Attending WordCamp? Here are some thoughts…

Whether you’re attending WordCamp for the first time or your 100th, you’re bound to have fun, learn a lot, and widen your circle of WordPress friends.

From my first WordCamp (Buffalo 2014) to my most recent (Toronto 2016), and from being an attendee, speaker, and organizer, I can tell you firsthand of the joys (and challenges) of attending WordCamps.

First: No Two WordCamps are the Same

Even if they are in the same city run by the same people, each camp will be different. Different speakers, venues, sponsors, and caterers will create a different experience. And, of course, the attendees will be different each time.

Second: You Will Meet the Same People Across Time and WordCamps

While I meet new folks at every event, I have created an amazing network of WordPress friends through WordCamps – and we greet each other as old friends at every event.

Third: No Matter What Your WordPress Experience Is, You Will Fit In

Every WordCamp has a spectrum of attendees with every level of experience. I have met people who have never used WordPress, and those who are theme and plugin developers, and core contributors. You will find people who are at your level…and you will find sessions that will help you learn and grow. 

Fourth: At Times You May Feel Overwhelmed, but That’s Normal

My first WordCamp I was completely overwhelmed in some of the sessions. I felt like an imposter, like I was pretending to understand what the speaker was talking about. But in other sessions the lightbulb turned on and things clicked into place. What was good about both kinds of sessions is that the ones I didn’t understand gave me a glimpse of things that were possible, and things to look forward to learning.

Fifth: The WordPress Community is a Truly Wonderful Group of People

No matter what city I’ve attended camps in, the WordPress culture is permeated with good people. In theory, we are all competitors, but in actuality, we are all there to help one another.

With all of these in mind, I reached out to Twitter to seek everyone’s advice to anyone attending their first camp. In no particular order, this is what they said.

WordCamp Advice

  • “Try to talk to people. Don’t be afraid to ask people directions, advice, etc. It’s just as much a networking event as it is instructional.” ~Jared Sarlo, @jaredsarlo
  • “Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to people you’ve never met. We don’t bite ;)” ~Dan Gilmore @danhgilmore
  • “Fight the introvert inside and talk to those sitting around you before the sessions about what they do and why they’re there.” ~David Morton, @mortond
  • “Take notes, ask questions, don’t be afraid to miss a session for a good conversation in the hallway.” ~Tom McFarlin, @tommcfarlin
  • “Our piece of advice is “tweet about it! Use the hashtag! Tell the world youare part if it!”” ~The CP Lab, @thecplab
  • “Come with an open mind. Be open to meet new people, learn new ideas & explore new experiences. Leave your comfort zone!” ~Lauren Jeffcoat, @lujeffcoat
  • “My piece of advice is “don’t miss the after party”” ~Isabelle Garcia, @aicragellebasi
  • “Don’t hesitate to skip a session in favor of having an interesting conversation in the hallway.” ~Aaron Hockley, @ahockley
  • “Take a bag, there is plenty of swag to be had!” ~Phil Wylie, @mustardbees
  • “Approach sessions as a way to learn what you want to learn more about. Can’t learn all in 30 min, but great start.” ~Melinda Helt, @melindahelt
  • “Say NAME, JOB TITLE, COMPANY when asking a speaker something. Helps the audience know who you are & is polite.”  ~Val Vesa, @adspedia
  • “Introduce yourself to everyone.” ~Andy Fragen, @andyfragen
  • “Engage with as many people you don’t know. Introduce yourself and ask them what they do. Always a good convo.” ~Adam Warner, @wpmodder
  • “Meet people! Sessions are good, too.” ~Kevin McKernan, @kevinmckernan

Additional Advice

While you don’t have to bring a laptop, you might want to – to take notes, or to visit the Happiness Bar for help with one of your sites. 

Put Twitter on your phone, and tweet all day using the event hashtag. Sign onto the venue’s wifi to save your data plan, and tweet out. This is another way to gain knowledge (speakers will share their slide decks, and attendees will tweet out nuggets of wisdom from sessions). 

Wear your name tag where it can be seen. Talk to people. Make connections. Share business cards.

Sit with random people in sessions, at lunch, on breaks, and at the after party. You never know where your next best WordPress friend will come from.

Final Thoughts

Come prepared to have fun, learn, and share. WordCamps are an amazing extension of your local WordPress community. Get involved.

Attending WordCamp? Have fun, learn, and share. WordCamps are an amazing extension of your local WordPress community.

And if you are not yet part of your local WordPress meetup, then join up. But more about those in an upcoming post.