The WordPress community is absurdly large, which should be expected when you consider WP makes up nearly one-third of the internet. It should come as no surprise, then, that there is a worldwide series of conferences called WordCamps that are designed specifically for your networking and professional (and personal!) development.
WordCamps range from city-wide gatherings to national get-togethers to continental parties. Every Camp is inclusive for all WordPress users, from bloggers to developers to hobbyists and everything in between. Because of this wide scope, attending a WordCamp can overwhelm a person pretty quickly. It’s easy to try to do everything and feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.
If you can’t attend in person, that’s okay, too, because WordPress.tv puts up a ton of Camp videos you can watch at your leisure.
We’ve asked some experienced WordCamp vets for advice on how you can make the most of WordCamps, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll listen.
Nathan B. Weller
Content manager here at Elegant Themes, Nathan is an old pro at traversing WordCamps, and he can help you eke out every bit of WC goodness you’re entitled to.
Orient yourself to the moment and think about things that can only happen in person and prioritize those things. Breakfast, face to face sit downs, lunches, dinners, late night conversations, etc. Follow your curiosity and trust your personal chemistry, and if you meet someone you hit it off with, don’t cut short a good conversation to sit in on a talk you’re not really excited about.
Grab some coffee in the hall, and build a new relationship. When you do attend talks, engage; take notes, ask questions, and pull everything you can out of the presenters. They’ve likely spent a decent amount of time preparing, and I’ve yet to meet one who wasn’t happy to share more. For some of us, “covering” a WordCamp on social media is our job, but if you’re attending for your own growth and networking, focus on that. Be present.”
Another pro at the whole WordCamp thing, Matt Cromwell makes a living at helping people get the most out of WordPress they can as the Head of Support and Community Outreach at WordImpress.
My advice to anyone new to WordCamps is three things:
1. Look at the schedule in advance and first circle only the talks that are REALLY interesting to you. Then circle 2 or 3 talks that just seem really interesting and maybe out of your league a little, but make sure that you have at least 2 or 3 slots where you have NO talks circled at all. Use those times to do what we call “The Hallway Track”. Cruise the venue, walk through the sponsor tables get cool swag, and make sure to talk to as many people as you can. WordCamps are just as much about connection as they are information and learning.
2. Make sure to attend the afterparty, and make sure you talk to as many people as you can. Again, make connections.
3. Ask around about local Meetups and Facebook Groups that people are part of. Because after you do a WordCamp you’ll want to maintain those connections until the next WordCamp. Meetups and Facebook Groups are a great way to do that.
BONUS #4: Have fun! WordCamps are a lot of fun.
Tagline: “I make awesome things with WordPress.” Website: joshpress.com. Conclusion: take Josh’s advice when he tells you about WordCamp.
I love WordCamps, and I’ve gone to five or ten or so a year for awhile now. They are all about the people, meeting new people, and improving existing relationships. I used to be super-awkward about talking to new people. Most people, including me today, are in that same position, so it’s really just about getting a conversation started.
If I don’t know someone, I normally ask them “what do you do with WordPress?” which is a pretty perfect question as they must do something or want to do something with WordPress if they are at a WordCamp.
When something happens in the WordPress-osphere, Chris Lema knows about it and has something to say about it. He’s the kind of dude you kind of have to listen to if you know what’s good for you.
The thing people forget is that everyone feels new, at a WordCamp. Few people feel like “insiders.” So the trick to engaging is to take initiative. Because the moment you break the ice with, “What do you do?” you discover how great the community is.
The best thing you can do at a WordCamp is walk up to 20 people you don’t know, one at a time, and ask them about their journey. They’ll likely ask about yours. And those conversations will transform the event into a network building dynamic. You’ll recommend some of those people to others, get leads from some, and partner with some. All because you walked across the room and spoke with a stranger.
Lead organizer of WordCamp Birmingham (Alabama), Nathan has been involved in the planning of multiple Camps in different cities. So he, understandably, had a few pointers for ya.
Meet people and enjoy the community. By the end of 2017, I will have been to 10 WordCamps across the country. No matter where I go the WordPress community is open and friendly. So attend with the idea of intentionally networking and meeting people. Starting a conversation is as simple as saying “hi!” and asking them what they do with WordPress. I promise you’ll find friends – WordPress people are awesome.
Take great notes, but don’t get overwhelmed. You’re going to be hit with a firehose of information at WordCamp, which is awesome! But it’s easy to get so inundated with new ideas that you actually get none of them done. I recommend spending an hour in the days following WordCamp to review the best ideas you heard and pick the top three to implement in the coming weeks. Then, when you get those accomplished, check your notes and pick a few more.
A WordCamp US organizer (among others), Eric has put in his time to learn exactly what makes a fun and worthwhile WordCamp experience. If you can’t listen to him, who can you?
WordCamp is literally for anyone interested in WordPress, from designers, to developer, to bloggers/copywriters, to someone that knows nothing about the software.
My biggest piece of advice is to have a goal around what you want to accomplish at WordCamp. Do you want to network with others in the same field? Maybe to network with others in a field you’re interested in getting in to? Do you want to hone a particular skill?
Often times, I see many wondering around, figuring out their next steps at the WordCamp right then and there, not fully utilizing the sessions and networking opportunities available. Knowing your goal, you can check out speaker sessions ahead of time to see which which sessions can help achieve your goal and/or plan out time for networking when certain blocks of time have no speaker sessions you’re interested in.
Raquel is the co-founder of Mode Effect, a WP dev and design company. She works on making WordCamps awesome. I mean, she calls herself an “intentional community builder,” so she gives good advice.
If this is your first WordCamp and you are new to the WordPress community, let me encourage you to dive in. Go to the talks and workshops. Get caught up in the Hallway Track. Don’t be afraid to approach anyone.
And go to the After-Party! This is one of the best places to connect with the community. We’re one of the friendliest communities out there, and there are so many of us eager to get to know more peeps! WP communities actually want more people and we’re full of intentional community builders so let this give you the gentle nudge you need to dive in.
Christina is a dev and designer from Tennessee, who makes a point to spend her spare time giving back to, as she puts it, “geeky pursuits on the internet.” That makes organizing multiple WordCamps a no-brainer.
Use Twitter to follow the #WCUS hashtag (author’s note: or the hashtag of the cityCamp you’re at, such as #wpnash or #wpyall), even if you’re not usually a Twitter user. A lot of info gets shared there during WordCamp, and it’s a great resource after the conference too for slides, great quotes and good suggestions. Try to follow the speakers you see and the sponsors you click with, and going forward you’ll continue to get to learn from the active, enthusiastic WordPress community.
At the same time, don’t spend the whole WordCamp with your head in your phone or only talking to the people you came with. I’ve attended several WordCamps with my sister & business partner Jessica, but we always try to split up to maximize our learning & mingling opportunities. So chat with the people sitting next to you and try to be open to the hallway conversations and social opportunities! WordCamps are great for introverts like me because the vast majority of attendees are kind, creative and open-minded. Whatever your experience or knowledge level, you’re welcome there.
Hey! That’s little old me! While I am definitely not in the seasoned veteran category, I do love me some WordCamps, and I want you to love them, too.
Say hi to strangers. Just walk up and introduce yourself. One of my favorite openers is “your shoes are awesome.” It works wonders, and if you don’t like shoes as much as I do, then you’re welcome to replace that with another garment the person is wearing.
Make sure you each lunch with others. You can just sit down and say hello. You’ll have a great conversation, and you may make a new friend. Some of the best experiences I’ve had at conferences come from lunchtime conversations.
Send emails after you get home. Take out all the cards you collected and send out quick emails (personalized, obviously) to everyone you met. Such a small step makes a big difference to potential business contacts and friends.
I’ll reiterate what was said above: you should go to the after party–they’re awesome.
Whether you’re a developer or blogger or use WordPress for file storage (please don’t do that–there are way better options), WordCamps have something for you.
If you listen to even a little of the advice given above, I can pretty much guarantee that your Camping experience will be better, brighter, and more enriching.
And if you don’t, then you’ll still have a great time because a WordCamps are fantastic.
What advice do you have for making the most out of WordCamps?
Join Us at WordCamp US This Year in Nashville (December 1-3)
If you’d like to put these tips into practice with a huge portion of the Divi Nation and six or so members of the Elegant Themes staff, join us this year in December at WordCamp US.
As has become tradition, we plan to kick things off with an early morning coffee and pastry meet and greet. We’ll be doing a live stream, handing out free t-shirts, and mixing it up with everyone who shows up. This is a great way to meet a few friendly faces right at the beginning of the conference and it even helps us plan follow up events around the WordCamp like dinners, drinks, and hangouts at Airbnb’s for those interested.
Use the button below to join our page and then be sure to RSVP to the WordCamp US Coffee and Pastry Meet and Greet.
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