2018 in Speaking

My favourite slide from this year, thanks Matt Miklic!

Speaking was weird for me this year, my speaker coach (and friend) Denise died at the start of the year, which left speaking at all times tinged with grief. Putting together the talk I prepped [blog posts] (eventually I settled on the name of “Creating Success, Together”) was… a painful process. Chiu-Ki and I shut down Technically Speaking, and even though I gave the same number of talks, speaking felt like a much smaller part of my life (although maybe that is in part about how intense everything else was).

All in all I spoke at 6 conferences in five countries (three continents), one meetup, co-hosted one event (Try!Swift, for the third year), and did a joint webinar in English and in Spanish — belatedly fulfilling my 2016 goal to give a talk in Spanish.

For 2018 my speaking goals were:

  • Speak at a WordCamp.
  • Speak at an event in Ireland.
  • More podcasts! They’re fun!
  • Say no.

and more nebulously…

  • Give a talk I’m proud of.
  • Try something new.

How did it go?

✅ Speak at a WordCamp

Check! WordCamp EU in Belgrade, Serbia to be exact, where I gave a talk called The State of WordPress Mobile – which I gave a couple of months previously at a WordPress Meetup in Montreal. As part of this I was also (probably) on the Serbian news but we are never going to talk about that.

This was a bit of a nightmare – firstly, I had rotated off the mobile team to run another one and it was a challenge to get back into the mindset of the team I had deliberately disconnected from. Secondly, Matt (my boss) was up immediately before to me and made some announcements that had me making last minute edits – only to get on stage and forget to refresh the slide deck.

Thirdly, it featured one of my personal public speaking nightmares: my microphone fell off mid-talk, and slid down the back of my dress. They bought me another microphone, I passed it off by blaming the patriarchy and continued. However that was probably the last time I wear a dress on stage.

One thing this talk made me realize was how separate I keep my public persona and work. When I get on stage and “perform Cate”, it’s different to who I am amongst my colleagues. These two things colliding – needing to “perform Cate” at a work event was… weird and hard in ways I hadn’t expected.

✅ Speak at an event in Ireland

Done! I spoke at RebelCon, which was a local event and the organizers were truly lovely. They gave me a beautiful book and a large amount of gin.

Another public speaking nightmare occurred – this was the one where there wasn’t a connector for the new macs (no HDMI) and a kind stranger loaned their laptop as the audience waited for me to start.

❌ More podcasts!

I recorded just one podcast this year. I had a second one that we were scheduling but we never made it work. This was the kind of thing that fell away with how hectic things were.

✴️ Say no

I made progress here – not just on saying no, but on asserting boundaries. I negotiated better, and did better at asking for what I need. The three bigger events I spoke at were all (in different ways) accommodating, and there was nothing I felt pushed into or regretful of.

✅ Give a talk I’m proud of

It took a couple of iterations for me to get there on Creating Success Together, but I made it. I had a couple of people tell me some version of it being the talk they needed to hear and when they needed to hear it – which is always gratifying. The blog post series I put together with it was also well received.

Probably this talk will be retired for the new ones I am planning, but I expect to bring back the concepts in those or in other things that are just in a conceptual stage…

✅ Try something new

So many new things this year.

  • Co-presenting!
  • Spanish!
  • A more pure “management” talk.
  • Figuring out the help I need from who (and how) now Denise is gone.
  • Different slide aesthetic, the mobile design lead created them for me using the team branding.


I plan to prep two talks this year.

  • The New Manager Survival Guide – exploring the milestones new managers go through and struggle with, loosely based on this article.
  • It’s Probably Fine – tales from the turnaround, what does a functional team look like, and how do you take a dysfunctional non-team and turn it into a high performing and functional one? This will include the layers of communication and outcomes you need to build out, and how you figure out where to start.

Event organizers: If either of these seem like a fit for your event, please email me!

Everyone else: please suggest them to organizers at events you love! 💕

Beyond that, I haven’t really set any specific goals. I expect I will either go with the flow, or be more deliberate about where I want to be, and even submit some talks rather than just relying on being invited.

But some goals remain the same!

  • Give a talk I’m proud of.
  • Try something new.

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