We love the idea that speakers at tech events both big and small should include all types of people, but we recognize that some folks don’t feel ready, comfortable, or confident enough to propose a presentation.
We put together these resources for anyone to check out and hope they will inspire you to propose a talk, learn how to become a public speaker, or improve your skills if you’ve already started presenting in public.
In March 2014, the Vancouver WordPress community held a meetup to encourage more women to speak at WordCamps, local events that bring together WordPress aficionados. They faced down their insecurities, looked at how to hold an audience’s attention while speaking, brainstormed potential presentation ideas, and practiced pitching them to the group.
The event totally inspired me to encourage others who haven’t yet spoken at a WordCamp or other event to apply – even if they’ve never considered it before.
I decided to start internally with my colleagues at Automattic and found willing partners in my awesome co-workers Tammie Lister and Cat Rymer. We posted our intention to give a remote “learnup” for our colleagues using the Zoom videoconference service. Part of our initial internal pitch ran like this:
In a supportive atmosphere, we’ll counter fears about public speaking, look at common newbie speaker mistakes, and hold an idea-packed brainstorming round table. The goal is for everyone to come out of the workshop with at least one session they’re ready to propose to a WordCamp.
The response was overwhelming and over 50 people expressed interest – 20% of the whole company! We split the learnups into four sessions, running two for anyone new to public speaking and two for experienced presenters.
We put together a list of resources for our internal employee guide, and watched with pride as many of the participants who’d been aspiring speakers when they came to the learnup started presenting at WordPress meetups and WordCamps around the world.