Just a massive, massive room.

Go, speak!

During four years, I had a chance to speak at 10 or more WordCamps, including two speaking appearances at WordCamp Europe. For those who may be wrestling themselves about whether to apply for speaking or not, here’s a gentle reminder to just go, speak.

So I spoke at WCEU twice, in 2016 and 2017.
Rest assure that both times I didn’t feel “ready”, and I didn’t expect for my proposals to be accepted, but they were in the end, so I had to go speak.

My English isn’t fluent enough for me to just hop on stage and speak freely for 30 minutes. I had to read from script which I believed made me look like a fucking idiot.

I was convinced—and was able to prove it!—that what I had to say was irrelevant at best, and that I was going to make a total fool of myself.

There was that inner drive to bring an idea across to an audience, but it came with an existential degree of fear that I would fail miserably to make myself understood.

Or, in the unlikely event I’d managed to get the message across, that the message itself would turn out not interesting, obsolete, ridiculous, worthless.

Or, if people would actually understand my ideas, and find them valuable (“Right, dream on, kiddo!”), there was absolute certainty they’d take issue with the person I am:

A nobody, without any formal education since high-school, let alone a degree, not a developer, not a designer, not a business owner, not a writer, not a prolific WordPress contributor even—just a random loser from customer support, the type of person you (or maybe not you, but your neighbour) complain about on Twitter or Facebook for how miserably they failed to solve your problem over and over again.

None of this is an exaggeration.
Those were my honest feelings, even though in my mind I tried telling myself: “It’s ok, you gonna be fine, you’re smart, your ideas are valid … THEY’RE GOING TO EAT YOU ALIVE, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??!”

Yours truly on WCEU stage
(Photo: Florian Ziegler, CC BY-SA 4.0)

You may relate to this, or not. My point is:

Whatever doubt you have about yourself, your qualification, your speaking idea—it is ok to have doubts. Doubts can be helpful pointers, so embrace them. But it’s also easy to get trapped in them, so get someone other than yourself to validate them.

Those folks on the Speaker’s Team of WCEU won’t let you go on stage if they think your idea is crap, so there’s your safety-net. This year, they even offer a mentoring program, so you can get qualified feedback and support before you put yourself out in front of the crowd.

If your doubts are not about your actual speaking topic, but about yourself, I have this for you:

We want you. We want your thoughts, your knowledge, your smartness, your conclusions, all of that, but you know what?

We want you—your energy, your insecurity and your shining, your floundering and your eloquence, your sweat, your having-to-run-to-the-bathroom-ten-times (nobody will ever comment on that one, promise), your voice cracking, your breath forsaking you, your fumbling with the slide deck until it’s finally up there, your squinting, because THOSE LIGHTS, WTF!!

We want all of that, all of you, the whole package, up there on stage. Go, speak!

P.S.: If you wish to talk to somebody about your speaker application, and you think I could be of assistance, leave a comment! All comments on this blog get moderated, so if you’d rather have me get back to you via email in private, instead of publishing your comment, just let me know.

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