Speaker Tips from the wonderful WordCamp London folks

I’m speaking at WordCamp London on Sunday. And I ALWAYS learn something new when public speaking. I’ve been chatting with other speakers in the Speaker’s Slack Channel and I popped in and asked for tips:

Who has super speaker tips? Assume nothing. I want all the basics.

I gave a couple of my own for starters:

Quit All Your Apps when presenting (other than your presenting app)

Mute all notifications! Mac users can enable Do Not Disturb mode if you click the notification centre – top right – and scroll up to the toggle, or just Alt-Click the notification centre icon in the menu bar. There’s probably a Windows equivalent.

I also have a tip that is WordCamp London venue-specific:

Also, if you’re speaking in track A, the Great Hall, it sounds stupid but there’s a HUGE clock on the back wall and one year it was about 4 minutes slow. Take note of if this clock is accurate cos you don’t want to look at it and think you’ve got lots of time that you haven’t!

But this probably translates into more of a general “Check out your environment beforehand. Stand on the stage. Find out what you will be looking at.

Dan Maby had a few useful nuggets:

I use Owly to keep my mac awake too https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/owly-prevent-display-sleep/id882812218?mt=12

Drink water

(which I followed with “but not too much water!”)


Pause, giving yourself a second to catch up with yourself is good for everyone

Pause Dropbox/Google Drive/One Drive etc.

Make sure your Google Slides are available off-line

Tim Nash is super-experienced. And his experience suggests that the following are good ideas:

Don’t fall of the stage

Don’t panic, if words are coming out of your mouth its probably ok

Don’t open the file called passwords.txt

Clean and hide your desktop if you like to use that space as a general place to dump files. Inevitably you will minimise your presentation and you never know what files are there.

Which I followed up with my own tip: Even if it means shoving everything into a “Things that were on my desktop” folder temporarily.

When you’re on stage, if you can, get away from the lectern, it both obscures you but also will make you hunch which will make it harder to project. It sometimes feels safe behind there but it really is worth trying to avoid that space entirely

Tammie Lister, who is also a very experienced speaker, countered this and made her own wise suggestions too:

Standing by lectern is OK. For those of us that need notes and have poor eyesight or reading hurdles it’s OK. Just be comfortable.

Turn off your wifi, seriously stop doing live demos – if wifi is off you can’t get notifications

Don’t focus on one person, move your eyes over everyone.

Which prompted a related, WordPress-specific tech tip from me:

If you’re demoing WordPress locally, you can use this to speed it up and stop network stuff happening too: https://github.com/norcross/airplane-mode

Pascal Birchler suggests you:

Arrive on time for your talk

Which got some follow ups:

Early even!

And sit in the audience if you can for a talk in your track, if you not been in the room before. It will give you a rough idea of what they the audience can see/hear.

Tim Nash

Yes. Definitely scout the room. Have a chat with the AV/sound people in a break before your talk if you can. They’re super helpful.

Ross Wintle

There were some lightning-talk specific tips and tips on Q&A’s afterwards too:

Perhaps a bit late and very much my take, but front load your talk, you have a very short amount of time, so don’t spend to long talking about yourself, or your background, so if you have slides like about you put them at the end, so you can say I was <whoever you are> come find me afterwards. Similarly keep resources to the end, as otherwise folks will start trying to find links to sites etc, while your talking and miss like half the talk

I think more so for a lightning talk its all about giving folks things to go away and think and research. It’s also one of the few times, where its OK to be a little fast paced just don’t trip over yourself.

Also don’t be afraid to say, I will take questions at the end

Tim Nash

For lightning talks, leverage the Happiness Bar (the “tech support zone” of a WordCamp) heavily. Only talk about the important things, and at the end of your talk say “I’m going to the Happiness Bar right now to answer any more questions”

Topher DeRosia

“I don’t know”, is the most powerful answer to a question ever, don’t be afraid to say it, no one will think less of you. If anything the opposite, I am much more likely to respect a speaker, who when asked a question they don’t know the answer to says I don’t know, but if you remind me later I might be able to find out.

Tim Nash

And finally, as Tim Nash says

Have fun!