So, you’ve decided to attend your first WordCamp—a nonprofit, volunteer-organized conference about WordPress and related topics. That’s great!
WordCamps are excellent places to learn a new skill, get up-to-date on design trends, meet potential clients and partners, and geek out about WordPress in general. Having attended countless WordCamps across North America, here are my top tips on how to maximize your WordCamp experience.
A laptop is *optional*
It may not be apparent, considering this is a conference about technology, but unless you are planning on using your laptop to actively debug or work on your website, such as at the Happiness Bar, or participate in a live workshop, consider leaving your laptop at home. It’s widely accepted that written notes result in higher comprehension levels than typed notes; some sponsors even give away notebooks and pens to use. Leaving your laptop at home means one less thing to carry around and think about all day. As a presenter, I’ll often take a minute to store my laptop back in my room for just this reason.
Browse the schedule in advance
WordCamps often have different rooms of presentations simultaneously. You will simply not be able to attend every presentation, so it’s wise to spend some time before the conference browsing the schedule and reading more about each talk you’re interested in attending. Speakers are encouraged to provide longer descriptions about their talk to help selection, but this description is rarely printed out at the WordCamp itself and is usually only put online. Don’t wait until the day of the conference. This is when the website is most busy, and Wifi at the event can sometimes be spotty.
Don’t stress about missing a session
Despite our best planning, there will inevitably be an overlap of two talks you really want to attend. So, you’ll have to miss out on one. Don’t fear! This is where your local WordPress Meetup comes into play.
WordCamps are once-a-year events, but your local WordPress Meetup likely has a meeting every month. Attend the next meetup and request the topic you missed at WordCamp be discussed. You may luck out and have the exact same presenter willing to give their talk again! Some WordCamps also record their presentations and publish these on WordPress.tv for free viewing. Check with your WordCamp to see if this is the case.
Stay the whole day
WordCamps vary from one to two days in length and are very inexpensive compared to other technology conferences. Many times, someone will choose to attend the first day but not the second, or may leave a one-day event early due to traffic or other reasons.
I strongly encourage all WordCamp attendees to stay for the entire conference. Not only does this give respect to speakers who present in the latter half of the event, but it also follows one of business’ most valuable rules: be the first to arrive and the last to leave. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had very influential chats with huge names in the WordPress ecosystem simply because I stayed later to help clean up!
WordCamps are very friendly and inviting spaces by design. Pre-printed name badges are commonly provided, so use this opportunity to meet new people.
WordCamp attendees vary greatly: from business owners to bloggers, programmers and designers, from your local area, nearby towns, and sometimes states and countries away. A common business cliche is that the best time to network is when you do not need work and this is absolutely true. I make it a goal to never leave a WordCamp without having met and exchanged contact info with at least three new people. As a result, I have a healthy and diverse network of WordPress users, experts, and participants.
Are you unsure of when your next WordCamp is? Or, maybe you’re interested in taking a “workcation” at a different place. Have a look at the WordCamp Central website and begin planning your next WordCamp today.
And if you see me at a WordCamp, don’t hesitate to say hello!