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What You Need to Know About WordCamps

By Ashley Orndorff, aka Marketing Geek

WordPress is one of the most popular content management solutions (CMS) on the web. It’s an open-source, community-powered platform that offers a user-friendly interface. WordCamps are one of the many useful things that come with the WordPress community. Here’s what you need to know about WordCamps:

What are WordCamps?

Essentially, WordCamps are conferences for WordPress users by WordPress users. WordCamps are community-organized conferences all about WordPress. These local conferences are paid for and organized by local communities of WordPress users.

The first WordCamp happened in San Francisco back in 2006 and was organized by one of the original WordPress developers, Matt Mullenweg. Around 500 people attended the one-day event. And, from there, WordCamps spread across the United States and the world. Now, there are WordCamps held on every continent, except Antarctica.

Because they are locally-organized, some WordCamps are bigger than others. Some are one-day events while others span multiple days. For example, WordCamp US is still organized in a local community, but it tends to attract a much larger group from various regions and tends to be a bigger, multi-day conference.

All WordCamps follow similar guidelines and operate on similar principles. Established guidelines can be found at WordCamp.org and the main principles match those of the WordPress Foundation. Because they are community-organized, each WordCamp will differ slightly based on the communities that produce them.

However, all WordCamps provide sessions from speakers about how to use WordPress more effectively. Sessions can range from topics like theme development, plugins, and advanced techniques to SEO, business use, beginner tips, and more.

Who are WordCamps for?

WordCamps are for anyone who uses WordPress or is considering using WordPress. WordCamps can be a great local resource for brand new bloggers, photographers, authors, realtors, professional WordPress developers, business owners who want to learn more, marketers, consultants, nonprofits, and more.

There are usually different tracks that cater to beginners and advanced users as well as developers and business owners. So, there are normally several sessions for everyone regardless of your experience and how you use WordPress.

What Should You Expect From a WordCamp?

If you’ve been to a WordCamp before, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect from one. If you’re a first-time attendee, you may want to have a better idea of what to expect before you go. Although there may be slight differences between individual WordCamps, you can expect all of them to be about WordPress.

A WordCamp is generally a friendly, open, and community-minded environment where you can attend sessions to learn, have conversations with other WordPress users, network, and even get some technical assistance with any WordPress questions or obstacles you may be having.

They’re meant to be low-key, cost-effective conferences that are affordable to attend while also offering a lot of value. Coffee/breakfast and lunch are usually provided. You can also expect to have a variety of speakers and sessions available and even some workshops. So, you’re bound to find several sessions that are relevant to you.

You’ll want to be prepared to take notes, have some great conversations, and learn something new. And, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure you have some room in your bag for some WordCamp perks, if they are available, and any extra swag from the sponsors.

Many WordCamps also have after-parties at another local haunt. You’re not required to attend, but they are an option and can be a lot of fun!

5 Benefits of Attending WordCamp

There tend to be great benefits that come from attending any conference and the same is true for WordCamps. Here are just a few benefits of attending WordCamp:

1. Learn More About WordPress

Whatever your experience level is with WordPress and however you use it, you will learn more about WordPress at WordCamp. Whether it’s tips for how to make your website better support your business, improve your website’s SEO, figure out Gutenberg, or something else, you’re bound to learn something new that will help you in some way.

2. Find Networking Opportunities

Whether you are talking with speakers, other attendees, or sponsors, there are plenty of opportunities to network at a WordCamp. It’s a great place for developers to meet other developers and maybe end up collaborating on projects. Business owners can meet WordPress professionals and ask questions. You could even end up finding a new potential client or partner.

3. Discover a Community

A WordCamp is organized by the community for the community. When you attend, you become a part of the community. Not only can you discover a community where you feel like you fit in, but you also get the benefit of the cumulative experience of community members. Talking with others may help inspire a new idea, solve a problem, help you beat imposter syndrome, make new friends, etc.

4. Connect With Vendors

Because many vendors who work with WordPress will also sponsor WordCamps, you have the chance to connect with multiple vendors in-person. Not only do vendors get the chance to talk about their products/services, but WordPress developers and site owners also get the chance to learn more about potential vendors who can help their website and business excel.

5. Get Some Swag and Great Memories

Most WordCamps have some sort of swag of some kind from the organizers and sponsors. Granted, you don’t generally attend a conference just for the free stickers, shirts, etc. But, it can definitely be a perk. On top of that, you’ll leave with a ton of great memories from conversations, new connections, and the after-party.

How Can You Find a WordCamp Near You?

If you’re curious about WordCamps near you, you can check out the schedule on WordCamp Central. In addition to the list of upcoming WordCamps around the world, you can also scroll or click down on the WordCamps pinned to the map to find out which ones are closest to you and when they are occurring.

12 Tips for Attending WordCamp

If you’ve been to a few WordCamps, you probably have your routine down. You know what to bring, where to go, etc. If you’re venturing to your first WordCamp, here are some tips for attending WordCamp to help you prep for it:

1. Figure Out Travel Plans Early

Depending on how close or far you are to the WordCamp you are attending, you may have some extra planning to do. If you’re close enough to drive, check out your trip ahead of time to make sure you’re familiar with where the WordCamp will be and how to get there.

If you’ll need to travel a bit further to the WordCamp you’re attending, spend some extra time planning how you’ll get there and booking necessary travel and accommodations. If it’s a one-day event, you might not need a hotel. Or, if it’s far enough away, you might want a hotel to get needed rest before traveling again.

Depending on distance, it may not make sense for you to drive. The train or a plane might be a better option to get you to and from the WordCamp you want to attend. Figuring out your travel plans early can take a lot of stress out of the process and will make sure you can attend the WordCamp you want.

2. Look Over the Schedule and Available Sessions

There are generally a lot of sessions at a WordCamp and different tracks that group them together. Once the schedule is finalized for the WordCamp you’re attending, spend some time looking it over. This gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with how the day will go and what sessions are available.

From there, you can determine which sessions you want to attend and where they’re located at the venue. Some people may stay in the same track or location all day while others will jump between tracks depending on individual sessions.

By taking some time to identify the sessions you most want to attend, you can help make sure you get the most out of your WordCamp experience. The schedule could change a little on the day of the event, but at least you’ll have a general idea of where you want to be throughout the day.

3. Don’t Worry if You’ll Miss a Session

Also, don’t be stressed about missing a session because there are multiple ones you like happening at the same time. Most of the time, you can revisit the topic you missed at the WordPress Meetup that corresponds with the WordCamp you attended.

Depending on the people running the Meetup, it could happen weekly or monthly. Also, some WordCamps record the presentations and make them available to attendees on WordPress.tv or other platforms.

4. Reach Out to Your Contacts

If you know other WordPress developers, site owners, users, etc. in your area, reach out to them to see if they’ll be attending WordCamp too. These events are a great opportunity to meet up with people in your industry that you know in-person, finally meet people you know online in-person, and to meet new people.

5. Keep it Casual

WordCamps are meant to be low-key, casual tech conferences. If you’re most comfortable in business casual, wear it – it’s just not required for the event. You’ll fit in just as much as the person who shows up in a t-shirt and jeans. You might stand out in the crowd and be overdressed if you show up in a full business suit or formal wear, but you’ll still be more than welcome.

6. Bring What You Need to Take Notes

You may spend your day at WordCamp taking notes, talking, and maybe even working a little too. For a lot of people, this means bringing a laptop or tablet and chargers. But, if you prefer writing your notes on paper, don’t worry, you’ll find plenty of people doing that too. Whether it’s tech, paper or pen, or both, bring whatever works best for you to take notes in sessions.

7. Pack a Bag

In addition to whatever you need for notes or working, you’ll also likely end up getting some swag from the event. You may also want to bring some snacks or a drink, even though these are often provided at a WordCamp. Whether it’s a backpack or your laptop bag, you’ll want something to help you comfortably carry around your stuff from session to session.

8. Don’t Forget Business Cards

You’ll be meeting plenty of people at WordCamp and there will be plenty of networking opportunities. So, don’t forget to bring your business cards. You’ll want an easy way to exchange information and keep in contact with the people you meet.

9. Keep Your Attendee Badge Handy

Wearing your attendee badge can help make meeting new people a little easier. But, if you don’t want to wear it, you still want to make sure you keep it on-hand or in your bag somewhere. This badge is your admission to the conference and usually your meal ticket too. For some WordCamps, your badge could contain a schedule, coupons, food tickets, etc.

10. Check Out the Swag Early

Most WordCamps follow a relatively standard schedule and there’s generally a break between registration and opening remarks. If you show up at a decent time for registration, you’ll usually have some time to grab coffee or breakfast and still be able to check out the vendors and sponsors.

Not only does this mean you can have meaningful conversations with the vendors you want to, but it also means you get a chance to check out the swag early. Free stuff goes fast at WordCamps, especially the prime swag like t-shirts, journals, notebooks, etc. By checking everything out after registration, you’re more likely to be able to see what’s available and have a chance at getting what you want.

11. Get Social

WordCamps are known for the education you get on WordPress and for meeting and connecting with people. At the same time, most WordCamps have dedicated hashtags and active communities on social media.

So, don’t be afraid to get social both in-person and online. Whether it’s for your personal social media or your business’s, a WordCamp can give you plenty of content you can share and curate on your social media channels.

12. Remember to Breathe and Have Fun

Attending a WordCamp can be a busy day, or several days, so make sure you’re remembering to take a breath and chill every now and then. Focus on the moment, keep an open mind, be ready to learn a ton, and remember to have fun!

You’ll probably be tired by the end of the day and overloaded with awesome information, but WordCamp is meant to be fun. Hopefully, you’ll walk away with a ton of great memories and be excited to attend your next WordCamp!

How Can You Contribute to Future WordCamps?

If you’re in love with WordCamps after attending your first one, there are plenty of ways you can contribute to future WordCamps:

1. Attend More WordCamps

Continuing to attend your local WordCamp and also attending others that are near you can be a great way to continue to contribute to them and help them thrive.

2. Organize or Host a WordCamp

If the closest WordCamp requires a bit of travel, you can work to host and organize a WordCamp for your local WordPress community.

3. Volunteer at a WordCamp

Another way to contribute to future WordCamps is to sign up to be a volunteer. Since these events are community-organized, volunteers are a big help in getting them set up and making sure they run smoothly.

4. Apply to be a Speaker

Sessions are a huge part of WordCamp and sessions need speakers. When the Call for Speakers comes out for a WordCamp near you, consider applying to be a speaker.

5. Become a Sponsor

Sponsorships play a big role in helping to make WordCamps happen and keep ticket costs affordable for the community. If you’re a business owner or work for a business that thrives by working with WordPress, consider becoming a sponsor for future WordCamps. Not only will your business get a shout-out and some visibility, but you’ll also be contributing to a great event for a great community.

This is everything you need to know about WordCamps and probably far more than you need to know. Whether you’re a first-time attendee or you’ve been going for years, there are plenty of great experiences you can get from WordCamps.

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