hire a professional designer to turn your bullets and headers into a thing of beauty.
  • Solicit feedback from peers.
  • Go minimal! Who says you need an extensive slide deck? Have an intro and a thank you page and then just talk!

Don’t let excuses get in your way.

If you want to speak at a WordCamp, find a way to make it happen. Overcoming obstacles may not be easy, but it can be done! And remember, you don’t live in a void. Ask others for advice, help and feedback. Every person who speaks at a WordPress event started somewhere, had butterflies in their stomach, and harbored self-doubt at some point. The WordPress community is an encouraging and forgiving group so don’t worry about a stumble, just dust yourself off and keep going.

You have something to share, and we can’t wait to hear it!


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Michelle Frechette
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