Ten Things I learned from 10 WordCamps

Can you learn from WordCamps? Short answer: yes.

Since October of 2016, when I was asked to speak at WordCamp Cincinnati I have traveled to quite a few camps. In the last 12 months, I’ve grown professionally and personally. To me, this deserved an epic recap.


WordCamps – The List: October 2016 – September 2017

After Jason Knill and I attended WordCamp Cincinnati, Give decided to up our WordCamp game. Most of these have also been new city visits for me.

I’ll list my role after the camp.

  1. WordCamp Cincinnati – speaker
  2. WordCamp US – Philadelphia – attendee
  3. WordCamp Atlanta – Contributor Day (Marketing Team), speaker
  4. WordCamp San Diego – volunteer, sponsor
  5. WordCamp Chicago – attendee
  6. WordCamp Orange County – organizer
  7. WordCamp Europe – Contributor Day (Marketing Team), attendee
  8. WordCamp Ottawa, speaker
  9. WordCamp Sacramento, speaker (but sick)
  10. WordCamp Los Angeles, organizer, speaker

Yes. That’s ten WordCamps in 12 months. For the balance of 2017, I will also be going to Seattle, Rochester, and US in Nashville.

Let’s get to what I learned.

Lesson 1: You have friends everywhere.

Yes. These people are your friends. Connect on social media. Meet in person. Or meet in person and connect on social media. Either way, meeting people, having great conversations, and keeping that relationship going is good for your mental health and for referring people. We all live off of referrals.

Take selfies. Follow people on Twitter. Stay connected. People matter the most. I promise.



Lesson 2: Bars have the best burgers.

Honestly, before attending WordCamps, I never hung out at a bar. Ever. So, thanks for making me feel comfortable in a bar, WordPress. (This lesson is debated whether it’s a good thing but for the purpose of this blog post we’ll say yes.)

If the bar has craft beer, the food is even better. If they brew their own, they may even have their own root beer!



Lesson 3: I learned to travel on my own.

From March when I had to fly and Uber and check into the AirBNB by myself to going on my first international fight — alone — to Paris — I learned that I can baby step my way into confidence. That was huge. And I knew, that if anything happened, I had a whole community of people who would have helped me.



Lesson 4: WordCamp shirts don’t always fit; be glad when one does.

This lesson is about grace. It’s so easy to be annoyed. I have so many different size shirts, it’s not even funny.

WordCamps are organized by volunteers. If you think you can make a difference, join the Community Team or volunteer for your local WordCamp.

Lesson 5: Cherish your co-workers when you work remotely.

I love the freedom of remote work. That said, traveling with your coworkers helps so much. There’s more to relationships than weekly hangouts and slack messages can provide. Seriously.

I’ll never forget jamming on guitar with Ben in San Diego or checking out dinosaurs with Kevin in Philadelphia.

I really enjoyed all of the time I got to spend with Ben and Kevin this year, in addition to the local crew: Jason, Devin, and Matt.

People matter. Some days you realize that’s all that matters.

Lesson 6: Slides are great; audience participation is better.

We love slides. But engaging the audience is how they learn best. That’s all that matters. They are the reason you’ve traveled. Make the talk relevant to those people. They’ll remember it.

Lesson 7: Sometimes the food is weird. Try it.

This is a big one for me. I didn’t ever want to order something and not like it and then go hungry. Traveling to WordCamps has helped me realize that a) I can try something; and b) I can order something else if I need to.

You may be pleasantly surprised, too.



Lesson 8: Go to talks above your skill level or from a different discipline.

We forget about the value of exposure. No, I can’t write in PHP or work with an API or even use ACF. But I understand some of the concepts now. That helps me understand my job and, more importantly, have empathy with my friends and co-workers.

You’ll be surprised from what you do learn. I promise.

Lesson 9: If you do get sick; be in a good hotel.

I felt bad I had to cancel speaking at WordCamp Sacramento but was glad for a few things. Namely, Matt Cromwell was able to speak for me and I was staying in a great hotel. Room service is the best when you’re sick. And Jen Miller brought me a tea. The thing is we have a team for a reason. It worked out wonderfully.


Lesson 10: The “little things” matter; even in Paris.

My favorite part of Paris wasn’t the architecture, museums, or even the food. It was seeing a sunset over the Seine and explaining to Heather and Devin Walker why it moves me so much.

No matter what happens in the day; it starts over. A sunset is redemptive.

Learn things. Make friendships. Life can be hard. Remember to celebrate the little things because they truly do mean the most.



19 responses to “Ten Things I learned from 10 WordCamps”

  1. Thanks for sharing this recap! Spot on! I agree with all the things you said. I am VERY proud of you for getting out there! Embracing the world and traveling! You are changing and growing in so many ways! It’s exciting!

    Love you!

  2. You are amazing! I can’t wait to see you in Seattle! I bought our tickets today!

  3. Love this post so much & love you! Thanks for sharing your journey, courageous stories and pictures – they make me so happy! Really blessed to have met you and your circle of awesome people last year at WCUS and looking forward to doing again in Nashville. See you soon, friend <3

  4. Bridget, this post just makes my heart happy! 🙂 Looking at all those smiling faces and reading your stories… The people and relationships really are what make WordCamps so special. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we learn a ton along the way too! Can’t wait to see you all again at WCUS!

  5. So true in our entire lives… not only at WordCamps! This holds especially true for the little things.

    Cherish them. They add up over time and like the pieces of a puzzle create a beautiful picture in the end.

    So excited to see and hear you in Seattle!

  6. I have to agree with Robert, I like these tips for life, not just Wordcamps. When I was living in Japan, I made so many new friends and threw myself into the experience, traveling across the country alone, trying really weird food (I can’t say I was able to get all of it past my gag reflex though) and enjoying those really small moments like watching the sunset while I was riding the trains or sitting beside a river. I loved watching how Japanese families would go about their everyday lives when I was walking through neighborhoods. We’re all human and it’s important to remember that.

  7. What a wonderful article, Bridget! And so true! Thankful I got to get to know you and can’t wait until we get to hang out in person again.