It’s been nine years since Matt Mullenweg hosted the first official WordPress conference – the 2006, San Francisco-based WordCamp. Since that date, the WordPress events industry has boomed, with WordCamps springing up in 205 cities, across 48 countries.
The popularity of these often-smaller, local conferences has given rise to huge multi-day events, too, attracting a “who’s who” of high-profile WordPress users. Some of the biggest include:
- PressNomics – an event targeted at the WordPress-based entrepreneurs who drive the WordPress economy.
- LoopConf – a conference for WordPress developers, covering all the advanced technical material.
- Prestige Conference – another WordPress business conference, with lectures aimed at WordPress freelancers and entrepreneurs.
- WooConf – a conference for all the WooCommerce specialists and store owners.
There’s also a whole host of WordCamps, too, covering anything and everything in between.
And as the WordPress platform grows, expect these conferences to become bigger, better, and more specialist, covering topics tailored to users in all areas of WordPress.
Despite their ever-increasing accessibility and popularity, some WordPress users aren’t prepared to take the plunge and attend their first event. If you fall into this category, this post is for you – I want to take a look at seven of the top benefits of attending your next local WordPress event.
In a room full of WordPress specialists, there are almost certainly opportunities for you to seize. And, best of all, these opportunities come in all shapes and sizes.
Perhaps you’re looking for a skilled developer to iron the kinks out of your latest plugin. Or perhaps you’re that skilled developer that another individual is looking to hire.
Either way, a WordPress conferences is a great place to find work or hire the right person to add value to your business. You could also stumble across like-minded individuals you’d like to collaborate with, kick-starting your next big project.
Although most WordPress users will have no problem hiring someone following an online discussion, nothing beats a face-to-face interaction.
This point is closely linked to finding work opportunities, but it’s important enough to give it a separate section.
One of the primary reasons that people attend WordPress conferences is to network. Even if that networking doesn’t lead to employment today, the contacts you make can still bear fruit down the line. Having met and impressed someone in person, you’ll be the first name they think of should they need the services you provide at some future date.
A professional network can help in several invaluable ways:
- A networking contact can help you connect with an individual you’ve been desperate to meet.
- Your contacts can drive referrals.
- Networking helps you raise your profile in your respective area.
- If you run into any professional difficulties, a professional network can double up as an important support network that you can lean on.
These are some of the main reasons that most industries deem networking important enough to throw regular networking events. For WordPress developers, WordPress events are your industry networking events.
Meet Like-minded Individuals
Some people just hate networking – I’d probably include myself in that category. Although there are obvious benefits of networking, you’ll often find there’s an underlying “fakeness” to an interaction, with both individuals hiding their ulterior motives behind their polite smile.
Even if you have no interest in cultivating a business network, a WordPress conference still gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people – people you might one day call “friends.”
It’s important to remember that many WordPress businesses are one-man operations. It can get lonely spending long hours behind a computer screen with no real human interactions. This situation is exacerbated because what we do can seem completely foreign to someone with a typical 9-to-5. This makes it hard for people to relate to the challenges we face.
Well, guess what? Most people in that room do understand what you’re going through – the challenges of isolation, leaving a stable job to strike it out on your own, and attracting those first clients. This set of (somewhat unusual) commonalities gives you the perfect foundations to build some meaningful and long-lasting friendships.
If you consider yourself to be a “WordPress specialist” it probably pays to keep abreast with all the latest developments in your industry. What better place to do this than a WordPress conference?
Different events cater to different topics, so you’ll probably find yourself more naturally aligned to certain conferences. Even if you can’t find the perfect fit, you’ll still learn a lot at any event you choose to attend, as they tend to cover a wide range of topics.
Why is a WordPress conference one of the best places to learn? Because the talks scheduled by the organizers are presented by specialists — the people who have been there and done it all before. Listen to what they say, take it all in, and you could learn a new skill or give yourself a refresh yourself on an existing one. If you’re genuinely interested in WordPress, WordCamps are also some of the best places to learn about the direction the platform is headed.
Every official WordCamp has its own website, so be sure to check it out before you commit to attending. Most events are completely transparent about their schedule, outlining what topics will be covered and who will be presenting. All it takes is a topic or two that’s of particular interest to you to justify the price tag of attending.
WordPress Business Skills
Due to the immense popularity of WordCamps, there are now more WordPress conferences than ever before. More importantly, they are more diverse than ever before and cover the full spectrum of skills and knowledge you need to make a living with WordPress.
Take, for example, business skills. You might be the best developer in the world, but if you’re lacking the business acumen to monetize your skillset effectively, well, you’re probably not as well off as you could be. Now, good business advice is good business advice, but information tailored to your particular industry is far easier to digest.
You might have guessed where I’m going with this point. In recent years, we’ve seen several WordPress business conferences launched – the biggest being PressNomics, which enters its fourth iteration with the upcoming 2016 event.
Events like PressNomics are targeted at those individuals running WordPress-based businesses and cover all aspects of the WordPress economy – including freelancing. Beyond a certain point, developing new skills is fruitless, and the focus should switch to marketing those skills more effectively. A specialist business conference could be just what you need to take your business (and income) to the next level.
Support Your Local WordPress Community
Because WordCamps are held all over the world, many users take their local event for granted.
A lot goes into planning a WordCamp, though, with volunteers supplying all the man-hours. If people don’t show up, these selfless volunteers rightly question whether that time was well spent. If they decide the answer is “no,” well, the future of that particular event could be under threat.
If you want to ensure that your local WordCamp is a regular feature on the WordPress calendar, make sure you turn up and show your support.
While many conferences are profit-driven, most WordPress events remain affordable, continuing with the platform’s open-source philosophy.
This is especially true for official WordCamps, with prices capped at a very reasonable $20/day, which includes lunch – many WordCamps cost even less, too.
There are very few events in any industry that can compete with WordCamps in terms of value. With so many events and locations scattered all around the world, attendance is becoming more accessible than ever.
Attending an event can be daunting – especially if you don’t know anyone there. Fortunately, the famous WordPress community spirit is present at all WordPress events, and people are incredibly welcoming to newcomers.
In other words, don’t let fear put you off. The benefits are there for all to see. I guarantee that you’ll have fun, learn a lot, and meet some great people.
My advice to you: If attending a WordPress event is even on your radar, jump in and go for it. The knowledge acquired and the contacts you make could be the best thing you ever do for your career.
Sold? Awesome — I’ll see you at the next WordCamp then!
Have you attended a WordPress event? What were your experiences? Share them in the comments section below!
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