WordCamp. What is it? Why should you go?

A lot of my friends ask me what WordCamp is. Some people are confused by the name. It’s not a camp. It’s not a conference. But it is a time to learn and network.

WordCamp is an event centered around the open-source software called WordPress used to build websites.

But you don’t build websites.

I know. I’m not a website developer or designer. But I am a blogger.

Let’s not forget that many marketers say the hub of your social media efforts should be your website. WordPress is a perfect platform for small businesses and hobbyists like myself.

Sidebar: What should you get out of WordCamp from the WPwatercooler gang.

I chatted with Adam of Blue Steele Solutions about WordCamp here:

Why did I start going?

In 2013, my friend Pam Aungst of Pam Ann Marketing recommended WordCamp Orange County. She and my friend Carol Stephen of Your Social Media Works bought tickets. We didn’t know what WordCamp was at the time, but we trusted the recommendation from Pam.

It happened that she couldn’t attend that year, but Carol and I have been going ever since.

Read some of our recaps here:

What does it offer?

There are several different tracks available. Classes appeal to developers, designers, new-to-WordPress people, and businesses. There’s something for everyone.

Even as a social media nerd, I always gain something. It could be that I’m inspired to blog more. Maybe I’m learning about value. Maybe I’m rethinking contracts.

Regardless, if you want to learn, you can. Just because you’re not a website developer, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. Many small businesses use WordPress to DIY their website, not to mention the fact that many social media professionals are themselves small businesses who blog.

There are several other blogs by more seasoned folks than myself, but here’s my two cents on how to get the most out of a WordCamp.

What do you need to know?

Research.

Research the Speakers. Follow them on Twitter. Make a WordCamp list.

Find out what they’re about. You should check out the schedule ahead of time but titles can be misleading. Sometimes a speaker is known for being a great speaker. You can always check other classes you missed on WordPress.tv.

Go with a friend.

WordCamp is way more fun with a friend. Way. More. Fun.

Honestly, I sometimes worry Carol and I will get kicked out for tweeting and giggling like girls in 6th grade homeroom.

But seriously. It can be intimidating to walk into a room full of unfamiliar faces. Yet, to the untrained eye, they seem to know one another.

A friend can help you enjoy the experience in so many intangible ways.

Also, it’s easier to meet new people if you’re already a pair.

Community.

You’ll hear a lot of people referring to the “WordPress Community.” It’s not a cult, I promise. WordPress is an open-source software that people build around (developers).

It’s heavily sponsored so anyone to can attend. This gives WordCamp accessibility, regardless of your budget.

WordCamps are put on by local WordPress groups. If this is something you’re interested in do some research. Search for a meetup in your area on Meetup.com.

WCOC 2015 - New and Old Friends
WCOC 2015 – New and Old Friends

It’s my impression, as a new person to WordPress, that this structure invites a collection of kindred souls who are generous by nature. And that community encourages generosity.

Where else can you go to a conference where you hear amazing (un-paid) speakers, get at least one t-shirt, and they give you lunch for $40? Nowhere.

New and Old Friends

So far, I’ve not met an unfriendly person. No one seems more snobby because they’re speaking. Everyone is friendly.

At a WordCamp you can reconnect with people you’ve seen at previous camps and meet people you already know on twitter. I’ve met people standing in line and at the after party.

Take Breaks

This cannot be understated. Normally we go to 3 out of the 4 morning classes and 3 out of 4 afternoon.

There is no way you can absorb everything. Besides, if you do attend every class, you may miss out on serendipitous moments.

Sorbet & Gelato from @vitalycaffe

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on

Either go get an ice cream, put your feet up, and/or have a spontaneous brainstorming session about Pinterest marketing on the grass.

“But here’s the deal: don’t be afraid to skip a session. This isn’t like school where you get demerits for missing a class.” ~ Carrie Dils, “WordCamp Survival Guide

Make it Fun for yourself:

I like to live tweet. Find something about the experience to make it your own and, most importantly, memorable.

What to bring:

If you’re going to use your computer bring a power strip and sit near a floor box. I brought my laptop and a nicer attache bag. Okay. It looks nicer than a backpack, but a backpack is more realistic. That bag was digging into my shoulder.

Either way you may want to invest in an auxiliary battery for your cell phone. You’ll meet people you want to take selfies with, etc.

I have the  10000mAh Anker Portable Charger and it charges my iPhone 5S four times. It has two USB ports so you can be a good friend.

It’s hard to not want to look as cute as you can when you’re meeting new people, but the most important thing is to dress comfortably. You will be sitting. You will be standing. Yep. We’re all vain to some degree.

What not to do:

Don’t stress out. If you missed something, the sessions may be on video at WordPress.tv. Also, the speakers tend to upload their presentation slides on their own blogs, etc.

What are your tips?

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