5 Myths About Speaking at WordCamp (and Why You Can Ignore Them and Apply Anyway)

We have had some fantastic Speaker Training sessions around the Sound this past month and are working on putting together a few more coming up in July, but we wanted to share with you some of the gems from the workshops we’ve done thus far in case you haven’t been able to attend one.

This week, we’re debunking 5 big myths about speaking at a WordCamp. Let’s dive right in…

5 Myths About Speaking at WordCamp

Myth 1: I’m not an expert!

Many, many of us suffer from Imposter Syndrome – that nagging feeling that you don’t really have the knowledge or skills to “be here” and it’s only a matter of time before everyone else finds you out.  Ack!

But when it comes to speaking at WordCamp, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to help you combat that feeling:

  1. You just need to know a little more about your topic than your audience knows. If you’ve only been doing WordPress for a few months, that’s a few months more than someone who is just starting out, and you’ve got that experience to share.
  2. 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.
  3. And one area where you are always an expert is your own experience. Case studies make great talks. You can talk about how you did something, how you learned something, how you overcame an obstacle, or the process you went through to create something or to solve a problem.

Myth 2: People will ask questions I can’t answer, and I’ll look like a fool.

If there’s one thing a WordCamp audience loves, it’s a good Q&A session. But keep in mind, your audience, a WordCamp audience especially, is inherently sympathetic to you and completely understands that not everyone knows everything.

If you don’t know the answer to a question someone asks, 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.

Myth 3: I’m too nervous to speak!

Your audience gets that too – after all, most of them didn’t have the bravery to get up there and speak.

The most important thing you can do to combat nerves is to practice practice practice!  The more you practice – in front of pets, family, friends, the mirror, small audiences – the less nervous you will be.

Also, don’t have your first public speaking engagement be speaking at an event where you will have a huge audience.  Start at a smaller meetup.

(There are lots of these around, and as a fellow meetup-organizer, I can tell you with undying certainty that we’re always clamoring for people to come speak at meetups, so you will very likely be welcomed with open arms if you ask the organizer if you can come present your topic to get some practice in.)

Myth 4: I have failed if everyone in the audience isn’t totally engaged.

It’s terrifying to be up in front of a crowded room and look out at a sea of blank faces. But keep in mind that audiences generally sit with neutral faces, so if they aren’t smiling and nodding and cheering, that doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged. It usually means they’re listening intently.

If they are using their phone/tablet/laptop/another device, 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.

Myth 5: A talk followed by a Q&A is the only format I can use to share my knowledge.

That’s so not true! As we’ve mentioned (quite a few times), we’re actively cultivating a wide variety of session formats this year.

Don’t want to speak for half an hour? Try a 5 minute Lightning Talk.

Have way more to teach than you can cram in a half hour? Consider submitting a workshop proposal?

Scared to get up there by yourself? Grab 3 friends and put together a panel.


So there you have it. No more excuses.  Feel the fear and do it anyway! Hitch up your britches and go…


Deadline for submissions is SATURDAY, AUGUST 5th.


These myths and remedies are pulled from the Speaker Training curriculum developed by the transcendent Morgan Kay. This information, and so very much more is available online for anyone to learn from at https://make.wordpress.org/training/handbook/speaker-training/finding-a-topic-for-a-wordpress-talk/

4 Replies to “5 Myths About Speaking at WordCamp (and Why You Can Ignore Them and Apply Anyway)”

  1. On myth #2, not having the answer and acknowledging it with an offer to get back to the person is an indication of authenticity. I see that as a HUGE positive.

    It also creates a way for you to learn, further build credibility and develop a relationship with the person who asked.

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