This is my second visit to the Nagpur and both have been thanks to attending a WordCamp in the city.
I recently visited WordCamp Nashik. Since I was on a panel discussion, I got a ID card with “SPEAKER” written on it. All this is fancy nonsense but that’s how it is at most conferences I guess.
On reaching the venue, I ran into Kapil Gonge, an old friend from where I previously worked. He was one of the co-founders of rtCamp, a place where I was introduced to WordPress. He moved along a few years ago and started his own design and branding agency called PugMarker. I too moved along and joined some friends doing WordPress stuff.
We had planned to meet in Pune a few times but that never materialised and strangely, the both of us, who are now residents of Pune ended up meeting in Nashik.
In the morning, I was feeling a bit under the weather and Kapil had some fruits in his parked scooter. We walked along talking about life, open-source and in general everything that makes a conversation fun but usually very hard to remember after they end.
Watching us was someone who I think was drinking a beverage. He walked upto us and introduced himself. He looked up my ID badge that read “Speaker” and I suspect, that led him to start a conversation with us, because he opened with “Oh, so you are speaking here!”
Now, wait – until this moment, this is exactly how you should introduce yourself at a WordCamp to strangers. Say “Hi”, shake their hands, introduce yourself with your name and ask about the other person. I have had hundreds of such conversations and many people I met in this fashion at WordCamps are now very good friends.
But the man with the beverage did not stop introducing himself. He dropped few names, he dropped hints about how much money he makes, probably desperate for us to think of him in some reverential manner. The problem was my friend Kapil and I, love open-source for it’s irreverent nature. So this one sided conversation was not going anywhere.
But the man with the beverage never stopped. He continued talking about his businesses, trying to impress two guys who were quickly regretting they had chosen to take a break in the parking area.
Kapil and I exchanged knowing glances and tried to interject into this monologue of self promotion unsuccessfully a couple of times. Then I started to just counter him for the sake of it and made some sarcastic joke or two, thinking maybe he will find us not worthy of his time and leave.
No, luck! :-/
But finally, his attention moved to Kapil. He asked him what he did and as Kapil answered, he interrupted. Kapil then added about his work, that he helps people out with marketing, branding and design but speaks a lot less. I think Kapil was LOLing inside a lot while saying that.
Beverage guy refused to take the hint and suggested Kapil would never make money! Okay, that was enough – Kapil and I just walked away, not really bothering to continue the conversation or even wishing to keep up the pretence of coming across as polite.
Both of us were chuckling about the character we had just ran into.
All day we spent avoiding him and watching with a smile when others interacted with him and walked away dazed. Most of them with that look that say “What did I get myself into?”
I am not sure who this person was or what he was trying to do! Maybe he got bad advice, maybe he was having a bad day.
But it was a classic case of how NOT to introduce yourself at a WordCamp.
Talking involves listening
A lot of self-marketing literature will focus on things like elevator pitch and selling yourself. Honestly, if you want to pitch yourself, ideally do not come to WordCamps. Such conferences have other developers and designers around not venture capitalists or angel investors. Save your pitch for people who have money to invest, not who are making money as freelancers or run small businesses around web development.
So what works at WordCamps?
Talking works. But talking also means listening or letting the other person talk. Most open-source enthusiasts I have met usually feel more confident talking about their work than about themselves.
So ask about their work.
- Introduce yourself in a single sentence – a more than one sentence introduction is usually a pitch. Something simple as “Hi, I am <yourname>, I design websites, what do you do?” is perfectly fine.
- Ask about their work. If someone replies I design websites or I code plugins, ask them about their products or their favourite themes.
- If you are new to WordPress and talking to someone who has worked on it for many years, do ask “How do I go about being an expert at WordPress?” – trust me, you will get a lot more helpful advice and many fruitful discussions by simple asking how to go about things rather than second guessing or dropping hints.
What ever you do, never tell someone how much money you make or that you make more money than the person you are speaking with. You are almost always are going to come across as an absolute jerk!
See you around at a WordCamp soon! (hint 🙂 )
A couple of days ago, the WordPress community in Bhopal conducted its first ever WordCamp.
This WordCamp was organised by students and mostly from LNCT Bhopal. It was a short one day event and I came across some very hardworking and enthusiastic students who were exploring WordPress.
Saurabh and I visited from Yapapaya. We both had a lot of useful and interesting interactions with several students.
For me, WordCamp Bhopal was special because it was the first time I stood on a stage solo and spoke. The previous time was WordCamp Pune but it was mainly as a moderator and I think I managed to be just about passable there.
The Fear, the shyness!
I suffer from extreme anxiety when it comes to speaking in public. So say there are more than two or three people in a room, I tend to clam up and not be very talkative or expressive for that matter. It takes me a long time to get comfortable and I suffer from extreme shyness which makes me simply prefer to not speak out or speak up in some cases.
I have a very strong case of anxiety and stress when I have to speak in front of people. I remember from childhood, I would dread being made to try out for elocution competitions, I would dread poetry recitations often to the point of becoming physically sick.
I would not be able to think clearly, nor collect my thoughts most times, and usually it ended up with disaster and the disinterested teacher marking me out as student not to spend too much time over.
I always loved to write and I felt more comfortable laying out my thoughts on paper or on a screen later. This fear of speaking in public is a constant companion, and pretty ironic when you think of it – because much of my career is about interacting with communities.
I thought that was how it would be all my life, and then I took a dive.
WordCamp Bhopal was announced and the organisers were looking for a speaker. Since I had spoken to the organisers a few times, I knew there would be many students attending. Students still having doubts and possibly looking for ideas about their career choices. I felt “Why Choose a career in open-source?” would be a decent topic in this scenario. I applied as a speaker and got approved.
Thanks to the WordPress community, I have learned to speak out and speak up in public bit by bit. In a moment of confidence I applied. Then I sat contemplating what I had got myself into.
WordCamp in Bhopal
On WordCamp Bhopal day, I prepared well. My fellow travellers from Yapapaya, Ganesh and Saurabh helped with expert advice, tips and design magic. My slides were minimalistic and I knew I wanted to keep things simple and easy to execute. I knew what I had to say. I prepared over and over again but I was still stuck on having a good opening.
I knew that when I was nervous and froze on stage – it was usually following a bad start. If I started well, managed to keep calm for the first few minutes, I would feel less anxious and I could breathe a bit easier and basically manage to speak without sounding like Mr. Monosyllable.
Back in Bhopal, on reaching the venue early morning, I had an auspicious sighting of the [ya] papaya tree, that was outside the guest house of the college campus.
— Saurabh (@actual_saurabh) September 24, 2016
The event began with registrations and some familiar faces to me from Mumbai and Pune squatted on some stairs waiting for things to begin. The second from left with the white t-shirt is Vachan Kudmule.
— WPoet (@wpoets) September 24, 2016
A few almost by now mandatory delays to every WordCamp the event started. Then there was a nasty technical difficulty that had cropped up. The venue’s projector was not working. I am sure the organisers were very anxious.
But the Batman in disguise, Vachan Kudmule had magically produced a backup projector from his utility belt. Jokes apart for Vachan to carry a projector when he was not even going to speak, shows he is insanely thoughtful.
Soon my session was up. I almost started to feel sick by then. I busily looked at my notes on my phone all the while, trying to tune out everything. Then I looked around and saw some in the audience a bit uninterested. I think many were hungry as things were delayed and by the time I was to talk it was lunch time.
I walked onto the stage, heart pounding. Alexander Gounder threw me a stress ball so I would keep calm. I walked up the steps to the stage and threw the ball back to Alex. All this was not planned and completely non-sensical.
I looked again at all the slightly bored and hungry faces. All those faces row after row.
I suddenly realised I was not as nervous as I had imagined. I was not feeling giddy or sick. Just my hands had gone cold and I was almost shivering. You’ll be fine I told myself and asked the crowd “Every one who is present at WordCamp Bhopal stand up”
Everyone did. I followed up with questions like “Who is still a student here?” and “Who is below the age of 25?” – I asked them to stand up each time instead of raising their hands.
Then I blurted, “Wow, I had never felt so powerful before.”
There was a bit of laughter going around the audience. For once they were not laughing at me, they were laughing at my silly introduction.
The rest flowed a lot more naturally. I asked questions during my talk, I got some applause too and at the end a few questions were posed to me. When I walked off, I thought I might have done okay.
But few people said, I had done a pretty decent job. I was suddenly feeling very bashful and confident.
The fear has been conquered. I have made a lot of progress since I have been involved with WordPress communities and this seemed about right.
I even put on hat after a while and posed like a thug. I am still walking around with a bit of swagger. And I have WordCamp Bhopal to thank for that. 🙂
My slides are pretty useless by themselves as much of the content in them are single sentences.
Here is a list of some folks who were attended WordCamp Bhopal and blogged about it.
Are you a WordPress user, fan, enthusiast, developer, designer? Are you interested in finding out more about WordPress in general?
Do you want to meet WordPress experts from around the world, around India and most importantly Mumbai?
If you are find saying “yes” to any of the questions above you might want to check out WordCamp Mumbai 2015 that takes place on March 7 & 8, 2015.
Yes I am a co-organiser at WordCamp.
Check these links out:
What is a WordCamp?
WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress.