Talking for the first time: WordCamp Manchester 2014

Last weekend I embarked on my first public speaking experience at WordCamp Manchester 2014. It was one of the most nerve-racking things I’ve done in my life.

I spoke for 25 minutes about creating unique WordPress themes from scratch. The main focus was why you should create your own themes and how to do it. My talk was aimed at developers who know HTML/CSS and some PHP, but do not know where to begin.

There are many things I learned the hard way:

  • Make sure you have¬†enough time to prepare

    I volunteered to do this talk because I had an idea. What I didn’t have was all the research and preparation that is needed to give a talk. The preparation took me much longer than I anticipated, and as a result I ended up being overworked trying to get everything ready in time.

  • Practice early and practice often

    I spent many hours writing my presentation and putting in lots of additional advice that was beyond the basics. I was reading things aloud as I went along, but didn’t put the whole thing together until it was complete. When I eventually went through everything at once, the talk was well over an hour long. I ended up cutting out everything apart from the absolute basics and a few embellishments. This wasn’t quite the talk I had in mind. I spent hours working on parts of the presentation that would eventually be cut. If I had done a timed run through much earlier, I would have had more time to practice and rehearse, and in the end I left myself with little time to practice, which left me even more nervous.

  • Know your audience

    I feel that the majority of the audience I was speaking to was far too advanced for my talk. While I advertised the talk as a technical talk for people new to WordPress, I’m not sure the technical room was the right place for this particular talk. I’m not sure how I can tackle this in future.

I felt that overall the talk went well, despite my awful nerves (I was literally shaking throughout). I have had some good feedback from people of all levels, and I’ve had people approach me about doing more speaking work in the future. I just need to remember to relax and prepare well in advance If I decide to do another talk.

The main thing I am disappointed about is that I only talked about a third of the things I wanted to. I’ve had some great suggestions on how I can reuse the content that didn’t get used, from creating a three-part talk series, a blog series, or even a workshop. Hopefully I’ll be able to do these in future.

My slides are available on Speaker Deck:

The video is now available on WordPress.tv:

Any feedback is gratefully received!

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