WordCamp. What is it? Why should you go?
You use WordPress but have you heard of WordCamps? Though it sounds like a Words With Friends Tournament, it’s a WordPress conference. A lot of my friends ask me what WordCamp is.
Some people are confused by the name. They either think it’s a Words with Friends Tournament or a Bible-based camp. It’s none of those. WordCamps aren’t necessarily even the place to learn how to use WordPress.
WordCamp is an event centered around the open-source software called WordPress used to build websites. The intent is to learn about trends, use cases, and network with your new friends.
Is WordCamp Only for Website Builders?
No. WordCamps are for anyone who works in marketing. Website builders (they call themselves WordPress Developers) are also in marketing.
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:
My WordCamp Origin Story
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:
- If you don’t value yourself, no one else will – Insights from Alex J. Vasquez at WordCamp OC 2014
- You’re Not The Hero: Insights on Building Community by Chris Lema at WordCamp OC 2014
- WordCamp San Francisco: Why A Blogger Should Go
- WordCamp OC 2013: 10 Awesome Things
- WordCamp San Francisco: Favorite Things
- WordCamp Orange County 2014: Awesome Moments
- WordCamp Orange County 2015: Why Go?
What Does WordCamp 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 I Need to Know About WordCamp?
Research Your WordCamp
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 to WordCamp 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.
@CreativeWoodVT When you go to WordCamp with a friend, it's 1000 times as fun! 😀 @YouTooCanBeGuru
— Carol Stephen (@Carol_Stephen) June 9, 2015
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.
WordCamp is About 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.
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.
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 At WordCamp
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.
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 WordCamp Fun for You
I like to live tweet. Find something about the experience to make it your own and, most importantly, memorable.
What Should I Bring To WordCamp?
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.
Here's my #WordCamp tip.
Sit near a floor box.#electricity #wcoc pic.twitter.com/C2um5kntzg
— Bridget Willard (@BridgetMWillard) June 6, 2015
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 Shouldn’t I do At WordCamp?
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.
Chock full of great info which I’m going to delve into, Bridget. Thank you for sharing this, and in a way that’s fun and easy to understand. Now I want to attend a WordCamp!
Yay! Being a designer, you’d love it! I think WCLAX is in September.
Lord knows, I need some major help with my site. Thanks for the heads up and I’ll check into it, most definitely.
Oh, man. This was like reliving the WordCamp experience! It was the most fun one ever–mostly because of you! Thank you for writing this.
It was so much fun. I kept adding text. Ha!
Next up is the recap of the business session.
Just reread this and it’s still fun, all over again!
Thanks for being my pal–at WordCamp and for everything else, too!
You are the best! I’m lucky to call you friend.
So many awesome tips here, Bridget! I’ll be bookmarking (old school, I know) this one for next year when I can hopefully attend!
Thanks for your time.
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All very good advice! WordCamps are inspirational for me! I look forward to the learning, live tweeting, and meeting up with people from the community.
I do, too!
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I am a blogger who likes expressing thoughts about emotions and well a future engineer (currently in second year) . What should I expect ? I mean what will I learn !? is it about ideas or something different ? Do read my blog though http://unicorn1910.wordpress.com
You can learn whatever you put your mind to.