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How to Make the Most of WordCamps

Make the most of WordCamps

The WordPress community is constantly growing. Together with the increasing use of WordPress as a leading CMS, hundreds of people from various industries are involved in WordPress development and eventually join WordCamps. With WordCamps happening all the time all around the world, it is very likely that you could easily attend a camp in the next couple of years. A good idea is to know exactly what WordCamps are, how they differ from other conference events, and how to make the most of them.

And if you have been to one or two WordCamps and already know what to expect, that’s great. Consider the following a checklist reminder of how to prepare for your next camp.

DevriX is a WordPress agency, that has been contributing to WP since 2010. At the latest camp in Sofia in November 2018, our team was the biggest one on site with 28 people welcoming and informing attendees.

Most of the advice in this article comes from DevriX senior team members who love camps and know how to get the best out of the experience.

953 WordCamps worldwide since 2006. Source: central.wordcamp.org

What Are WordCamps?

WordCamps are WordPress Conferences. That means most of the talks are about working with WordPress and everything related. They cover aspects like WP design and development, business and blogging, management and leadership topics. Besides being specialized, camps are also local, open to everyone, and a great bargain.

  • WordCamps are local events with some international speakers and a majority of local speakers. The official language is usually English but some talks are presented on the local language, depending on the audience choice. The Camps’ purpose is to address and solve both global and local issues of the most popular CMS.
  • However specialized and focused, WordCamps are open to everyone who is interested in WordPress for whatever reason – from a blogger to an enterprise owner. Just like WordPress itself is the optimal solution for small websites and large platforms.
  • Moneywise, camps are excellent deals, especially compared to other tech conferences. Due to the generosity of sponsors, the prices are symbolic and the tickets include food, drinks, and some attractive swag.

As with any other conference, you have a variety of opportunities and you should set your goals in advance, prioritize them and come prepared. You may want to focus on learning something new and checking out where you stand with your competencies and business. Or make a point of presenting yourself to others and letting them know what you do.

Networking is what most people are there for, from both a personal and a professional standpoint. Camps are excellent opportunities to meet other WP agencies, strategic partners like hosting providers, industry leaders and global community sponsors like Yoast, etc.

Companies are also offered great deals as WordCamp sponsors. The packages include exposure on both the event website, most media materials and within the conference venue. When a company is a sponsor, it is usually granted the opportunity to present itself on a stand and is mentioned in the official opening and closing talks.

Wapuu is “the official unofficial mascot of WordPress” with a growing worldwide community and artwork exchange: https://wapu.us/

A WordCamp Guide for Beginners

If you are a newcomer, planning to attend your first WordCamp, here are the basics.

Rule number one: Visit the website of the Camp. It should include the most important information you will need. Check the talks schedule so you may choose in advance what to attend and which presenters to meet in person. Or maybe there will be sponsors to talk to? Also, you should check the location and your access to it so that you do not miss the opening presentations while looking for parking.

What to bring: Make sure you take all the mobile devices you usually use. And keep in mind that you will spend over 8-9 hours there so they have to be charged or with extra batteries. As our Business Marketing Lead Radostina Tsvetkova suggests, have an additional phone battery to take pictures and recordings from the talks. Or, if you prefer the traditional touch, bring a notebook and a couple of pens so you can write and sketch.

How to dress: Wear something that will make people remember you better, that is the generic networking rule. And if you want to make a statement with your outfit, do it. For example, you may put a t-shirt from a related event or something you love (like a comic or a band) just to give people a topic to talk about when they approach you. Some teams wear their company branded t-shirts. The general dress code is very casual. It is also good to wear your name badge in a visible way and not forget to add your Twitter handle – that always says “I’m open to new contacts.”

WCSOF 2018: DevriX team wearing the company’s t-shirts.

What you do NOT need: You will not need water, coffee, or food. The tickets usually include lunch and snack coupons, and there is plenty of coffee and water. The camp venues are also usually well connected to any other service you might need during the day.

Set a learning goal. You may try to attend as many lectures as possible. But there will be a lot of information and you do not need to learn and completely understand all of it at once. So set a goal – for example, to learn one practical thing out of each presentation you choose to attend. This way, you will come out of the conference with a dozen new tips and skills to implement later. And do not waste time hanging around. As our Creative Lead Alex Dimitrov advises, make a plan to go and see more talks and spend less time in the hallways unless, of course, you are networking.

Be creative about the parties, too. They are often thematic and the theme is announced in advance, so you have the time to really dress up! The biggest party is on Saturday night, after the Camp’s first day. Also, it might be better not to party the night before the camp and save your energy for when the business part is over.

Accommodation and Internet connection. Ensure your accommodation beforehand – such conferences gather together hundreds and thousands of people. So do not be surprised if the place you want to stay at is fully booked.

Also, think about your connectivity, especially if the Camp is abroad. Some countries have expensive data roaming or this may not be covered by your mobile plan. Most camps have free wifi however, it is also a good idea to make sure you have your own connectivity, if possible.

Do not worry if you have never been to a WordCamp before. You will not be the only newbie, and the community is really open, friendly and welcoming. The DevriX Team on WordCamp Sofia 2018 included 8 teammates who had never attended a WordCamp before, which was almost one-third of the team. As one of them, Yulia Oleynik, Project Manager, said, stop worrying about the fact that you’re a beginner and just let go of any stress and enjoy the Camp.

WordCamps have an official code of conduct. It is written mainly for camps organizers but in case you have any doubts as to what is appropriate and what is not, you may also check it here: https://make.wordpress.org/community/handbook/wordcamp-organizer/planning-details/code-of-conduct/

Reminders for WordCamp Advanced Attendees

However experienced you may be, never underestimate the opportunities that each event offers you. Even if you are a WordPress champion who has attended lots of WordCamps, you may still need some reminders of just how to get prepared for your next – just like you need a list of things to take on a trip. You have chosen and probably paid to be present, so consider the reminders below.

Set Your Present Priorities

Try to specify in advance what you want to achieve and take for yourself from that particular Camp. You already know that Camps are events for learning, networking, partying, doing business or landing your dream job.

  • Do you need to network more than to learn? Then use the breaks wisely.
  • Do you need to talk to an expert in your field? Be active and approach them.
  • Or maybe you want to lay the ground for future business opportunities with the WordCamp sponsor? Then make an appointment and prepare your elevator pitch.

It all comes down to how you manage your time on the spot and what priorities you set for yourself.

For example, Ivelin Djangarov’s priority as a back-end developer at DevriX is to learn. “I will plan my presentations schedule so as not to miss the important ones while talking with friends”, he says. Alex Dimitrov takes the opposite approach: “Talk with more people! It’s the real reason for attending a WordCamp. The presentations are all recorded and you can watch them at home.”

Be Active Asking Questions After the Talks

A good presentation becomes even more valuable for everyone present when it becomes an engaging discussion. That is a very good way for all advanced attendees to add value to the WordCamp. As Bojidar Valchovski, backend developer, says, I would definitely prepare interesting questions for the people who will present at the Camp.

Prepare to ask questions to add value to the camp talks.

Get on Social Media

Prepare to intensively post on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. WordCamps always have a dedicated hashtag (usually WC + the name of the city + the year). Make sure you know the hashtag and use it. Also, your team probably will use its own hashtag for group events, do not forget that one, too.

As our CTO Stanko Metodiev reminds us, make a good plan for your social presence, personal and company. If you are a team, it is a good idea to plan in advance how to take turns and be constantly posting from your company profiles.

Use the Opportunity to Present Yourself

Preparing a good stack of business cards is just the beginning, our HR manager Adelina Vasileva states. And if you do not do networking on a regular basis, it will be a good idea to rehearse in advance the way you present yourself.

Prepare a short (one sentence) and a longer version of who you are and what you do. Write it down, just for yourself. Answering a simple question such as “What are you up to?” could be a challenge both for young professionals and people who have a lot of experience. And it has to be catchy, too, with a storytelling approach. Also, you may want to prepare your answer in different versions for new contacts and for reconnecting with old friends.

Know How to Speak About Your Company

If you are working for a company, you should also know how to present it and your personal position within it. It is equally important to state how the company is related to WordPress. As Vasil Dimchev, a project manager at DevriX, suggests, learn the company mission and values, what differentiates you from the competition and what you are personally doing in the company.

As Radostina Tsvetkova advises, when leading a whole team you have to think about several issues. For example, you may prepare a schedule with everybody’s tasks and responsibilities and help them manage different company activities at the venue.

At WordCamps sponsor companies have their stands to engage visitors and promote their brand. Gamification and good slack are always good strategies.

Plan Your Networking

This piece of advice comes from our CEO Mario Peshev, who has attended and spoken at numerous international WordCamps: book some meeting time slots for all of the folks whom you’d like to meet. The busiest people such as business and agencies owners, sponsors and CEOs aren’t always available during all of the conferences so schedule your 101 time with them, do not leave it all to chance.

 

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Do Not Skip Meetups and Workshops

Another valuable part of WordCamps are the additional workshops where you can learn very practical skills and the extra meetups that are usually dedicated to a specific topic or audience. Explore these opportunities in advance so that you can set out your priorities.

It’s All About Your Attitude

WordCamps are about knowledge and information. They are good networking events for meeting people with the same interests. They are also opportunities to find a better job, your next project to work on or business facilitators. Yes, Camps are all of that and more and it is a whole, immersive, live experience.

The way you go through a WordCamp is a matter of priorities, goals and ultimately your attitude. Here is some final advice from the DevriX team:

Vladislav Abrashev, Back-end Developer: “Come meet the people from the WordPress community and be inspired by the energy and knowledge of the WordPress gurus.”

Mariyan Dimitrov, Full-stack Developer: “Just put on your happy face and everything will be fine – a smile opens many doors!”

Rossie Vicheva, Digital Marketing Strategist: “Be prepared but do not try to be in control all the time. Stay open and relaxed, have fun and immerse yourself in the experience.”

To Sum It Up

WordCamps give us, the members of the WordPress Community, an invaluable opportunity to meet up with old friends and new open-source fellows, share ideas and experience, talk about our challenges and shape the future of WordPress together.

Unlike other technology conferences, the open source community relies on collaboration and shared knowledge for our mutual success. There are a handful of conferences where you’d feel more at home, more welcome and surrounded by friendly like-minded people to communicate with.

Going to a Camp is the perfect balance between learning new things, sharing priceless knowledge with fellow collaborators, impacting the entire community and having tons of fun while at it.

So go on and schedule your next WordCamp here: https://central.wordcamp.org/schedule/ You may read more about our team’s WordCamp experiences in the News section of our blog. We are looking forward to WordCamp Plovdiv and WordCamp Nis in May. Are you coming?

Related: DevriX at WordCamps

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