Earlier this summer, I decided to become more involved in meeting some like-minded individuals to discuss entrepreneurship, internet business and other topics I don’t typically delve into with friends. One reason for this was simply to meet new people, while the other was the idea of “putting yourself in uncomfortable situations.” I don’t mean embarrassing situations, but situations that challenge you to take little risks in order to develop certain skills and create new opportunities.
This started by signing up for several meet ups in Grand Rapids, which eventually let me to Wordcamp Grand Rapids. I attended a number of sessions, primarily in the Community track. During the sessions, it was great to see so many people scribbling notes and asking questions. After the sessions, speakers were usually surrounded by people wanting more. Prior to the event, I toyed with the idea of signing up as a speaker and although the sessions only had around 30 attendees each, I decided since I had never been to a WordCamp that it would be a bit too much of a leap.
However, when I heard that WordCamp Detroit was rolling around, I decided to put myself in the ultimate uncomfortable situation and signed up to be a speaker. There were a few topics I would have loved to talk about, but eventually I landed on SEO. Shortly after, I was contacted and ultimately chosen to speak at the October 6th event at the beautiful, historic and recently renovated Madison Theatre Building in downtown Detroit.
Aside from a brief toast at my brother’s wedding in August, I hadn’t done any public speaking in a couple years. I already knew the main subjects, plugins, tips and so on that I wanted to cover, so I figured a week would be enough time to prepare my presentation. Well, on Monday prior to WordCamp, my 1st floor apartment was flooded from the 2nd floor. Most of the ceiling, some of the walls and all of the carpet were a mess. Needless to say, not much work got done during the first couple days of the week. In fact, even as I did work, it was with the sound of 6 blowers and a huge dehumidifier running and with an air mattress stuffed in my office since that was the only room with a little quiet.
A few nights with little sleep and a lot of last minute edits later, my presentation, Getting Found: Optimizing Your WordPress Site for Search was done.
I got up and left Grand Rapids around 6am on Saturday morning and arrived in Detroit around 8:30, just as registration was beginning. I got my pass, t-shirt and really nice zip-up hoodie they had for the speakers (thanks guys!) and went up to the 5th floor. The auditorium where the user track was held was impressive, to say the least.
I spent the day watching the other presentations and was very impressed with everyone’s presentation abilities; everything was clean, well-prepared and insightful. I wasn’t to speak until 2:15pm, so I had plenty of time to get nervous.
At lunch, I went for a brief walk and did a quick, final run-through of my presentation. By the time 2:15 rolled around and I finally started setting up, everything felt great. I rolled through my session, covered everything I wanted to touch on and had some great questions from the audience during the Q&A portion.
Having only spoken with a few attendees prior to the session, it was fun to suddenly be approached by so many people. By the time the next session began and I sat down and opened my laptop, I had a number of emails and very positive tweets about my presentation. Here are just a few of my favorites (if you’re included in this, thank you!):
I applaud David Veldt on his SEO presentation at WordCamp Detroit #WCdetroit He definitely knows his stuff and is quite thorough
— YowSeo (@YowSeo) October 6, 2012
— Korey Jackson (@koreybjackson) October 6, 2012
@DavidVeldt Brilliant! Thank you!
— Dr. ChristineKaczmar (@thedigestiondoc) October 6, 2012
After the conference wrapped up, we had a couple hours for dinner until the after party. One of the huge perks of the trip was that the Detroit Tigers were having their 1st game of the post-season just a block away. Having never been to a post-season game, I wandered over with my camera and enjoyed the crowd and peeking in the fence. I then wandered downtown to explore for a while, grabbed a quick dinner and came back to The Madison for the party.
The view from the roof was amazing, especially for a life-long Tigers fan overlooking a lit-up post-season game in Detroit. I chatted with a few people and hit the road around 8:30pm to beat the traffic from the Tigers game.
Overall, it was an amazing experience; not only to meet so many great people and attend such a well-organized, insightful event, but to be given the opportunity to speak to an audience and share what I’ve learned over the years. If you were in attendance—thanks! Second, in case you missed it, the links, notes and overview of my presentation are here.
Lastly, today is my birthday and exactly one year since I launched this site. With this experience and several projects and plans in the works, I’m excited to see what the next year brings.