Speaking Up at JWC

Written by | 11 September 2016 | Published in Joomla! Community Magazine - September 2016
The call for Speakers for the 2016 Joomla World Conference has been extended until September 15th. If you’ve been trying to decide if you want to present and thought you’d missed the deadline, you’ve still got time to get on board!

Why should I present?!

You might think that you’re unqualified to present, or you may have little to no experience speaking. That’s okay. I’m not a professional speaker either, but my experiences in speaking at JWC have been worth it. Each of us has something to share. You might have experience in something people want to know about. It’s okay if you’re normally not comfortable speaking. I have a few tips that can help, based on my first and second experiences speaking at JWC.

I’m not a public speaker!!
That’s fine. As I said, neither am I. The irony is, I used to be known in Apple circles as the king of Keynote. I would prep other’s presentations and give them tips on speaking, but I didn’t do it myself. In fact, I was scared to speak at JWC 2013 in Boston because I realized, “I’m supposed to be a pro at this, and I’m not!”

My first time presenting That year was my first experience giving a talk on Joomla, and my first public tech talk in maybe 10 years. I was terrified. I practiced on my giant laptop screen (I had a 17” at the time) but only sort of went through some things on screen and didn’t speak it out. I had no idea how long my talk was. I tried to fit in too much (“let’s build an entire website in my 45 min talk!”).

When I got to the room and plugged my laptop in, my mirrored screen resolution dropped WAY down. Right out of the gate I was standing in front of a room full of people and my entire demo environment was completely off (and less than half the size I had practiced with). As I started working I realized since I hadn’t REALLY practiced, I hadn’t filled in the gaps on some of my techniques. I was sweating badly and worried I’d let the audience down. Lots of ums, uhs, and “well, I had meant to go over this, but we’ll skip it for now.”

Learning from experience
I got a chance to speak again at JWC 2015 in India. This time, I knew what to prepare for. I worked on more slides and a bit less live coding. I took screen shots of some of my coding examples so I could just show them on slides and explain them. I trimmed down my content in case there were lots of questions. I was less worried about going too short than I was of going too long since you can always drag out a Q&A question or have a few “extras” in your pocket if you go short.

The morning of my session, I got up early and practiced in front of a mirror with a timer running. This helped me fix any places I stumbled over something, and there were a few. I tweaked my slides, trimmed a bit more, and ran through it a second time. By now I was much more comfortable with my content, and I had run through my coding examples twice now, realizing where I might get hung up.

I also remembered something I had done years ago at another tech session...work the audience. Come into the room and meet and greet some of the attendees. Find the familiar faces. Ask a few names. In this case, someone I knew was right in the front row and as it turns out, he used a lot of the techniques I was sharing about so it was nice to get a bit of audible “Oh yeah, I love doing that” from the front row. If you have to, find a friend to be your cheerleader and bring them into the session. It really can help.

Share your passion!
Overall, I found that once I had practiced and knew my material, I really enjoyed teaching people what I love to do myself. It’s human nature when you discover something cool to want to share it with others. Presenting at JWC is a way to do that. Bring your cool thing, be it an idea, a technique, your case study on a component or site. Whatever that thing is you wish you could share with others, let JWC 2016 be the platform to share.

So gather your thoughts, put together a title, outline and a bio. Find a nice photo of yourself and go submit for a session at JWC 2016. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.

Visit https://conference.joomla.org/call-for-speakers and be a part of another great Joomla event

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Brian Peat

Brian Peat

Brian has building Joomla sites since the 1.0 days, and specialzes in customizing stock templates and extensions to create a unified site experience. He runs Peat Creative and is also the A/V lead for the Joomla World Conference.