WCUS Speakers: "It's going to be okay" says Carl AlexanderCongratulations! You’ve been chosen to present at WordCamp US — the national conference for all things WordPress. Now what?

We thought it would be fun to interview a couple of last year’s speakers to get their advice to you — 2016 WCUS Speakers. First up is Carl Alexander. Carl is a WordPress freelancer, lover of object-oriented programming, long-form content, member of The WP Crowd, and famously memed as Carl Board.

What motivated you to apply to WCUS versus other camps?

“I’ve been speaking a bit over a year and a half. My strategy was to speak at a lot of WordCamps to strengthen my speaking skills. I only use a talk once. WordCamp US was an exception because I applied with three talks at the same time as WordCamp Toronto.”

Carl explained that he generally prefers to never duplicate a talk but, in this case, WordCamp Toronto and US picked the same talk. Carl has two main strategies for improving his speaking skills:: write a new talk every time and vary the crowd.

“I’ve been organizing WC Montreal for a while, so I have an understanding about what makes a good submission and how to apply to speak. You want to pick topics that don’t overlap. I decided to apply to WCUS. I needed to put myself in a new situation (in a non standard setting). It’s the only crowd where there were 400 in the room. It was definitely worth doing.”

Once selected, you got the email, how did you feel?

“I was really surprised. I didn’t think I would get picked. Most people don’t consider applying to a large camp. I was happy and very scared. Holy **** I’m going to speak in front of God knows how many people!”

How long did you have to prepare?

“At least a month. I need about a month to prepare.”

When Carl prepares a talk it involves research, writing a long-form article (2000-3000 words) and slide preparation. This process eliminates the need for him to memorize his speech

“I don’t have to memorize anything after writing a long form article. Everything is fresh. I don’t have to re-earth. It leads to better content marketing for my personal brand. A Long-form article to go with talk represents me as a person. It makes sure that my stuff gets around and it’s easier to share.”

How can you mentally prepare to speak in front of a large group?

“If it’s your first time ever speaking, make sure you understand what you’re talking about, and are well-rehearsed.”

Carl recommends that you spend time reflecting how you work and what motivates you. This is very personal and difficult to give generic advice.

“Do a bit of introspection. You got to figure out what works for you. That’s part of why I do that — to get the experience. I’ll be scared again this year just because of the sheer size of it. I feel better knowing I’ve done the things that make me feel confident that I gave a good talk. Then accept that’s what will happen.”

Public speaking always involves fear. You have to manage it, Carl says.

“You’re dealing with fear. The fear never quite goes away. You learn to manage it better. The last thing you want is to blank out in front of the room.”

This is why introspection is so important to the public speaking process. Ask yourself, “What is scaring you about this talk?”

“Are you scared you’re going to forget? You have to make sure you rehearse as best as you can. How much is personal. Rehearse or write an article? Are you scared you’re going to freeze? Work through the fears. Tackle them one at a time instead of letting the whole thing wash over you and take you away.”

“What defines WCUS is really the fear of the scale. The scale is tremendous. How that scale affects you is going to be different.“

Bottom Line:

“Things are going to be okay. The emotions and the fear can get overwhelming. Have someone there to remind you.”

Want more?

Find Carl on Twitter or at his site and watch his presentation from WordCamp US 2015 here:

Bridget is co-host of WPblab, co-organizer of Women Who WP Meetup, and Team Rep for the Marketing Team for WordPress.org.

Follow Bridget:

Leave a Reply