5 Tips to Give a Great WordCamp Talk

WordCamps are great events in that they give the local WordPress community a chance to come together.  Due to the generosity of sponsors and WordCamp Central, WordCamp tickets might just be the least expensive conference ticket you’ll find. This allows people from all throughout the community to attend and contribute.

This also makes speaking at a WordCamp challenging at times.  Even if your talk is in the Developer track, some non-developers might attend to just learn a bit more.  WordCamps are great because you can explore topics outside your core knowledge.

Lately, I’ve been to more and more WordCamps, both as an attendee as well as a speaker.  Having sat in on almost 40 talks, there are definitely some that stand out from the crowd.  If you’re giving a talk and want to be one of the best, there are a few things you can do:

1. Speak up

You have all your information down cold, but the audience needs to hear you for your talk to be successful.  One room in particular that I gave a talk in was much bigger than any room I had presented in before.  People tend to sit towards the back of the room as they filter in. You’ll need to make sure your voice projects far enough to reach them.  Sit closer to the back for the talk before yours, and you’ll get an idea of how far the presenter’s voice carries. And that leads us to…

2. Get an idea of the space before you’re on stage

Every space is different.  It’s important to get a sense of what you’re dealing with before you walk up to start your talk.  Usually these are simple things. Make sure the right connectors are at the podium. Make sure your slides are readable in the room lighting. Get a sense of the microphone setup. You can do all these things before the adrenaline is flowing.  If you’re presenting in an afternoon session, maybe slip into the unoccupied room for 5 minutes during lunch.  What’s important is that you know the environment you’re walking into.  Bonus: You’ll be calmer and more confident when you actually give your talk.

3. Make sure your slides are readable

Along with point #1, those audience members way in the back can’t see the same size text that you can up in the front.  This applies to the more interactive sessions.  If you’re scoping out the room before hand, walk to the back and make sure everything’s readable.

4. Pacing is Key

You’ll want to rehearse before hand so you know you have enough material to last the duration of your talk.  Often times, however, the presenter will end up rushing through a bunch of material at the end. This not only leaves the audience frantic to try and keep up, it makes you look unprepared.  If you’ve prepared and have enough material, you can give a well paced presentation and still have time for questions at the end.

5. Have a Call To Action

Ask the audience to reach out on Twitter with questions.  Prompt them to download the plugin you just demonstrated. Whatever it is, giving the audience something to do to keep the learning going is a great way to end your talk and help attendees take action.  A strong call to action cements your talk in the minds of your audience and makes sure you’re not just another presenter.

These tips are always a work in progress and you’ll get better at them as you give more talks.  Focus on giving the best talk you can and sharing your knowledge with the WordPress community and you’ll do great!

Filed in: Events

Keanan Koppenhaver - Engineering
Pianist, prototyper. Conference speaker.