What is WordCamp & 12 Ways it Can Benefit You & Your WordPress Site

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If you are using or are interested in WordPress, one place to embrace this to another level is at your nearest WordCamp. But what is a WordCamp?

By Ahmed khalifa

**Note:Β Please note that this website does not run on WordPress.org anymore. But since I've been involved with the WordPress community for many years, I didn't want to delete any of the WordPress-related content on this site as I believe that they will still help you with your own WordPress site, hence why they are still available for you to view. Enjoy!**

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If you are using or are interested WordPress in any shape or form, there is a possibility that you've heard of this thing called "WordCamp".And if you've never heard of it, then you are missing out. 😲

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One thing about the WordPress community is that they make a huge effort and go to extreme lengths to create a better experience for all WordPress users.

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And organising a WordCamp event is one way of doing that, and in this post, I am going to explain what WordCamp is and why you must go to at least one WordCamp in your lifetime.

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Because the last thing I want is for you to have FOMO just because you couldn't go or you're not sure about it until the event has passed...and it was awesome!

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What is WordCamp?

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The easiest way to describe it is like a conference for WordPress users. But that's far too vague and I would rather get more specific about it.

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‍WordCamp Central defines the event as:

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"...informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users like you. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other."

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The very first WordCamp started back in 2006 in San Francisco. Since then, it was a phenomenal success and it became a staple part of the WordPress experience for many people around the world.

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WordCamps tend to be held in various cities globally and are run by local WordPress communities. For example, where I live, WordCamp Edinburgh is run by the local community here in the city.

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On most occasions, there tend to be several hundred attendees depending on the size of the event. But there are also specific WordCamps that happen twice a year in a huge format: WordCamp US and Europe. These two events tend to attract several thousand attendees and the location changes every year in the respective locations.

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Even though it sounds like a conference, it's unique compared to other conferences for many reasons. But the primary reason is that it is run and held by the local community, where some of the main purposes are to help other WordPress users to improve their experience using it, and also to support the WordPress community further.

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Why Should I Go to WordCamp?

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If you have never been convinced about going or you wonder why you should go, there are plenty of reasons why you must go to at least one WordCamp in your lifetime:

1. Very Cost-Effective to Attend

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On average, conferences can be expensive as tickets can be in hundreds or even thousands of pounds/dollars/euros. And when you also have to pay for transport, accommodation and food, it can quickly add up to a very expensive occasion.

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If you work for an organisation, there is a good chance that it will be covered for you and you can enjoy the experience without worrying about the cost.But if you are not in that bracket and/or you run a small business, it's not easy for you to attend those larger and more expensive conferences.It's different with WordCamp.

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WordCamp HQ they aim to make sure that WordCamp is accessible and as affordable as possible to everyone, so nobody is excluded from attending.And when you consider that the average cost of a WordCamp ticket is around Β£30/$40, it tends to run over 2 days, with food and social events included, it is fantastic value considering what you can get out of it.

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Of course, the contribution of the sponsors plays a huge part in keeping prices as low as possible so that everyone has a chance to attend.Without them, WordCamp wouldn't work.

Attendees sitting and watching at WordCamp Europe 2017
Attendees at WordCamp Europe 2017 – Photo by Mark Smallman via Flickr

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2. Not-For-Profit & Community-Run Event

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Following on from the above, this is important to mention, as many people would assume that the organisers will get cash from it because of the money you get from sponsors.In fact, the organisers get nothing. It's just another way for them to contribute to the community.

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And when you look at the some of the WordCamps held around the world that have been set-up by the local community, it does require a huge amount of resources, finances and time to pull it off.

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Yet, it's doesn't put people off and it continues to happen all year round.

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Getting the budget right is obviously important, and it's not an opportunity to overspend on unnecessary purchases just because it's not your money. But any profit made from the event goes straight back to the WordPress Foundation to help provide further support to the community.

Contributor day at WordCamp Europe 2013
Contributor Day at WordCamp Europe 2013 – Photo by Florian Ziegler via Flickr

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3. Listen & Learn from Expert Speakers

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Like any conferences, this is an opportunity to listen and learn from various expert speakers from different industries and sectors who can share some fantastic knowledge and their own experience with you.And equally brilliant is the fact they will always be around throughout the conference, and you can approach and chat to them further if you choose to do so.

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I've been to conferences where you feel you can't speak to the speakers, whether it's because of their big ego or there is simply no opportunity to do that because of the way it is set up.But this doesn't happen at WordCamps and you should be able approach any speakers if you want to ask questions about their talks, or just to have a chat.

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4. Attend Practical Workshops & Learn New Skills

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Most WordCamps will not only give you an opportunity to listen to speakers, but there is also a good chance that there will be at least one workshop to attend too. This is an awesome opportunity for anyone to learn practical and actionable tips that you can implement yourself instantly on your WordPress site.

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It can cover anything from using a popular plugin effectively, to improving your WordPress security, to understanding more about web design, or staying up to date with SEO, etc.

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And you will also have the opportunity to ask the experts questions for further clarification whether at the workshop or throughout the conference.

Attendees listening to speaker at WordCamp Kansai 2014
A talk at WordCamp Kansai 2014 – Photo by Chikaoka Mayumi via Flickr

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5. Meet Seasoned WordPress Experts

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And speaking of experts, there are plenty of them around, and I don't just mean the speakers or workshop organisers either.

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Because WordCamp is a popular occasion for everyone to get together from across the country and even abroad, you will be surrounded by many different levels of expertise.

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And more often than not, you will be able to find someone to speak to and learn from.If you don't know anyone or you can't find anyone to talk to, someone will be able to guide you on who you can speak to about your website, interest, problems or just for a good old fashioned chit-chat.You can just ask.

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6. Meet Beginners Who Are WordPress Users

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If you are a beginner, you might think it's an intimidating environment since it seems that everyone knows everything about WordPress.First of all, that is impossible as nobody knows everything, regardless of who you are.But that is definitely not the case when it comes to WordCamps either.

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In my own experience as an attendee, volunteer and as part of the organising team, there are always a good number of attendees who are beginners. And there are also those who have never even touched WordPress before, but still find value in attending.

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You'd be surprised how many people can resonate with you at a WordCamp event if you feel that you are at a beginning stage of WordPress.

Matt Mullenweg speaking at WordCamp Europe 2018
WordPress co-founder, Matt Mullenweg, at WordCamp Europe 2018 – Photo by Val Vesa via Flickr

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7. Solve Your Website Problem

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We all know the problem: you couldn't fix an issue on your site, and you just don't know where to go and who to speak to.

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And there's nothing to be ashamed of as it can happen to everyone, even the experts.

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But attending WordCamp is an opportunity for you to learn from the best and also have access to dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands of people, depending on the event, who can provide guidance on what to do about a particular problem or be able to help you to find the right person to talk to.

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Again, all you have to do is ask.

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8. Safe Environment & Suitable for Everyone

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As part of the all-important WordCamp Code of Conduct, it is hugely important for everyone involved, regardless of your age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, faith, disability, ethnicity, etc., that you are made to feel welcome, have an enjoyable and comfortable experience, and are part of the community.

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Every WordCamp will have their Code of Conduct displayed on their own website to highlight the importance of inclusiveness, and this goes hand-in-hand with the ethos of WordPress as a whole.

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And as I said earlier, it doesn't matter if you are a beginner and have never used WordPress, or you consider yourself to be an expert. If you throw yourself into the mix, you are bound to get huge value out of attending WordCamp.

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Empty hall at WordCamp Paris 2018
A hall set up for WordCamp Paris 2018 – Photo by Christophe Perrin via Flickr

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9. Build Long-lasting Personal & Business Relationships

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WordCamp is not generally a place where you have salespeople conducting businesses and trying to sell you something. Even though there are sponsors, they are there to help and support the event as well as assisting you with anything you need.

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That said, you can still develop a relationship where it may lead to something in the long-term, be it for friendship, as an employee, as an acquaintance, as a business partner, etc.

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Of course, you don't develop a relationship so that you can get something out of it (you really shouldn't do that). That's not how it works, and you would be cheating yourself and the other person if that's your sole aim.But if the relationship naturally develops into something, be it big or small, then that's a bonus.

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You'd also be surprised at how many times people use WordCamp to reconnect and meet up again.

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So if you have been before, there is a good chance you will meet people again at future WordCamps.

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10. Discover New Cities & Countries

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Because there are WordCamps happening all around the world, you can go to any of them.

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You can look at the schedule yourself, pan out the map of the world, choose the country and city that is going to run the event, buy your ticket and fly out.And you can even make a "learning holiday" out of it too, where you can enjoy your stay and experience the new location that you are visiting too.

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Just make sure that you'll be able to understand the talks and workshops in the local language, as it's not always going to be in English.

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Speaker at WordCamp Tokyo 2017
An organiser at WordCamp Tokyo – Photo by WordCamp Tokyo 2017

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11. Contribute to WordPress via WordCamp

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There are many ways you can contribute to WordPress, even if you are not technical. One of many ways you can do that is to get involved with WordCamp.

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If you don't have the time or energy to give back to the WordPress community, buying a ticket or even being one of the sponsors can go a long way toward helping the local WordPress community and the WordPress Foundation as well.

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Another way is to volunteer and help the organisers make sure that it runs smoothly. It is impossible to have WordCamps without the contribution of the volunteers.

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Whichever way you want to contribute, it can go a long way to ensuring that the ethics of WordPress remain strong for everyone involved.

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Related Article: 15 Ways You Can Contribute to WordPress Even if You Are Not Technical?

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12. To Have Fun

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Some people go to WordCamps just for the social element of meeting people, getting involved with the occasion and enjoying the after-party (but not that morning-after feeling...you know who you are πŸ˜‰).

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But at the end of the day, it wouldn't be a proper conference without the social element of it: whether it's before (meeting up for dinner), during (chatting to fellow attendees) or after (at the after-party or even after it has all ended).

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You can still have a lot of fun and that's a crucial element for the organisers.

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Because let's face it, nobody wants to go to a stuffy, boring conference.

Attendees and volunteers at WordCamp Paris 2016
Attendees and Volunteers at WordCamp Paris 2018 – Photo by Manuel Schmalstieg via Flickr

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My Personal Experience with WordCamp

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Even though I had learnt about WordCamp many years ago, it wasn't until I volunteered at WordCamp Edinburgh 2015 that I really dived into the community and got my hands dirty.

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‍And I'm so glad I did.

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‍Since that moment, I have attended almost all the meetups in Edinburgh, which is held once a month (and you really should find your nearest WordPress meetup to get even more out of WordPress and to meet like-minded people).

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Over time, I gradually became one of the main helpers/co-organiser of the meetup.

This then led me to helping to co-organise WordCamp Edinburgh 2017 and being a shadow lead organiser, as this then paved the way for me to become the lead organiser of the next two WordCamp Edinburgh (traditionally, you can only be an organiser for 2 consecutive events so as to give other people a chance. Nobody "owns" WordCamp).

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I was also lucky enough to speak at a number of WordCamps, I held a workshop and was also part of a Q&A panel.

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It's safe to say that I love going to WordCamps.

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Organising WordCamp Edinburgh

Which brings me to own experience of being part of the organising committee of WordCamp Edinburgh.

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To be honest, it's not something that one person can do alone, as the contribution of the fellow organisers and volunteers all plays a crucial part in making it all blend together and work as seamlessly as possible.

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Still, there are a lot of things to take into consideration for me and my fellow organisers, which you don't normally think about when you attend an event.

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Things like finding a venue, organising the budget, communicating with stakeholders, putting together the website, arranging food requirements, gathering volunteers, calling out for speakers, finding sponsors, creating swags...and that's just a small part of it!Even though it's very hard work, it's exciting to be part of the organising team and right now, I'm in the middle of organising WordCamp Edinburgh 2018.

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And of course, this also means the return of 'Wapuunicon', the current mascot of WordCamp Edinburgh.

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Wapuunicorn Stickers at WordCamp Edinburgh 2017

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One thing I've noticed about being part of the WordPress community is the dedication that people have towards making the community better, as well as making the experience of using WordPress a better one.

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While you are reading this, there are people out there working hard in the background to make sure that you have the opportunity to be online, share your talent with the world and make it easy as possible for you to do that.

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Organising WordCamp is one way of doing that, and it is a fantastic environment for everyone involved.

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Why not find and go to a WordPress meetup close by to get a dose of what is it like?

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Here's my challenge to you: find out where your nearest WordCamp is, buy a ticket and take part in the experience. If there isn't one in the area, keep an eye on the schedule, or you can be adventurous and go to a WordCamp out of town or even out of the country.

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But I am curious: before reading this article, had you ever heard of WordCamp?

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If you hadn't, how does it make you feel about attending one now?If you have attended WordCamp before, how was your experience?Do leave a comment below...and I hope to meet you at a future WordCamp soon.