Some ladies talking whilst at a Joomla Day conference

My experience speaking at Joomla Day USA 2023

I was asked to speak at Joomla Day USA 2023, which was an absolute privilege.  They were even able to offer me some funds towards my journey if I was prepared to make the trip out to Austen, USA.  Unfortunately, work did not permit this, but I really wish it would have done, it would have been a lot of fun.

This would have been the first face-to-face Joomla Day USA that I would have been asked to talk at, having previously talked in 2022 (20 Actionable tips for non designers) and 2021 (build your own Joomla template) online due to Covid-19.  The hybrid event made for a lot of opportunities for speakers from across the world and also locally, which was fantastic to see.

How did I get into Joomla?

Those of you who know me will know that I have run my Joomla! Digital Agency for 15 years, and it all started with Joomla!  For those of you who do not know what Joomla! is it’s a free Open Source Content Management System (CMS). 

I started with it back in the day when it was Joomla! 1.0.  At some point I was asked to build an estate agent's website (real estate/realtor for the Americans amongst you).  The fact I could just buy some add-ons and the site was up and running in no time was awesome.

I had to use a legacy version of the component because they were still making things compatible between Joomla! 1.0 and Joomla! 1.5.

A picture of hands with the words "giving back written on them"

Why I feel I should help the Joomla! community

Anyway, from that day onwards, I have always felt like I owed this great community a return as I have built my business off of other people’s efforts.  People who wrote code, the leadership team, the other volunteers.  I have always tried to volunteer my time and give back.

I have especially always felt that I should pass any knowledge back on to those who were slightly behind me in their journey because of Gary Barclay, who had always been so generous with his time and helped me a lot with coding and such when I first started out.  I felt like I was in debt, but it was hard to pay Gary back as he was better at coding than me, so I would try to help the others behind as he had helped me.

A man and two women looking interested at a laptop

Why I talk about the things I talk about

That’s not the only thing I felt, though.  I also felt that my set of skills had developed in various ways that the other speakers did not always service.  Joomla has an abundance of very clever back-end developers who love teaching people and showing off their impressive skills.  To be honest, I wasn’t one of them, they were far better placed to teach that stuff.  These guys were super smart and coding was all they did for a living.

In my case, I did a variety of jobs, including marketing, design, and project management.  And I always felt that Joomla lacked talks about these skills.  And I felt this made many of the talks unattractive or unwelcoming for the Joomla! community who weren’t coders.

So a theme with all of my talks is that it’s something that a basic coder could do, or a non-coder could do.  Or someone with an interest could learn relatively easily.

The high-level stuff was often covered by the smart bods, so I thought I would try to fill the gap that was for the front-end developers, designers and marketers.

50 useful non-Joomla tools

So this year, I covered “50 useful non-Joomla tools”.  This was my attempt to show people all the processes I followed in my own company, which had grown to multiple team members.  Perhaps the things I had learned could help others.  Yes, it would be a biased view of things based on my own experiences, and the things I liked or didn’t like, and my way of doing things, but who knows, maybe someone would like my way of thinking.

Overall the talk was well received, and I was asked to write my first Joomla! Magazine article as a follow-up (which turned into 2 articles instead).  You can find it under August 2023.

A lady raising her hand at a conference and a man smiling

What I learned

What I learned from the experience, apart from yet again enjoying giving back and teaching people by sharing my knowledge, was that there was a gap that people wanted to learn the things I was teaching.  It felt great, but it also got my name out there and my business name out there.  I was able to become someone respected in the community for my knowledge. 

attendees at a conference listening to a man with white hair.

If you’re thinking about speaking, here’s my advice

So, for anyone thinking about volunteering to speak, I would say this.  Don’t worry about whether you have the knowledge or skills, everyone is good at something, and they can always help people.  Also, everyone is bad at something, and people might gain from your knowledge. 

It’s a great opportunity to meet community members, even some that are higher up, so a great networking opportunity.  It’s also a great personal branding or professional branding opportunity.  And finally… it’s an excellent personal growth opportunity. 

I originally started public speaking in 2015, and I was petrified...  For about three years.  But don’t let that put you off.  I have honestly grown so much as a person by being out of my comfort zone.  It’s not like I didn’t want to be good at public speaking; I just found it daunting.  But for business reasons, I had to do it.  And I haven’t looked back, the best way to get good at something is to do it, practice, fail, yes, that’s an important part too, and then improve. 

And the best part about doing it in the Joomla community is it’s a lovely community and nobody wants you to fail.  They’re all very supportive and everyone wants you to do well.  And if you do fumble on the day everyone will be rooting for you.  So you really shouldn’t have anything to fear.  It’s like being amongst friends and family.

My worst nightmare is they don’t have enough speakers so you end up hearing from me every year when there’s a real chance to learn from so many people in this world.  If you have something to offer, particularly if it’s not to do with back-end development I highly encourage you to speak.

a man speaking at a conference

Advice if you are thinking about doing a talk

If you are nervous about talking at an event like Joomla Day USA, my advice would be to come up with an idea for your talk, then float it and see if people who an interest.  Then ask previous speakers what they think and if any of them would help you with suggestions. 

I would start by asking one person for feedback, it can be overwhelming to ask lots of people as they will all have different ideas.  Get your plan nailed down and then once you have a good idea of what you want to say, then you could ask the community on Mattermost or on Facebook.  They will all give you good feedback. 

People won’t want to do the work for you, but often they will be happy to read over your talk before you present it, help you to practice or even brainstorm with you up front to see if the ideas are interesting or to explore other avenues.

I would also recommend watching some YouTube videos on public speaking.  But my best advice is to just take the plunge and do it.  Maybe you won’t win public speaker of the year award the first time, but you’ll learn a lot and you will certainly improve over time.

Conclusion

I really enjoy speaking at events so I will probably try to increase the events I speak at this year.  And I encourage anyone else who wants to speak at them to volunteer to do so.  If anyone wants any advice, feel free to reach out via our contact form, I’m always happy to help.  And of course, turn up to the events and support the many, many great speakers who spend hours, days and weeks preparing so they can give you help, advice and tips.

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