Finding a Topic for a WordPress Talk [and Diversity Speaker Outreach]

Description Description

[If you are presenting this to a specific group, such as people who identify as women, optional sections to add are indicated in [square brackets].]

[Are you a person who identifies as a <specific group>?] Have you considered presenting at a WordCamp but thought you didn’t know enough or felt like an imposter? Do you have no idea what to talk about? Do you feel like you don’t have anything worth sharing?

During this hands-on session, we’ll look at what has stopped you from speaking in the past — and explore how to move past your fears. We will discuss some common myths about public speaking, different talk formats, and we will focus on finding your areas of expertise (yes, you have areas of expertise!). We will brainstorm topics you can talk about at a WordCamp or other event.

Each participant will come out of the workshop with a WordCamp or meetup talk idea — and more confidence to submit it.

***You do NOT have to have any experience in public speaking. This workshop is for all levels of experience.

This workshop is for you if:

  • [You identify as <specific group>]
  • You’ve thought about speaking at Meetup or WordCamp but haven’t been able to think of a topic
  • You think you don’t know anything worth speaking about

This workshop is NOT for you if:

  • [You identify as <not specific group>]
  • [You don’t think it matters that there are very few <specific group> speakers at WordPress events]

Agenda

  • Why speak at WordPress events? [Why do we need more <specific group> speaking at them?]
  • Dispelling some myths about speakers/speaking
  • Coming up with topics and choosing one
  • Practice giving a short talk

Accessibility

  • The venue has [elevators, ramps, etc.], [single stall washrooms for non-binary genders], [etc.].
  • Please do not  wear scents. Many people are allergic to them.

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Prerequisite Skills Prerequisite Skills

  • N/A

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Objectives Objectives

  • Have several ideas for topics you could speak about
  • Recognize the basics of a good outline.
  • Apply what you have learned to your own outline.
  • Recall the different types of talk formats.
  • Practice public speaking in front of a small group to help build confidence.
  • Identify many of the fears that have stopped you from public speaking.
  • [State why we need more diversity in our public speakers.]

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Assets Assets

  • Workbook
  • A large device that can show a countdown timer for the timed speaking presentations, such as an iPad
  • Sign up sheet, clipboard, pen

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Screening Questions Screening Questions

  • [Do you identify as <specific group>?]

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Teacher Notes Teacher Notes

  • This lesson plan can be run alone or together with several other Speaker lesson plans. There are sections that repeat in each which only need to be covered once.
  • Have the group sit in chairs in a circle, or in small groups around tables for most of the sessions.
  • At the end when they are presenting their topics/pitches/outlines, change the room to presentation format (seats in rows facing forward toward the speaker)
  • After, encourage them via a sign-up sheet or follow up email to give their contact information to agree to chat further about speaking at an event. Emphasize that this isn’t a commitment, it’s an agreement to have further conversation about it.
  • Make sure the venue is accessible (ramps, elevators, etc.)
  • It is useful to have a large device that can show a countdown timer for the timed speaking presentations. An iPad would work.
  • The note about getting up and moving around whenever they want to is for accessibility for those who get antsy in their bodies.
  • [If holding the group for women: Don’t hold it at 9pm at night. Offer childcare if you can.]
  • [If you’re doing this for diversity purposes, have a person from that specific group lead the talk. Watch language, such as gender pronouns and transgender terminology.]
  • [ If you are running an event for a specific group, here are notes on dos and don’ts you will want to read: https://make.wordpress.org/community/2014/09/12/how-to-run-a-minority-only-event/ ]

 

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Hands-on Walkthrough Hands-on Walkthrough

You can use the bathroom at any time, and get up and move around whenever you want to.

Introduce Facilitator(s) Introduce Facilitator(s)

Facilitators say a few words about themselves.

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Go Through Agenda Go Through Agenda

The agenda that we are going to cover today is:

  • Introductions
  • [Why are we holding a workshop for]
  • What We Are Looking For
  • Dispelling The Myths of Speakers
  • Why Do You Want To Speak?
  • Talk Formats
  • Big BrainDump
  • Narrowing Your Topic Selection
  • Refining Your Chosen Topic
  • Present Your Topic

(Choose the short or long version of introductions, depending on how much time you have.)

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Introductions [Short Version] Introductions [Short Version]

Let’s all introduce ourselves. Going around the circle, each person say:

  • Your name
  • Your preferred pronoun
  • Your WordPress experience
  • What is your speaking experience, if any?
  • What you want out of the workshop

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Introductions [Long Version — Interview Neighbor ice breaker game] Introductions [Long Version — Interview Neighbor ice breaker game]

Let’s all introduce ourselves. You have 3 minutes. (Instructor may need to vary the time based on workshop attendance and time available) Ask your neighbor to answer one of these questions. Then we will go around the room and each person will have 1 minute to introduce their neighbor with their answer.

  • What got you into WordPress?
  • What country would you most like to travel to?
  • If a movie of your life was made, which actor would you want to play you?
  • If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be?
  • What is your favorite way to waste time at work, without getting caught?
  • What is the most life altering experience you’ve had in the last five years?
  • What is one fun thing you did this week?

Now you have one minute to introduce your neighbor to the rest of the group. (Instructor might want to hold up a tablet with a count-down timer)

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[ Why are we holding a workshop for <specific group> [ Why are we holding a workshop for <specific group>

There are a few reasons that we want to hold this workshop for <specific group> today:

  1. A disproportionately large number of the speakers at WordPress meetups and WordCamps (and tech events in general) are white men.  That means that the speakers do not represent everyone sitting in the audience. <Specific group> may, therefore feel like they don’t belong there. But there are many <specific group> with a wide range of knowledge to share and everyone can feel included.
  2. WordPress is amazing in that it is open source and so all sorts of people use it. We want a more fair representation of the users in the people who are speaking.
  3. One of the ways in which WordPress is being shaped is by the people who speak about it publicly. Many <specific group>, by nature of having had different life experiences, would approach problems differently. Just as how a developer’s point of view is different from a user’s point of view, so are our viewpoints vs the standard speaker. <Specific group> have experiences that aren’t necessarily being shared right now.
  4. By bringing in more diverse people, there’s a better chance of bringing in folks who are straddling several roles and thus creating unique things with unique perspectives. Power users who use it in interesting ways, front-end developers, business people who use plugins to make specific kinds of sites, typographers who use WordPress to do crazy things with typography…. People to talk about running a business in WordPress, how developers can communicate with designers, different things you can do with WordPress…… etc. ]

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What We Are Looking For What We Are Looking For

  • If you are giving this workshop to recruit speakers for a particular WordCamp or meetup, this is a good time to explain what you are looking for if you need speakers to speak on particular subjects or to particular audiences.

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Dispelling The Myths (What We Think A Speaker Is vs What They Actually Are) Dispelling The Myths (What We Think A Speaker Is vs What They Actually Are)

Everyone has their own reasons for not speaking in public, especially at tech events, but most of those reasons are based on myths that we can dispel or concerns that we can address:

  1. Myth 1: I’m not an expert!  That’s okay, you don’t have to be an expert!  Everyone has a different idea of what “expert” means.  No one knows everything, and everyone has something to learn.  You just need to know more about your topic than your audience knows.  You can find a topic where you have knowledge that your audience does not.  There are things you do with WordPress all the time that other people do not do with WordPress all the time – that makes you an expert in their eyes. Even if your audience has knowledge about the same topic, they will not frame that knowledge the same way – they will still have something to learn from you. There is a saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed person is king” [or queen]. As long as you know a little bit more than many of the people in your audience, that’s all you need. You are probably more of an expert than you think you are.  A lot of us suffer from Imposter Syndrome.  This psychological phenomenon where you feel like you are an imposter, you think you don’t really have the knowledge or skills to be here, but you have managed to fool everyone and soon they’ll find out.  Imposter syndrome is really common – you aren’t alone.[A lot of us have imposter syndrome because we don’t see people like us presented as experts.Many people in <our specific group> set a much higher bar for “expert” knowledge than <not specific group> do.]Many communities have surveyed their members to ask what kind of information they want to learn at meetups and WordCamps, and most people request beginner topics. Remember that there are people out there who know nothing about any of this stuff, and they want to know more!  If you have used WordPress before, you have knowledge that other people want you to share. One area where you are always an expert is your own experience. Case studies make great talks – talk about how you did something, how you learned something, how you overcame an obstacle, the process you went through to create something or to solve a problem.  These kinds of talks are great because they are unique – not just the same information that anyone can find in an online tutorial.  These topics help everyone overcome the “I’m not an expert” problem – you’re a normal person sharing a normal experience, and that’s valuable, so people will come to value their own experience and expertise. So you might not feel like an expert, but you are!  If you care about your topic, that will shine through and that’s what’s important.
  2. Myth 2: People will ask questions I can’t answer, and I’ll look like a fool.  Yes, people very well might ask questions you can’t answer, but that’s okay! Your audience understands that not everyone knows everything, and it can be hard to think on your feet – the audience is sympathetic. If you don’t know the answer, there are several things you can do:
    • You can ask if anyone in the audience has the answer.
    • You can tell them you will look up the answer and get back to them.  Tell them you’ll post the answer on your blog – then you get more visitors to your website!
    • Sometimes people ask questions that are off topic – feel free to tell them their question is off-topic and you would be happy to discuss it with them later.
    • Also, remember that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” – people will think more highly of you if you admit you don’t know than if you try to make up an answer.
  3. Myth 3: I’m too nervous to speak!  Your audience gets that too – after all, most of them didn’t have the bravery to speak.  First of all, practice practice practice!  The more you practice – in front of pets, family, friends, the mirror, small audiences – the less nervous you will be.  But if you are still nervous, that’s okay!  Everyone gets nervous in front of audiences, and that’s just a part of being human. Keep in mind that your audience is on your side – they want to see you succeed.  In fact, it’s okay to admit that you are nervous – people will be sympathetic.  I’m nervous right now, too, but I’m up here speaking in front of you and I haven’t died yet!  Making a little joke at the beginning about being nervous (like I just did) will dispel the nervous energy in the room. If you’re really nervous, don’t start by speaking at an event where you will have a big audience.  Start at a smaller meetup.
  4. Myth 4: I have failed if everyone in the audience isn’t totally engaged.  Sometimes when you’re speaking, you will look out at the audience and it will look like everyone is bored.  That’s okay.  First of all, most of them probably aren’t as bored as they look.  Audiences generally sit with neutral faces, so if they aren’t smiling and nodding and cheering, that doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged.  If they are using their phone/tablet/laptop/another device, that doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you – in fact, it might mean they are writing down your every word.  And no matter how good a speaker you are, you will not connect with everyone in the audience.  That’s okay – no speaker can connect with everyone.  Expect that, don’t take it personally, and be happy with the people who do connect with you.
  5. Myth 5: A talk followed by a Q&A is the only format I can use to share my knowledge.  No, there are plenty of other ways to share your expertise at WordPress events.  You could lead a group discussion, or lead a workshop, or put together a panel discussion.  Some events offer the opportunity for lightning talks – this is a great format if you’re nervous because it’s okay to talk fast and it’s over quickly.

(optional) Questions for the group: What do you think? What are things you’re worried about?  Why haven’t you talked at a meetup or WordCamp? If you’ve only talked once, why did you not do it again?

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Why Do You Want To Speak? Why Do You Want To Speak?

A question for you: Why do you want to speak?

After people have given their reasons (or if no one gives reasons), read off this list:

  1. Be seen as an authority in your field
  2. Share your knowledge with others
  3. Build your confidence – it scares me
  4. Give back to the community
  5. Meet people – be part of the community
  6. Travel
  7. Learn at conferences – speaking teaches you more
  8. It’s fun!
  9. Rewarding, feeling of accomplishment
  10. Career building
  11. Be a role model for <my specific group>

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Talk Formats Talk Formats

Now that we’ve talked about why we are holding this workshop for <specific group> [or: what kind of things we’re looking for], myths about what it takes to be a speaker, and why you want to speak, let’s start talking about the actual talks.

A lot of talks are big “how to” brain dump sessions. “How to make a plugin” might be someone walking through how to make it, maybe even live coding, and then at the end, there are questions.

WordCamp Central has found that this isn’t necessarily a good way to impart information. People often walk away feeling overwhelmed and not remembering anything that they learned.

There are other talk formats that promote story-based learning. Talking about how you learned something, for example, means other people can also learn how to learn. As well, different talk formats involving more people becomes more engaging.

Here are some of the various formats:

  • How To: The standard way that tech talks happen
  • Discussion: You are the facilitator on a topic and the audience discusses it together
  • Panel: Multiple people answer questions on the same topic
  • Story-based: This could be how you learned something, mistakes you made, or any other narrative format
  • Case Study: The story of how you created one thing, in particular
  • Workshop: A hands-on learning experience where people bring their laptops and create a thing as you go

A talk can also be more than one person. Duo talks are really engaging.

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Exercises Exercises

Please pull out your workbooks. The next few exercises will be found there.

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Big BrainDump Big BrainDump

Now we are going to help you answer the question, “I don’t know what to talk about” or “I don’t know enough about anything to give a talk.”

We are going to do a brainstorming exercise. Brainstorm as many topic ideas as you can in 15 minutes. We’re not looking for “perfect” or even “good” ideas. The idea is just to get them out, good, bad, or ugly. See if you can get 30 or 40 ideas. Seriously, anything that comes to mind.

You can write, draw, do mind-maps, list, any format you like. While you’re summoning the idea gods or getting writers’ block, or anywhere in between, we’ll be prompting you with questions to generate more topics.

Remember, it’s always great to talk about what excites YOU – not what you think you should talk about.

  • What got you into WordPress?
  • What keeps you in it?
  • What do you love about it?
  • What do you want to learn next?
  • First time you: child theme, wrote plugin, etc.
  • Biggest challenge in WordPress in the last year or two
  • The last thing that you learned? How did you learn it?
  • Biggest block you’ve ever had with WordPress? How did you overcome the biggest block?
  • What are you most passionate about when it comes to WordPress? What most excites you?
  • What sorts of things do you love sharing with others about WP?
  • What question about WordPress do you get asked about most by clients, friends, and family?
  • A list of what you want to learn
  • Favorite plugin?
  • A cool thing you’ve created?
  • Favorite resources?
  • Cool tricks you use all the time?
  • What could you talk about without slides?
  • What prompt did we not ask which you wish we did?

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Topic Selection Topic Selection

Split the room into groups of 4-5 people.

Okay, now you’ve got some good, bad and ugly ideas. Out of that list, pick the two topics from your list that you think best fits the following questions:

  1. Pick 2 topics that you don’t know a lot about, but have had some success with. (e.g. I don’t know much about making plugins but I’ve made one for custom post types). This could be a story-based talk.
  2. Pick 2 topics you may not know much about but that you would have good questions for. This could be for moderating a panel.
  3. Pick 2 topics that you are confident about and could lead a how-to presentation.
  4. Pick 2 topics that you’ve successfully worked on that you feel you could do a case study about.
  5. Pick 2 subjects in the topic list that are your favorite.
  6. Pick 2 topics that you think you could teach to others in a hands-on manner. This could be for running a workshop.

With the group, pick the one you are most excited about and you think you’d like to develop further. If you’re having trouble deciding, it’s ok. Just pick one to say to the rest of the group.

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Refining Topic Refining Topic

To further refine your topic, apply “Who, What, Why, How, When, Where” to your topic. For example:  If you have a favorite plugin, you can try asking who is this plugin for? What does this plugin do? Why was this plugin created? How does it work? When would you use it? Where would you use it?

  1. Who
  2. What
  3. Why
  4. How
  5. When
  6. Where

From this list, can you refine your topic? Is there something more specific on which you’d like to give the talk?

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Present Topic Present Topic

(Regroup the room into a circle.)

Now we are going to go around the circle and give everyone the opportunity to say what topic they chose. If you’d rather not, you may say, “Pass.”

Teacher Note: If someone seems really doubtful about their topic, ask the group if they would like to hear this topic, put up their hands.  If time allows, offer to let students talk for a minute or two about their topic.

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Sign Up Sign Up

Thank you for attending today. We will be passing a sign up sheet (or you will receive an email). If you are interested in speaking at an event,  please sign up to let us know. This is not a commitment, but we will get in touch with you to discuss the possibility of speaking at an upcoming meetup or WordCamp.