10 tips for making the most of your WordCamp speaking opportunity

For attendees, see the companion post, 5 keys to a rewarding and enjoyable WordCamp experience, and note that these tips are of potential value in having reasonable expectations for what you’ll get from a WordCamp event.

When you’ve put the time and effort into a WordCamp presentation, don’t misfire on some basics in delivering it.

WordCamp Toronto 2014 session image.
WordCamp Toronto 2014 session image.

This post has tips on making the most of your WordCamp speaking opportunity. It’s not a guide or advice on preparing the presentation itself but rather, having developed a good one, getting the most from it. There are lots of tutorials, guides and advice specific to WordCamp and for conference speaking and presentations generally (I’ve noted some resources end in case you’re search engine phobic).

Having said that, I’ll immediately make one comment on content. The fact is that we’re hardwired for storytelling. One way to think of telling a story is to take the case study approach. “I worked on Project X. Here’s what happened. The lessons I learned are ….” You get the idea. It can work for you especially if you’re new to this.

My first tip is a simple one. Number your slides. This may seem trivial but it’s invaluable for notetaking and follow-up by attendees and you really do want to encourage both. PowerPoint and other apps make slide numbering easy when you make it part of your template (you are using a template, right?).

Now a promotional tip. The really dedicated among us do a series of tweets to promote their talk in the week, day and hour beforehand. Doing so increases interest and the potential payback from your efforts.

Get organized in advance with the Twitter usernames (@somebody) and hashtags (#WCTO) appropriate for WordCamp and the topic you’re addressing. In this way, you can focus on the tweet content when you’re ready to fire. Oh, yes, do proofread before you pull the trigger.

Next, tell us upfront if your slides are available or will be available. Uploading your deck in advance is optimal and shows that you’re a pro at this. If it will be available, be prompt. People lose interest if you delay.

Some people ask for your email address for their newsletter as a condition of the providing their presentation. Don’t. IMHO, that’s a bit much.

There has been a trend in the last couple of years—particularly amongst the really well-known (professional) speakers—to make their presentations almost entirely headings together with images of one kind or another. Their talks are as worthwhile as ever when delivered but, without saying so, they’ve decided not to make the meat of the presentation available. You download a deck and there’s almost no value in it. Again, just my opinion.

Continuing on the subject of usable content, making the text reusable is—to be obvious—useful as well as thoughtful. Turning your deck into a PDF is less useful although not as bad as the text-free approach. You can copy and paste from a PDF but it’s pain. And it’s a drag when the PDF’s links aren’t clickable.

I’ve switched from PowerPoint to HTML slides for several reasons. The first is the obvious one. I work in HTML and have for long enough that it’s effortless. The second reason is that WordCamp is WordPress is the web. The lingua franca of the web is HTML and standards are a large part of what has made the Internet the ubiquitous presence in our lives. It’s not a big deal but it does show a certain savviness. Finally, it’s reusable and portable. I started out with the W3C‘s HTML Slidy and recently moved on to Eric Meyer’s S5. (There are a number from which to choose; Google HTML presentation.)

The temptation to pack more material into a presentation than time permits to be delivered without rushing is one to be resisted at all costs. Far better to have a deck that affords opportunities to sense the audience’s response to the material and devote more time to important parts. Better to leave out material than race through an overly long presentation.

Providing references in support of key concepts and techniques adds a professional quality that means greater credibility. Of course, they should be URLs and a publication date provided.

Last but not least, capitalize the P in WordPress. Ditto for using the official logo. After all, WordCamp is the occasion for your presentation. It’s a matter of respecting the name. Check out WordPress Tavern‘s Do You Mistrust A Company That Misspells WordPress? (2013) and Automatically Correcting The WordPress Mistake (2010) posts.

Robin Macrae bio image (cartoon).
A cartoon rendering of Robin Macrae.

I recommend the WordCamp Organizer Handbook‘s Speaking at a WordCamp | Make WordPress Community page and its resources for new and veteran WordCamp speakers which includes a list of useful resources for speakers.

That’s it. See you at this year’s WordCamp.

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