If you’ve been in the WordPress ecosystem very long, you’ve heard of WordCamps. So what are they and why should you attend?
What is a WordCamp?
Your answer to this question depends a lot on your role within the WordPress ecosystem. Regardless, almost every weekend there is at least one WordCamp happening somewhere in the world.
The official description from WordCamp Central is as follows:
“WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress.
WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users like you. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.”
We’re excited for WordCamp San Diego this coming weekend. Everyone of our core team is participating. Devin is one of the organizers, Matt is speaking and organizing the Beginners’ Bootcamp, Jason will be staffing our Give sponsor booth, and Bridget is volunteering to do the social media. Basically, San Diego is our home WordCamp and we plan to have a strong presence and get everything out of it we possibly can.
How do you optimize your WordCamp experience? Let’s break it down by the end-user: beginner, intermediate, developer, and sponsor.
What can I get out of WordCamp as a beginner?
WordCamps are often the on-boarding experience for new WordPress users to the software, the culture, and the community. One of the best parts of WordCamp is the people that you meet.
Firstly, I’d advise attending with a friend. My very first WordCamp was Orange County in 2013. I went with my blogging buddy, Carol Stephen of Your Social Media Works. Our experience was that it was much easier to get to know people when you already had a friend. Also, this made it less lonely for the unstructured times of lunch and dinner.
My second piece of advice is to take notes but don’t stress yourself out. I enjoy taking notes by tweeting. It makes it easier for me to use them in blog recaps later. It helps me concentrate. However, some people prefer to take notes in a plain text editor. Some people even sketch their notes:
— Jess Boctor (@JessBoctor) September 26, 2015
As a beginner, it’s important to attend sessions ready to learn. Just as important, however, is what they call the “Hallway Track.” What’s the hallway track? This is where you get into conversations while standing in the halls, outside of the venue, or even in a break room. So choose the sessions you want ahead but it’s okay not be in session, too.
For example, at our first WordCamp, Carol and I went into an under-used room just to charge our laptops. That break serendipitously turned into an opportunity to meet and chat with Syed Balkhi. It all started because he overheard our conversation and joined in.
We enjoyed his session on blogging tips and tricks but had no idea he would be a rising star in the WordPress world like he is today. Syed interacted with us with no ego; just friendliness.
— Bridget Willard (@YouTooCanBeGuru) June 1, 2013
What if I’m an intermediate level user?
Intermediate users are in a position to learn and give back through speaking and mentoring. If you plan on presenting at a WordCamp, that’s great, But Chris Ford recommends speaking at meetups first.
“Once you’ve gotten up to speak for five minutes, you can do ten.”
Whether you start writing on your own WordPress-powered blog or start contributing to meetups, you can give back.
WordCamps also continue to be a place where you can level up your skills. Don’t discount a speaker or topic as being beneath you. Being a life-long learner is what helps improve you and WordPress as a whole.
In fact, Roy Sivan in his WCLAX talk recommends learning things outside of WordPress to make it better. That’s right up your alley as an intermediate user.
Also, don’t forget that if you speak at WordCamp to go to the Speaker Dinner. Deepen your friendships. Support other speakers.
Should I consider myself a developer or designer, what can I get out of WordCamp?
Again, you can contribute to WordPress by mentoring. As a developer you can discuss your plugin business model. You can speak on a design panel. You can discuss how to onboard your clients. As a developer with a plugin product, you can become a sponsor.
A developer who considers himself to be advanced should always continue to talk to beginners — be the fly on the wall in the beginner bootcamp — better yet, teach it. You should never be too far away from your customer’s mindset.
Another reason to attend WordCamp is the friendships you make. Networking with your peers — other developers and designers — is a great way to not just deepen relationships but take advantage of serendipity. I wonder how many products are the result of a conversation in the hallway near the latte station.
How do sponsors factor in?
For us, as a WordPress product development company, WordCamps are all of the above. But also, it’s a chance for us to network with our users or potential users. Other industries have trade shows. We have WordCamps.
Talking to the folks in the community is a way for us to keep in touch with our customer base. It’s also a way to refer people either looking for jobs or partners to build products. Plugin developers and website developers often have affiliate or partnership relationships — often built over a few drinks and networking at the after party.
We enjoyed sponsoring #WCLAX and talking to everyone.
— Impress.org (@ImpressOrg) November 11, 2015
What’s your #WordCampTip?
We asked, you answered.
Of course, there’s more to WordCamps than we can possibly cover here. We wanted some of your tips, too. So we sent out a tweet and here are some of the responses.
What's your #WordCampTip?
(Answers may be used in a blog.)
— Impress.org (@ImpressOrg) April 15, 2016
@WordImpress Talk to everyone. “Hallway Track” is the most valuable.
— Joe Casabona @ #WCUS (@jcasabona) April 15, 2016
@WordImpress Say "Hi" to a stranger. It's fascinating to learn their stories and how they use WordPress. You might even make a friend!
— Eric Karkovack (@karks88) April 15, 2016
@WordImpress ask a question if you don't get it. Don't be shy. We're all there to teach & learn from each other.
— Evan Scheingross (@evanwebdesign) April 15, 2016
@WordImpress Say "Hi!" to everyone you can. Take 5 mins and talk with them but don't stick around too long they are doing the same thing!
— Jason Tucker 👨🏻💻📸🎙 (@jasontucker) April 15, 2016
@WordImpress remember everyone is a person just like you. Approach people and say hi. Don't be starstruck. We're all mortal here. LOL
— John Locke (@Lockedown_) April 15, 2016
@WordImpress Plan who you'll want to talk to using the Attendees list (make sure your @gravatar is showing!), then throw it out the window.
— Kari Leigh Marucchi (@foundartphotog) April 15, 2016
The "WordScape" is broad. Do your research to find examples of those doing it the recommended WP way – and learn from them. #WordCampTip.
— Darren Brett King (@dbrettking) April 16, 2016
My #WordCampTip is to bring a buddy.
— Bridget Willard (@YouTooCanBeGuru) April 15, 2016
So, what’s your next WordCamp?
Leave your answer in the comment section of the blog.
We’d love to know.