You might know my freelance origin story. It’s one I tell a lot, at WordCamps and on podcasts. I sort of fell into it when I was 15 years old. My church asked if I could make them a website. After I declined, they offered to pay me. Pay me to learn? How could I pass it up! This predates WordPress, so I did everything using Microsoft Frontpage, then moved Notepad++. In 2004, I mentioned to my friend Stephen that I was thinking of building a CMS. He showed me WordPress, and the rest is history. For over 15 years, I’ve been freelancing and have used WordPress for most of that time. I get questions about both topics regularly, and I wanted to create a program for me to help WordPress freelancers specifically. So I created the WordPress Freelance Coaching Program.
Think about the last conversation you had via text or phone. Now think about the last conversation you had in person or via video. Consider the differences. How well were you able to pick up tone or meaning? Were there subtle communications you missed over the phone that you likely would have picked up in person? How much is lost when you’re not looking at the person you’re talking to.
When Steve Jobs presented the iPhone for the first time, he didn’t get up on stage and say, “Hey this is an iPhone.” Instead, he told a story – specifically the story of Apple. He built up the iPhone in terms that people understood. This made for an excellent presentation. It sucked people in, it made them invested in what it was talking about, and ultimately, he announced the iPhone to huge cheers. Steve Jobs knew how to give a great presentation.
Now, I’ve been speaking in front of people for a long time. My first on stage performance was at 7 years old, when I was in 2nd grade. I love being in front of people, whether I’m acting, teaching, or just talking. But giving a good conference presentation takes practice. After professionally speaking for almost 10 years, I know what works and what needs work. Here are my 5 steps to putting together a good conference talk.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Socratic Method? At The University of Scranton, we loved good old Socrates, so we studied him and his methods a lot. The general idea, derived from how he would debate people, is to ask a series of questions until you get to the truth of the matter. He would often question people until they backed themselves into corners. Another, similar method is the “5 Whys.” You keep asking why until you get to the real root of the issue. The idea here is that you want to solve the right problem, so you need to know what the real problem is.
One year ago today, I launched Episode 1 of How I Built It, the podcast I started to learn from other business owners. I announced it by telling the story of Il Duomo, which I had seen in person 2 months prior. That’s still a great story that gets at the heart of what I’m trying to do on the podcast: learn from other people. I knew when I launched that it would be successful if I got great advice from people who’ve built great things. What I did not expect was the other successes I’ve seen. A year in, I have over 72,000 downloads. Each episode gets downloaded at least 1200 times 2 weeks after launch. And podcast sponsorships have become a major part of my income.
Back in April, I walked you through my current podcast gear, which I’ve been enjoying! That said, I always knew that this equipment was a temporary “between setups” setup that let me upgrade from a USB mic while familiarizing myself with interfaces and XLR mics without a huge investment. Hopefully in the Fall, I’ll be able to upgrade to the gear that I really want to have. Here’s a breakdown of that.
So…I write about learning a lot. Turns out, I really love learning. I also like coming up with plans about learning, and telling you about them. The last one that went really well was the one I did in January 2014, when I learned Sass. But now that I’m no longer at an agency, I feel like pushing myself to learn is even more important because it’s not part of my daily routine; I don’t have amazing co-workers I can learn from anymore. So with that in mind, I came up with a learning plan for the next few months of 2017.
Over the last few months, I’ve interviewed dozens of people, asking a pointed question: “How did you build that?” In that time I learned common tools, business decisions, and generosity. Recently I gave a talk where I went through the most important lessons I learned, and some tools to get the job done.