WordCamp Is More than Sessions. My WordCamp San Diego Recap

Perspectives from a Sponsor, Camp Volunteer, and Attendee.

Attending a WordCamp should always be a learning experience — regardless of your role.

This past weekend, Team Awesome as I call us, participated in WordCamp San Diego. Though this isn’t my first WordCamp by any stretch of the imagination, I had a unique experience at WordCamp San Diego.

2016: Marketing and WordCamps

Yes, I’ve attended and tweeted before. I even attended, tweeted, and represented the WordCamp on Social Media. This time I was all of that and I partnered with my team at WordImpress to represent Give at the Sponsor Booth.

For a plugin development company, WordCamps are our trade shows. We get to meet our customers, prospects and friends at our booth.

Does that mean I didn’t get anything out of WordCamp? By no means.

As a life-long learner I believe that you can learn in any situation despite any given circumstance. People often joke about the “hallway track” and dismiss it as “just chatting.” Any conversation can be fruitful because it gives you insight into how someone thinks, processes information, and, of course, the conversation itself builds relationships.

WordCamp San Diego Sessions:

My booth mate, Jason and I traded off attending sessions so I was able to attend five sessions this weekend. But that didn’t limit learning opportunities. I would also point out that reinforcement is an under-appreciated form of learning.

Free vs Premium Plugins. Why go pro? Kyle Maurer

Kyle Maurer discussed the difference between free and premium plugins. He believes that though Open Source promotes generosity of code, it also can sometimes lack the accountability that businesses rely on to succeed. This is why Plugins need to charge for their products; to support and provide the business reliability needed to get things done.

Reality is, he shared, “That someone can put together a plugin that solves a need, upload it to the repo, and then never update it or support it. Yes it’s free. But its abandoned and free. Abandoned plugins, unfortunately, are a security risk to your site. “

Kyle addressed why it is such a good idea to pay for a plugin. As he shared, $100 for any given plugin, over one year, for example, is less than $10 a month. When you think about the SaaS subscriptions I gladly pay such as Hootsuite Pro ($14.99/mo), Canva For Work ($12.99/mo), and Dropbox ($9.99/mo), what’s the big deal about paying $27-130 a year for a license that gives you access to updates, documentation, and support? Perspective changes everything.

Verious B. Smith III: The Best Plugins for Social Media and Email Opt-ins

This was Verious’ first talk at a WordCamp, but he’s not new to speaking. He runs the Inland Empire WordPress meetup.

What I found interesting was his insight that although you should be on social media and should optimize your site for social posting, you do not own your social media fans and followers. What’s the solution? Good old-fashioned email marketing. That’s something that will evolve but never go away. Own your content. Know your customers. Own your customer data.

Adam Silver: Fast & Easy WordPress Theming with “Page Builders”

Adam Silver broke down the reasons why you, as a website developer, should use a page builder. Divi, Headway (his favorite), and Beaver Builder were among the plugins he discussed. Page builders give you the benefit of speed and consistency while offering customization. It’s a win-win.

Both you and your client want a delivered site as soon as possible, right? So find a page builder you like, test out your skills in a safe area (like DesktopServer) and perfect your marketable skills.

Keynote: Chris Lema – Your next five years with WordPress

We get emotionally attached to WordPress because, for many of us, it has changed our careers, or even our lives. Chris Lema pointed out that many developers have the WordPress logo “tattooed on their bodies — permanently,” he said.

But the truth is that every technology has been replaced by a newer one. What makes WordPress special? Rather, what protects WordPress from the fate of the ATM, Blockbuster, or Moviefone? It’s the community. It’s up to us to build the software, contribute, and continue to encourage our community.

Chris Ford: What does it take to change careers and how do you prepare for it?

As someone who recently changed both careers and industries I especially appreciated Chris Ford’s talk.

Your own happiness and mental health often take a back seat to responsibilities — especially financial. But it’s important to reassess. Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Chris recommends studying those who you admire: what is their behavior, what books do they read, etc.

Our careers are in our own control; it’s up to us to change them.

The Booth Track:

I learned so much by working at our Give Sponsor Booth this weekend. Of course, I knew to smile, make eye contact, stand, ask questions, have ready answers, etc.

But here are some points I found important to share:

  • Talking to customers is amazing. Ask them questions. What are they doing in WordPress or with WordPress?
  • You can still tweet — but not when people are near.
  • Bring packing tape; you may need to take home swag. Thanks to our GoDaddy neighbors for the lend.

  • Have fun. Be spontaneous. Engage with the community. It will reinforce relationships and serve as a reason to chat again.

  • We should give out 80% of our Swag on Saturday; not everyone attends on Sunday and, if they do, they’re often in workshops.

  • Booth neighbors can be your best friends. These are your peers. You can have substantive conversations in lull periods. Also, you’ll probably see the same people at the next conference or camp.

  • Pack snacks, drinks, and possibly a lunch if WordCamp starts later on Sunday.
  • One of your fans can be an advocate (and can give you a tiny bit of a break at the booth). Their excitement is authentic and contagious.

The Conversation Track:

Having conversations with friends you met only on Twitter, people you’re seeing for the first time, or long-time friends are all valuable at WordCamp.

Here are some highlights from this past weekend — paraphrased, of course:

  • The REST API is complex and two people can discuss it totally differently.
  • The Codex is the standard. You don’t learn guitar from a ten-year-old on YouTube, you watch Clapton. Always read the Codex.
  • As a freelancer, not everyone is your client. Your client should be those whose hourly rate (or equivalent) is higher than yours.
  • The strategic placement of your swag can help extend the conversations at the booth.
  • It’s great to specialize in a framework like Genesis, but you should still learn other things — even if it’s a new presentation platform.
  • Sometimes you have to market all the way to the finish line. Don’t presume the customer will make the same or full logical conclusions you do.
  • Talk to other vendors. You may discover opportunities. For example, Bluehost, though Grassroots.org gives free hosting to 501(c)3 nonprofits.
  • Working in your client’s country can be more convenient on a long project than dealing with 15 hour time differences.
  • Sometimes a plugin that solves a problem is only a few lines of code.
  • Write every day even if it’s only 150 words. All of the great writers looked at is as a habit/job. They didn’t wait for inspiration

Be Generous With Your Expertise:

Most people who know me know that I am a huge fan of Twitter. So, I had the distinct pleasure of exchanging some of my tips and giving back to the hallway track.

Be generous with your ideas. Be open to learn. Ask questions. You never know, you may just make a friend or business connection. After all, it is a professional conference.

Debrief After the Camp:

Don’t discount slow-growth learning.

Adam Silver advises everyone to let WordCamp sink in. Give yourself some time to process what you’ve learned.

Recaps are more beneficial than “another blog post.” Writing a recap forces you to remember, think, and consider. If you know that you’ll be writing a recap, your mind will consider more connections.

Here are some recaps we’ve found:

Recapping the WordCamp San Diego Recap:

My heart is full. My mind is full. My body is tired. But I would do it all again next weekend without hesitation.

My next WordCamp is Orange County July 9-10, 2016. I can’t wait to see friends, learn new things, and, of course, tell people about the most robust online donation plugin for WordPress. 😉

Your Turn:

What did you enjoy about WordCamp San Diego? What were your A-ha moments? Who did you get to meet for the first time? What’s your next WordCamp?