I am both excited and proud to be a speaker for the first WordCamp Nordic, that will take place on March 7-8, 2019 in Helsinki, Finland, where I’ve never been. For those who don’t know, WordCamps are the community-based local conferences organized around WordPress, which doesn’t really need a presentation. I have been involved for some years now in the Danish WordPress community, from helping organizing and speaking at WordCamp Denmark, to speak regularly at meetups.
Now, I am not a total stranger to public speaking, but the format of this upcoming one is going to be a first, as WordCamp Nordic is awaiting around 600 attendees. I know those six hundred lovely folks won’t be all at once on whichever track I’ll end up with, but even a fraction of that will already be largely bigger than the crowd I am used to talk to. The more the spotlights, the bigger the adrenaline and reward, I guess.
But, why talk in the first place? Why is it a good idea for a developer or an engineer, to take the stage, any stage?
Develop them soft skills.
I don’t know about you, by I learnt early on in engineering school that half the grade depends on how well you can communicate your vision and ideas. No matter how skilled you are. In the professional environment, your ability to convey your technical concepts to any given colleagues, to communicate complex use cases clearly to stakeholders; all of it are key elements to be better at what you do. I would argue that it’s equal as being technically skilled. Balance it just right, and you’ll be a proven value.
Start from the bottom.
Even though speaking at meetups and small conferences gave me some confidence, I can tell you, I’ll be doing breathing exercises before speaking next time. If you are not a natural, then try to build it up. Start small, start local. Find a meetup where you can present whatever you are currently working on. Find a hackathon, and volunteer to be part of the group presentation. Organize internal learning sessions at work, and present a successful project you have launched recently. Gather your toddlers, and try to explain them what you do for a living. Practice and find your own tone.
Reality checks are important, especially when you work in a specialized area different from your clients. As an engineer, you tend to look up and aim for perfection: if I could streamline this deployment process, if I could save 2kb on this JS build, if I could get that class abstracted just right etc. Talking to real people and their real needs can be humbling at times, where pragmatism will often trumps perfection. Going and talking at conferences gives you the opportunity to both talk about high-level concepts, as well as nitty gritty use cases during the same Q&A session. Stack Overflow is great, but it won’t give you that 360 mind-spin that people can give you.
Feel good, folk.
90% of talks out there are somewhat success stories, and the rest are failures stories that still end up being inspiring. Nobody would ever get on stage if they knew they would 100% feel worse after getting off of it. Getting appreciation and recognition for a work well-done is a goal that you should not shy away from.
So, get those standing ovations, earn those confetti showers, win those insightful praises – one 12-attendees meetup in a coworking space at a time.