Diverse Speaker Training Workshop Part 2

This workshop is for people from marginalized or underrepresented groups who are thinking about speaking at WordPress events. You do not need to have any experience in public speaking, and this workshop is for all levels of experience.

Part 2: Writing your Pitch

Learning outcomes

  • Identify what makes for a great title
  • Learn what makes for a successful pitch
  • Write the first draft of your pitch
  • Learn what makes for a great bio
  • Write the first draft of your bio

Comprehension questions

  • What are some important points to consider when writing your talk pitch?
  • What are the hallmarks of a great title?
  • What should your bio include?


Jill 0:01
So now we’re going to go into writing your pitch. Okay, so in this section, we are going to talk about what a proposal AKA pitch is, coming up with a great title, and a little writing exercise. That’s actually switched around… Writing your bio, writing exercise, and then optionally anybody who wants to present their titles into pitches. Okay, so, whatever your motivation is for speaking, you first need to get selected to speak. And for that, you need to create a proposal or pitch. And we’ll use those terms interchangeably. And one will that will get your talk selected. And also, since your proposal defines the scope of your talk, it can be a good early step in the overall process of developing your talk.

What makes a great pitch? So first, here’s an example of a good one. Responsify all the Things. In our new web multiverse, it’s more important than ever to make your valuable content available to all users, regardless of how they access your site. In this talk, we’ll cover how responsive web design came about, the latest RWD news and trends, and some basic and not so basic techniques you can use to make your next WordPress theme a responsive one. Intended for developers and designers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty with a little code.

So this is a good length. It tells you what the talk will cover and it tells you who it’s aimed at. In some cases, you might also want to say what people will walk away with from this talk. On the topic of the title, beware of too clever titles. The title should stand on its own without a blurb. Here’s an example of a bad one, “CSS dreams and elephants.” What do you think makes this a good or bad title? And this is a question for discussion right now. Aurooba?

Aurooba Ahmed 2:20
It doesn’t really tell me what I will be getting out of this talk.

Jill 2:25
Right? So in that title we have no idea what it’s about, what you’ll be getting out of it. Anyone else have anything to add? Okay, great. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. That’s, it’s it’s a cute title, but it is too vague.

Generally, your talk proposal and the introduction of your outline will be quite similar. A good introduction should have all the things a good pitch would have. However, in a pitch, you might want to spice it up a bit. Ultimately, both the introduction and pitch should contain some more content. For a pitch, you want to tailor the tone of your writing and vocabulary to the specific audience and event that you’re applying to. This is very important. Some ideas of how you may tailor your pitch for specific audiences and events: The tone may be different. A business crowd may be formal, a Meetup may be more casual, so customize the tone of your pitch to your specific audience. At WordPress events, in general, we tend to be pretty casual. You might want to use different vocabulary depending on the audience. And you might want to stress different talks or points of interest depending on the audience or event.

There are six important points to take note of when writing both your outline and your pitch. And this comes from the site that is written on the screen: weareallaweso.me/for_speakers/how-to-write-a-compelling-proposal.html. Point number one: Direct the proposal to the attendees, not the curators. Many conferences use your talk proposal as the description of the talk in their program. With that in mind, your target reader is the conference attendee who is reading the program. Tell the reader why your talk will interest them and what they will learn. The curators want to put together a great conference with compelling talks for their attendees. The talk will be part of the package they offer so sell it! Make sure you research the event. Are there different tracks? Is the audience. Are there lots of devs? Is it mostly for users? Is it design heavy? Different WordCamps have different personalities. Are they short on really technical presentations? Light on talks for beginners? Try to fill a need, such as podcasting.

Number two: Be specific about the focus that your talk will have. Generally speaking, a shallow introduction to many things is not as interesting as an in depth introduction to one thing. If you discuss the broader topic, do so only to set the context for what you’ll focus on.

Number three: One strategy is pose the question that your talk will answer. Often talks answer questions that start with how, why, when, and so on. An easy trick is to directly ask these questions in your proposal, leaving the reader wondering the answer.

Number four: Make your point as simply as you can. If your first draft requires more than two paragraphs to get to the point of your topic, edit to narrow things down. Take out any words that can be removed without changing the meaning. You may have a lot of competition so try to make a good impression quickly. If your proposal is too much work to read or understand, it might get skipped during the selection process.

Number five: Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If you submit a sloppily written proposal, you appear careless and as if you’re not taking the opportunity seriously. You risk being rejected on those grounds outright. Speaking requires a lot of thoughtful preparation, and curators can only assume it will be as careless when preparing the talk itself.

And number six: Have your proposal reviewed by someone with experience. Just as you might ask a friend to critique a draft of your CV, an essay or the talk itself, ask someone, ideally a writer, speaker or curator to review your talk proposal. They’ll catch typos as well as verify whether your proposal explains the scope of your talk, and explains its benefits to your audience.

Next, we’re going to talk about coming up with a great title. We need a good title for your talk. You’re going to want to try to think of something catchy but explanatory. Be aware of too clever titles and create a title that can stand on its own without a blurb. For example, don’t use something like “CSS and Elephants.” We’re also going to talk right now about writing your bio. When you submit a proposal or pitch to an event, you’ll most often be asked to include a short bio. Bios are often the hardest to write well, but here are some pointers to follow. It should be written in the third person.

It should be succinct, but descriptive. It should only be a short paragraph and go for economy of words. Try to say the most you possibly can with the fewest possible words. Mention what your position or job is, and include any credentials that might be relevant. Mention how many years you’ve been in this field, or if it hasn’t been that many, tell a short story about how you’ve ended up in your new field. Look at past examples for the conference you’re submitting to. Why are you the right person to give this talk and tailor your bio so your topic makes sense. You might want to tweak it differently for different topics and different events. Be human. WordCamps are usually not too formal. And feel free to add something about your non professional interests at the end, but don’t make it your entire bio.

So what we’re going to do now is we’re going to have 15 minutes to try drafting a talk proposal for the idea that you brainstormed earlier, the title, and your bio, There’ll be a chance to read the title and pitch to the group after if you wish. We’ll see if we have time for reading it to each other today or that’ll be part of tomorrow’s session. But let’s go ahead and do the 15 minutes. If you need me to flip back and forth between any of the slides, you can write that in the chat; I’ll watch for that. I’ll also grab a link from our Slack. I put the link to the slides if you want to grab them and be able to refer to those sections because we’re working on three things at once right now. So go ahead and start that. If you’ve any questions about it, put it into the chat. I’ll check that as well. So I’m going to go ahead and start 15 minutes.

There’s about 30 seconds left. All right. If anyone needs more time, you can always keep writing while we’re going through with presentations. So what I’d like to do now is hear from anybody who would like to share some titles and pitches. You’ll have about two minutes or less for a mini presentation. There’s no expectations; it’s not a chance to practice being great. It’s just an opportunity to practice being in front of people. And you may request proceeding feedback if you wish. And if you do, they’ll be about time for a minute of feedback. So would anybody like to share their pitch? Title and pitch? Miriam? Don’t feel guilty for being awesome.

Miriam Goldman 25:12
All right, so, my title is “The Big Transition: Moving from an Office to a Remote Work Culture.” And the pitch I have is, “Traditionally people have gone to an office building for a typical nine to five job. But more and more people, myself included, make the transition to remote, whether it’s by their choice or not. So find out about the successes and struggles that this transition may cause and tips to help you flourish going forth.”

Jill 25:44
Would you like feedback?

Miriam Goldman 25:46
Yes, please.

Jill 25:47
Awesome. That sounds great to me. Everything was clear. It didn’t leave me with any questions. I was clear of what I’d be getting out of it. And it sounds pretty engaging to me. Does anybody else have any other thoughts? And if you do, just to reminder that be sure to say something that you liked about it before suggesting improvements.

Chandrika Guntur 26:14
It’s it’s really clear medium, what the topic is, and it’s really nice.

Miriam Goldman 26:22
Thank you.

Angela Jin 26:23
I don’t really have any edits. That was really solid.

Jill 26:29
Awesome. Okay, would anybody else like to share theirs? Aurooba.

Aurooba Ahmed 26:40
Okay.And yes, I’m absolutely open to feedback. The title is “Extending Existing Gutenberg blocks.” And then the pitch is, “Instead of creating entirely new blocks to add a few features, learn how to save time by extending existing Gutenberg blocks. We’ll cover basic JSX syntax, how to create block variations, and how to add custom attributes and controls to any block. This is intended for intermediate WordPress developers getting started with native Gutenberg development.”

Jill 27:15
Awesome. Great. That, to me, also seems super solid. I have nothing to add or change on it. It is very clear. I think it’s something that people are going to want to hear about. And like you said, really well in the pitch, you know, kind of, you address the difference between writing a whole new one and extending. So I really like that. Bhargav, are you giving feedback or sharing yours?

Bhargav Mehta 27:48
Sharing mine?

Jill 27:50
Okay, well, I’m just gonna see if anybody has feedback for Aurooba before continuing. Okay, I’m

Angela Jin 28:02
Also very clear, so excellent job.

Jill 28:07
Awesome.Great work, everybody so far. All right, Bhargav. Thanks for volunteering.

Bhargav Mehta 28:15
“Try to lose career opportunity that I grabbed.” Title two like, I thought, “A journey of transformation from developer to functional consultant: Challenges and Outcomes.” That is the title. And the pitch decks is, “In the current market scenario, everyone is trying to become a developer. He also wanted to be one. But destiny had other options in favor, and he wanted him to try other career options. To break the notion that ‘once a developer is always a developer,’ he switched his career to become one which he was comfortable with. And which given him more respect and reputation in the company. Know his struggle and his journey of switching the career. Everyone who is confused in choosing their career path must join this session.”

Jill 29:14
Thanks, would you like feedback?

Bhargav Mehta 29:16

Jill 29:17
Awesome. Does anybody have some feedback to give?

Aurooba Ahmed 29:24
I vote for title number two. I thought that was like more clear. And aside from that, maybe the pitch could be slightly shorter, but I felt like it also covered everything. So maybe like some parts could be shortened a little bit but otherwise, it was pretty solid. I kind of knew what I would be getting in for.

Jill 29:50
What else?

Chandrika Guntur 29:52
I also vote for the second title. I think that’s much better.

Jill 29:57

Chandrika Guntur 29:59
Everything else sounds good.

All right. Anybody else for feedback or sharing their pitch?

Mine is still a pretty rough draft. So I..

Jill 30:22
Are you willing to share it?

Chandrika Guntur 30:26
I’m not sure though.

Jill 30:27
Okay. Angela?

Angela Jin 30:34
Yeah, I can share mine. So my title is “Building WordPress: Tips for collaborating across time and space.” And the pitch is, “The WordPress open source project is built by a global diverse community. If you’ve contributed in the past, perhaps something got lost in translation. timezones made it impossible to connect. In this session, Angela will share some tips for stronger global collaboration when it comes to contributing to WordPress. She’ll share personal stories where things didn’t quite go as planned, and how the global teams were still able to move forward, all in the hope that you’ll feel more prepared to collaborate asynchronously and with a greater shared understanding.”

Jill 31:21
Awesome. Feedback?Are you willing? Great! So the pitch is super solid. I… everything was clear. It sounded really engaging to me. Can you repeat the title? For some reason? I did not hear it.

Unknown Speaker 31:39
I called it “Building WordPress: Tips for collaborating across time and space.”

Jill 31:48
So I like it. But some refinements I would suggest, I think “building WordPress” doesn’t address the fact that we are talking about the distributed part. And the the part about “across time and space.” I mean, I’m always thinking “Doctor Who”. And also I think I’m not really clear from the title, like, from the pitch its totally clear what it is. And from the title, I don’t quite get it. I think I might use some of the words from the pitch in your title instead.

Angela Jin 32:23
I’m struggling to… I feel like my… what I want to put into this talk is too broad so I really would like to condense more.

Jill 32:31
Okay, yeah. Um, is that something you want help with now? Or do you want to just work on that before our session tomorrow?

Angela Jin 32:38
Oh, nope. Not now. My time is expired.

Jill 32:41
We have we have an extra minute or two. But yeah. Great. Yeah. So yeah, I think you’re really onto it. And I think it’s just the title just needs a bit of tweaking, or like you said it could be reining in the whole thing in a bit. But from the description itself, it sounded that part sounds fine to me.

Chandrika Guntur 33:00
I have a question. So can I work on mine? And do we have time to go over that tomorrow? Or…?

Jill 33:08
Yeah, we absolutely could go over them again tomorrow.

Chandrika Guntur 33:13

Jill 33:14
In our last few minutes, I’d actually love to hear bios from anybody who had the time and wants to share theirs. I’ll let Aurooba go first, and then Miriam, and then Bhargav. It’ll be about a minute each and we’ll see if we have time to get through everybody.

Aurooba Ahmed 33:33
Okay, I am terrible at bios and I hate writing them and every single time I have to write them I want to kill myself a little bit.

Jill 33:40
Thank doing it today!

Aurooba Ahmed 33:43
No, but that I need help. So any feedback you guys give, you folks give, that will be helpful. “Aurooba was the co founder of design and development studio Wanderoak. She has been developing bespoke WordPress solutions for five plus years and is currently writing a course on WordPress theme development. She’s the co-organizer of the Calgary WordPress meetup and has been helping organize WordCamp Calgary for three years. She loves putting together dinner parties and getting lost in a really good book.” This is the longest bio I’ve ever written in my life and all I can think is, like “Oh my God, this is too braggy.”

Jill 34:17
I love it. I have no changes. It is succinct. It’s really clear. It’s friendly. It’s… Ship it, in my opinion. And I’m seeing Angela’s nodding. Any any other thoughts on that? Everyone is nodding. Does anybody have any changes to suggest? We all love it. Ship it! Good work!

Aurooba Ahmed 34:43
Is it maybe like too many things to say or no? No,

Chandrika Guntur 34:49
I don’t know. I don’t think so either. It. It sounds good.

Jill 34:53
It felt like the right length. It didn’t feel like you’re going on and on. A lot of people put a lot of stuff in their bio, but I felt like it was, you know, economy of words, not too many sentences. It just covered everything.

Aurooba Ahmed 35:08
Okay. Thank you. I always also feel nervous.

Jill 35:10
Bios need to be a bit braggy which is one of those things that folks from underrepresented groups tend to not like to do that as much. There’s a bit of conditioning in the world around that. And the over represented population tends, not always, but in general tends to be more okay with it. So it’s a great opportunity to practice leaning into that, and owning some of the awesome shit you’ve done.

Aurooba Ahmed 35:40
Fair enough.

Jill 35:43
We have time for maybe one or two more, probably one. Miriam was next.

Miriam Goldman 35:54
I decided to write a totally new bio other the one I’ve been using, so we’ll see how well this one is. So, “Miriam is a web developer with 15 years experience and currently works for Pondstone Digital marketing. She’s been working with WordPress since 2008 and fell in love with the community in 2016. Passionate about giving back, she’s an organizer for both the Ottawa WordPress meetup and WordCamp Ottawa. When not in front of a computer, Miriam is either a karate sensei, ballroom dancer, or clarinetist, just not all at once, but she’s working on it.

Jill 36:31
Awesome. Feedback? Open to it?

Miriam Goldman 36:34
Oh, you always,

Jill 36:35
Always. Um, again, it is super clear, succinct. I am friendly. I liked it. My only feedback is you didn’t mention your work in our group. And I want you to always mention our group,

Miriam Goldman 36:50
I didn’t know. I have that written down. “And she is also involved with the diverse speaker training group as between-the-trainers lead.” Yeah, I think maybe that’s a bit too wordy. Maybe I’ll just say “she’s involved with the diverse speakers training group.”

Jill 37:08
That or saying “a leadership position.”

Miriam Goldman 37:11
Leadership position. Yeah. Instead of going specific? Yeah.

Jill 37:15
I just want you to be mentioning it. Because anytime you’re speaking, we’ll have at least one spot to have a shout out and get our name out there.

Miriam Goldman 37:24
Now, I mentioned it in Niagara last weekend.

Jill 37:26
Yes. Any other comments for Miriam?

Chandrika Guntur 37:34
That’s good.

Jill 37:37
Great! I’m sorry, Angela?

Angela Jin 37:41
I agree. It’s great. And I think.. add a little bit, a little bit more to your experience, because you say you have like 15 years of experience as a web developer but you didn’t specify like one experience. You can add, you can add a little more in there. It’s 15 years, you’ve got a lot to share.

Jill 38:11
Okay, so where we left off in our session was Bhargav was going to share his bio. Did you still want to do that?

Bhargav Mehta 38:20
Yes. We’ll proceed with it. Just Yes.

Jill 38:26

Bhargav Mehta 38:27
So should I stand?

Jill 38:29
Yes. Thanks.

Bhargav Mehta 38:33
I’m currently working as a functional consultant at KrishaWeb. Ecommerce increases my dopamine levels. He says humming to the melodies of A.R. Rahman is his full time job. Expanding the horizons of knowledge by reading is what people will always find him doing. Bhargav is a co-organizer for the Ahmedabad WordPress meetup and also WordCamp.

Jill 39:01
Nice! I think… did you want feedback?

Bhargav Mehta 39:08

Jill 39:10
Awesome. I thought you had some really good points in there. It illustrated a lot of, you know, what you do and a little bit of your personality. And I think probably just tightening it up a bit. Maybe starting with some of your big roles and just saying just a little bit. Probably. It’ll depend a bit on where you’re submitting the bio to. Some of them can be more and a little bit more playful and some of them should be really short and tight. Any other thoughts? Aurooba!

Aurooba Ahmed 39:44
I love the reference to A.R. Rahman. I would like to see maybe another sentence about your work. Just to make it a little more balanced. I I felt had the feeling that it’s the doesn’t really share a lot about your experience as much. So maybe another sentence about that might help but otherwise really good.

Jill 40:10
Anyone else? Great, thanks very much Bhargav. And Chandrika, did you work on your pitch and want to share it with us?

Chandrika Guntur 40:24
Okay, my pitch is not ready yet, I tried to work on it yesterday, but I just couldn’t get it. I just don’t like it. So I think it’s, I know what I want to say, but I just can’t put it in words yet. So,

Jill 40:39
okay. Yeah. If you want it to run it past us now or another time of whatever you have currently, that’s totally fine. And otherwise,

Chandrika Guntur 40:47
I could do it. What I have now but it’s… I really don’t like it. Okay, so the title is “Building custom WordPress sites with ACF blocks.” Um, “ACF provides an easy way to build custom functionalities and templates in WordPress sites. Combining this with Gutenberg gives more power to the users, your clients. This talk is geared towards beginner developers who build custom WordPress sites for their clients. You’ll learn how to build ACF blocks and how these blocks can be used on multiple sites in different ways.”

Jill 41:38
Nice. Did you want thoughts from us once? Are you done?

Chandrika Guntur 41:43
No, no, I was done. I was done. I’m done.

Jill 41:45

Unknown Speaker 41:45
It’s early. I would love to get feedback.

Jill 41:47
Great. I loved the last few sentences. I loved the like, where you specified what people are getting out of it and who the talk is for and all those things. And yeah, I think just working on that first part, but you already said it was kind of rough. Yeah. Maybe something around? I’m not sure right now. It’s kind of tough. Does anybody else have thoughts on that?

Chandrika Guntur 42:14
It looks like Aurooba does.

Jill 42:19
Oh, sorry.

Aurooba Ahmed 42:23
I think that maybe including who it’s for? Something about who it’s for in the first part will help. And the other thing I would probably personally suggest is mentioning that it’s ACF Pro, because you can’t build blocks with the free version way.

Chandrika Guntur 42:41
Okay. Sure. Thank you.

Jill 42:48
I will look forward to hearing the rest of that when it’s done. Does anybody else have anything they wanted to cover before we move on to section number four?



I lead the Diverse Speaker Training group in the WordPress.org Community Team. We have a workshop that encourages more diverse folks to apply to speak at WordPress events.

I helped organize the first BuddyCamp and for three years co-organized WordCamp Vancouver. I was named one of the top 100 Influencers of WordPress in 2014 by Torque Magazine and one of the top 10 Women of WordPress by CloudWays.

Aurooba Ahmed

Interests: content-first web development, PHP, JS, React, HTML, CSS

I care about friendly useable websites built with clean and elegant code. Always doing my best to keep learning and building my best.

Angela Jin

An inveterate volunteer, Angela has a longstanding passion for building strong, inclusive communities. She joined Automattic in 2018 as a community organizer for the WordPress open source project, and adores working with WordPress communities around the world. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Angela is currently trying out Madrid, Spain, where she delights in learning Spanish, exploring by eating, and reading a good book.

Miriam Goldman

WordPress Developer, Architect, and Tech Lead. WordCamp Ottawa and WordPress Ottawa meetup co-organizer. WordCamp speaker. Karate sensei, and percussionist.

Chandrika Sista

Chandrika is a WordPress developer. She loves to build custom WordPress websites and plugins. She started working with WordPress in 2011.

Currently working as a web developer for Camna LLC.

Bhargav Mehta

Humming to the melodies of A. R. Rahman is my full-time job. Expanding the horizons of knowledge by reading is what people always find me doing. E-commerce raises my dopamine levels and hence I work on E-comm projects. Currently working as Assistant Project Manager at Commerce Pundit.