This post could be titled “How did I go from WordPress meetup attendee to WordCamp organizer?”
I signed up as a volunteer for the second WordCamp I attended here in Rochester, NY seeing it as a great opportunity to get to know some of the people that attended the WordPress meetup I went to. By the end of the day I was a WordCamp organizer for this year. It’s happening October 5th and you can still buy tickets at the official Rochester WordCamp website, hint, hint!
I love my local WordPress community By ‘community’ I mean the people in my area who come together occasionally whether in person or virtually. Those who are willing to help. Those who are learning. Those who use WordPress. Those who make money through their WordPress skills. Those who don’t.
I became part of this community after attending my first WordPress meetup, which is simply a gathering of people who use WordPress. We talk about anything and everything related to WordPress and everyone is invited, from beginner to pro. At our local meetup we’ve learned about website accessibility, SEO basics, how to make your navigation easier for a visit and more.
A WordCamp, on the other hand, is more like a one or two-day long conference (in some cases an entire week!) all about WordPress and is usually organized by the local WordPress meetup. Just like a meetup, the topics cover a range of levels, from beginner to professional, simple to complex, but they are organized into individual sessions that attendees can attend.
You’ll often find WordCamp sponsors, food and networking at WordCamps, too. You can read more about what to expect at a WordCamp in this post called Will You Be there, and my advice for attending a WordCamp in this post called My Advice for Attending a WordCamp.
WordCamps are super fun because you not only learn through a variety of sessions and topics, but you also get to meet others that aren’t able to attend local meetups! People from all over the world may show up to a WordCamp! At my first WordCamp here in Rochester, NY I met someone who drove from lower Pennsylvania to be a speaker. In Ottawa, Canada I met someone who flew in from Oklahoma!
Now that you know the difference between a WordPress Meetup and a WordCamp, you can better understand that a lot more goes in to organizing a one or two-day WordCamp than a two hour local meetup that meets on a regular basis.
On Being a WordCamp Organizer
Once a month we meet virtually or in person to talk about what needs to be done to make our WordCamp successful. And it turns out a LOT more goes into organizing than I realized! I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world! Getting to know this organizing team better is only one of the benefits, and also the biggest!
Just a few things our organizing team is considering when planning our local WordCamp:
- Date – not too close to a holiday, yet also partially determined by the location availability
- Estimated number of attendees – this will help you determine a location and budget. You want to have enough space!
- is it easily accessible? You want to make sure everyone who wants to attend can attend, not just the greater location, but also the facilities.
- How will people arrive if they aren’t local? Is it easy to get to from the airport or public transportation?
- Think about how far people will have to walk just to get to the main venue from parking or to the lunch venue can make a huge difference to someone who can’t walk long distances, but doesn’t have a wheelchair. (As an able-bodied WordCamp Organizer it’s often easy to not think from the perspective of others, rather than just tick off a list. It’s better to try to put yourself in an attendee’s shoes.)
- Budget – this is sort of determined by how many attendees you estimate having, the location you are considering and also impacts the amount you can spend on swag. (As an attendee, it’s always nice to get nice swag, but more on that in a bit.) You don’t need to raise the money, WordPress helps out with that, but you do have to have some numbers.
- Creating the website – they don’t make themselves, you know! So much goes into this…knowing the venue, the date, all the details….
- Sponsorship – Sponsors are awesome! They not only can help us learn and grow by sending knowledgeable reps, but they also contribute financially and can really impact what’s offered by and at WordCamps.
- In consideration of sponsors, you want to make sure they are taken care of. So in that light, make sure they not only have a table and the right amount of chairs needed, but also that they are represented in the whole WordCamp experience. This means placing their logo on the website, promoting them in shout outs via Twitter and Facebook and the day of the event. Take good care of them so they’ll want to sponsor again next year (and possibly bring more/better swag of their own!)
- Speakers – did you know that the speakers are all volunteers at WordCamps? Isn’t that amazing? Some people actually hop on the plane to speak at a WordCamp and pay for the flight and hotel all on their own. This is one reason I love WordPress and the community so much. So many people want to share!
- There are general speakers at WordCamp sessions, but also keynote speakers. Finding a great keynote speaker is no easy task! As an organizer I’ve been able to learn more about WordPress users I’ve never heard of as well as more ‘influential’ WordPress figures. It’s pretty intimidating thinking about approaching some of these people, but then I remind myself that all of the WordPress people I’ve met at other WordCamps have been so willing to help and share that I shouldn’t be intimidated at all!
- Food – you can’t let attendees starve! And you have to pay attention to dietary needs. It doesn’t need to be fancy. In Ottawa I think three out of four meals included pizza!
- Recording – WordPress TV is home to so many WordCamp session recordings. Cameras are provided, but you have to arrange for them!
- Swag – the fun things you bring home are carefully chosen. Swag can be anything from stickers, Wapuu pins and pens to t-shirts and backpacks. When I worked for the ad agency I got to help produce swag items. Sometimes I would get a proof (a sample) and was allowed to keep it, which was always cool. Getting to pick it out can be a challenge. You want to pick something of quality people will use, yet with a price that fits within the budget.
This is just an overview of some of the things we’re thinking about as WordCamp organizers. There’s really more than needs to be considered, but these are the major items.
Get Involved. I really recommend getting involved in your local WordPress meetup, and attending a WordCamp, volunteering the day of or even volunteering to help organize one. I’ve found that i not only have gotten to know the team so much better, but also have learned to appreciate people that put conferences and WordCamps together.
So far my experience has been fun and very eye opening, and I hope to be even more involved next year!