Interview with Kåre Mulvad Steffensen, a WordCamp speaker

While at WordCamp Europe in Berlin, we sat down with one of the speakers – Kåre. We talked about his experience of being a speaker and how you can become one too!

Hi everyone. We’re here in WordCamp Europe with Kåre who’s actually a speaker today. Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

My name is Kåre and this is my first time speaking at WordCamp Europe at least. I’m from Denmark. I’m a part of the Danish community. So WordCamps, it’s my thing, I would say. And I’m going to speak about Gutenberg. Because that’s like everywhere.

So you and WordPress. How did you get into it?

I’d say I started professionally in 2009. I quit my job and became a freelancer like I guess everybody else did. And I looked around to find a solid CMS. Tested out a few and kind of like on a hunch, I thought that WordPress was a good fit. I stuck with it ever since. Didn’t regret it. I still love. It.

Going back to you speaking today. You mentioned you’re talking about Gutenberg so how did you come to that decision?

I work on client counseling so I have a lot of interaction with people that actually sit and have to do content editing in WordPress. And I think, at least in the team where I work, I’m not a programmer, anymore anyway. So I have this angle into what can I actually talk about in terms of WordPress. And I think it made sense for me to go in and try to enlighten people that this has actually changed how we talk about websites to our clients. So that’s kind of my angle.

So why did you choose to become a speaker? And is the application process difficult? You know this is a big conference.

It is a big conference. And actually, to be honest, I thought it would be a lot harder. I submitted four different talk proposals. Ranging from core-privacy because I’m in the core-privacy component maintainer. Group anyway. And then a couple of others.

And what you do is that you come up with the title. It has to be a catchy one of course. And then you do a small explainer on what it is that you want to talk about. And then they have like an approval process where they go through and select if they want you to speak.

I thought it would be a lot harder actually. I feel pretty it’s privileged but you know it felt like it was smooth sailing. They wrote me that they selected this talk and they offered a bunch of things. I’ve been speaking at WordCamps before but this is huge. I’m in Track 1. That’s a massive room. So they offered a lot of speaker training, you can talk to other people that have ideas on how to actually present yourself. they also use the people talk. So they also pick the final slides, so they can give you feedback for anything that needs to be changed.

But luckily mine went straight through. I’m quite happy about that.

This is not your first time as a speaker in general. So how did you start speaking?

Well, I think that a lot more people should actually do it. I mean sometimes when I get on stage I feel like, OK maybe someone in the back will say “why do we have to listen to that guy again”? But this is a tech conference. And I do have a tech background. But I’m also maybe a little bit more outgoing than the rest of those people. And I feel that then it’s kind of responsibility that if I have something to say, I should do it. Because the only way we as a community can grow is that these people step up. And have their say.

I’m not saying that what I’m going to say on stage it’s the truth. It’s not necessarily the only truth. And it might be the only way to do things, but it’s a view. And especially in a community like this. That’s how we grow. People voice different opinions. You can be like the guy that they met in the first question yesterday.

Yeah, that’s probably going to go into history.

Yeah, it will, or you can be the guy that offers an opinion and be okay with not everybody agreeing with you.

Especially WordCamps, we’ve talked a lot about diversity. So I’d encourage you to get a stage because that would actually make a difference.

Just because I’ve worked with it for 10 years now, that doesn’t mean that that earns me the right to get on stage. I think if you’ve worked with it for a year, that could be interesting to actually hear what was your first experience.

Yesterday there was a talk about on-boarding and WordPress and everybody there was like me, been at it for a long time. And I think sometimes we forget how hard it actually was to get started. You know we proud ourselves with a five-minute install but it’s actually quite hard still. So getting those views out there are important too.

So there are probably a lot of people who would like to do that, to start speaking. How would you encourage them to start and to really apply?

Just apply. I think everybody gets the e-mail where you can click the link and apply a speaker. Just do it. If you want to just try to do it and not get in – then write crappy titles. But I think the team that looks through all the applications, I don’t know who they are, but I’m sure that they try to make it diverse so people can go to different things. So you never know what might get picked up.

I guess for a lot of people, the reason why they won’t apply is that they’re afraid. You might get nervous. I mean I’m going to be nervous. Even though I’ve been on stage before. Just before I get on there, I’m going to be doing the speaker trick, try to make myself feel big and whatnot.

That’s actually my next question. You get approved, you have your topic, you’re confident. On paper. Do you have any tips and tricks before going on stage, like becoming big?

It’s funny. It’s a psychological thing. It works for any kind of presentation. If you want to perform in front of people. I’ve used it before. I tell nervous kids if they have to go up in class. And it’s a silly thing. Just go to the toilet, somewhere you can be private stand like this for two minutes, like spread your arms and legs and just stand like that. It’s a silly thing but somehow it kind of works. I don’t know. There’s a bunch of funny stuff you can do. I’m not an expert or anything but I just picked it up along the way.

Then I guess, I shouldn’t be saying this, but I guess it’s a good idea to prepare. I hope this won’t be shown after because I didn’t prepare that much. I should have prepared more. But I guess you would always think that you could prepare more.

This will sound like a cliche because I know everybody else says it but go up and have fun. People won’t remember all the stuff that I said but people will remember the feeling they had. And that’s the important thing. So if I’m okay with and I’m having a good time they will feel enlightened. Even though they didn’t actually get the message.

And then have a simple message. I mean my message is so simple that I’m afraid that, luckily it’s a lightning talk, so there’s no room for questions, but my message is so simple, that I’m afraid people will say – this isn’t new. And it’s ok, I know it isn’t new. It’s just me getting up on stage and stating something that might be obvious to 90% but there is also the 10% that would say maybe he’s actually giving new and I actually didn’t see that. Thank you.

And then make it short. I mean I think I have 15 minutes. I’ve clocked it several times now I think I can get it up to around 8-10 minutes if I’m really slow. And I’m a speed talker so that’s not gonna go well. But you know, it’ll be fine.

Of course, it will. I think this is a very welcoming community.

It is. And I think that it’s very important. That you feel that nobody is going to judge you unless you’re the guy (commentator from Matts speech). But seriously even him. I get his anger. And it was not the right way to do it. He could have done so much more to get his view out in a different way. But it is a forgiving community. We’re all here endorse WordPress in some way. And you can just stand up and leave if you really don’t like what I have to say. But you know people don’t.

Back to the speaking itself. have you had any funny or weird incidents while on stage?

I never manage to stay on script. You know it’s good. I always think afterward, did people see that. I have speaker notes. Till this minute I’m not sure if I can actually see my speaker notes when I’m up there. So it’s going to be interesting.

I’m always thinking, OK so did people actually notice that from that moment. And until you know, a loop and there I’m back. I don’t know if people see that.

Actually, I have spoken in different meetups and WordCamps. And people are always very very open. And want to hear more. So I’ve never had a bad experience.

That says a lot about the community.

Yeah, it actually does.

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