If you’ve spent enough time working with WordPress, you’ve heard about the ubiquitous “WordCamps” and probably asked the question, “What the heck is a WordCamp?” Hopefully at this point you’re considering attending a local one, and you want to know, “How can I make the most out of my WordCamp?” This is a good post to read before you go. It will help you make a conference plan to maximize your attendance. There’s a lot you can get out of a WordCamp, so let’s help you decide what that is!
Before leaving for a conference, you should start by understanding what sorts of people will attend. Depending on the city, a WordCamp will have 200 to ~500 campers attending. WordCamp Cape Town 2011 had 200 attendees and this year we are extending the capacity to 300 attendees. This will include expert local and international WordPress developers and designers, trainers, site owners, marketers, sponsors, and complete and total noobs. A common misconception is that WordCamps are for expert users, but that’s not true! WordCamps are perfect for both newbies just getting started and WordPress rockstars alike.
Everyone attending WordCamps have the same four goals:
- To learn more about WordPress
- Share their knowledge with others
- Connect with more people in the community
- Grow their WordPress-based business
Which of those four goals fits your current goals? As you think about that, it becomes easy to make a conference plan, but you’ll still have some basic questions about the conference.
Here are some top tips to make the most out of WordCamp:
1. Get out of your personal boundaries
“I’m a designer.” Or, “I’m a developer.” Or, “I’m a marketer.” So what! Check out a couple of sessions that make your head spin.
You’re probably pretty good at what you do, and a lot of good subject matter on that is likely at WordCamp. WordCamp Cape Town has two tracks , the Developer and Publisher tracks, served up in the morning and the afternoon respectively. Stick around for both tracks and see what’s important to other types of people. This will open your eyes to how you can do your own job better.
2. Don’t be afraid
Introduce yourself to people around you. There’s a chance you use one of their themes or plugins. Maybe the person next to you wrote the code for your favorite WordPress feature. They’re right next to you! Talk to them.
Do you know someone you admire in the community will be at WordCamp? Track them down! Let them know you use their stuff. I bet it’s hard for anyone to get sick of hearing that. Don’t be intimidated!
Click here, to find out who is speaking at WordCamp Cape Town 2012!
3. Share your knowledge and give advice
Helping people start something by giving them advice or insight at a WordCamp is good karma, and it will always come back to you in spades. If you have expertise in something, share it with the community.
4. Got something to say? Speak at WordCamp
If you have a topic that you’re an expert on, and it relates to WordPress, or it provides value to people who are using WordPress to create things, then you should always submit a topic. Speaking is one of the best ways to build your brand and your business. We want you to share your experience with us.
If you want to speak at WordCamp CapeTown 2012, we are calling for speakers. Applications are being excepted up until the 3rd of September.
5. Use Twitter
Tweet every chance you get. The event hashtag is #WCCT. Share the highlights from each talk you go to, or tweet hi to the people you’ve just met in person. Has someone you’ve just met blown you away? Follow them and keep in touch long term – you’ll gain some followers along the way.
Start following the #WCCT hashtag a couple days before WordCamp and save the search term. Get the scoop on what’s going on, who’s attending and what’s on offer before, during and after the official day.
6. Know the schedule
WordCamp Cape Town’s schedule will be available within a few days of the event. Be sure to check it out before you get there. You may want to prepare specific questions for a speaker, and it’s good to know what you plan to do ahead of time.
7. Take Notes!
You will forget if you don’t. People are going to say awesomely informative things left and right. You’ll think you’ll remember. You won’t. Take notes on your laptop or notebook. Write down urls, names, etc. so you can go back after WordCamp and lookup what you’ve inevitably forgotten.
8. Get the slides and video!
Most speakers offer up their slides and we record all session at the event. I’ve learned a great deal from some people’s past slides, months after an event.
But still take notes, because sometimes slides tell you just enough to say, “YES!” and just little enough to say, “BUT, NOW WHAT?”
9. Happiness Bars
The Happiness Bar is a special activity, in and of itself, a microcosm of what WordCamps are all about. The Happiness Bar will be in full swing at WordCamp Cape Town 2012.
The Happiness Bar is a dedicated space at WordCamp where industry experts will be hanging out, ready to field your questions. You can talk to them about anything. So between sessions and during tea and lunch breaks, hit up the bar and talk to some really smart people.
10. Follow a liveblog
Some WordCamps have their own live blogs so you can stay in tune while you are there, or maybe just check it out later to see stuff from sessions you missed.
It’s a good idea to join event pages on social media sites even before the event begins, just to make sure you’re in the loop when things are in full swing. Here are the event pages for WordCamp Cape Town this year.
Also, stay up to date with this blog before and during the event by subscribing, the widget is in the sidebar to your right, or show some luv by commenting below, do that and subscribe in one swoop.
11. Attend the pre/after parties!
WordCamps aren’t just about sessions. One of the greatest parts of WordCamps is the opportunity to just talk to people. The pre-parties and after-parties that are both official and unofficial become the best place to do that.
Answered: Some common questions on WordCamp Cape Town
1. What should I wear to a WordCamp?
Don’t stress it. WordCamps are casual affairs, and this is Cape Town. Shorts, graphic t-shirts, and even flip-flops are acceptable. Think open-source or startup software developers dresscode. That means dress in a way that makes you comfortable. As long as you don’t show up in a suit and a tie, you’ll fit right in.
2. How can I learn to develop a business on WordPress?
WordCamps are designed to freely spread information, so it’s an appropriate place to come and ask questions about how to use WordPress for your business. Come with a set of objectives you want to achieve for a site. Those objectives could be met with plugins, and someone will be able to advise about the optimal plugin solution. For example, which plugin should you use to collect emails? Or, which plugin will add a social network aspect? Dont be shy about asking for help! If you can do all the work yourself, awesome! If you need help implementing a solution, ask some developers about their rates!
3. Should I bring my laptop to the event?
Yes. Every screen you have that can tweet, email, post blogs, whatever, bring it. You want to be able to interact with your WordPress site while you’re there. For example, you may want to ask questions at the Happiness Bar, and make changes to your site on the spot!
4. Can I meet developers and designers at a WordCamp?
WordCamps are amazing places to meet potential developers for a WordPress site. If you need a developer for a project, set a goal to meet 5 developers (which should be easy), get their contact info, and then discuss your project over email with them.
Remember to Have fun!
If you need any more convincing on how awesome a WordCamp can be, talk to other people that have gone. And definitely read this excellent diary of a WordCamp, by Siobhan McKeown, on her trip to WordCamp Netherlands earlier this year.
WordCamps are supposed to be fun. Some of us make our living off of WordPress. But the odds are we got there because it was our hobby first. WordCamps should be fun. They’re not just a work conference. So make sure to relax, listen, absorb, and just have a good time.