I attended my first WordCamp in Baltimore in 2014. I found out about WordCamp by accident. I had hired a developer in Florida to do some php work for a client of mine, and he mentioned in passing that he was presenting at WordCamp Tampa. I googled “WordCamp” and discovered the Baltimore WordCamp was coming up, so signed up – curious and skeptical about what the $40 conference fee could offer.
What is a WordCamp?
The definition on WordCamp Central says “WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress, the free and open source personal publishing software that powers over 75 million sites on the web.”
The first WordCamp was held in 2006 in San Francisco by Matt Mullenweg. Now there are over 500 WordCamps around the world.
The first sessions were somewhat enlightening. I learned more about the Genesis framework, using Yoast for SEO, and some upcoming trends. As a self-taught WordPress user and developing “Developer” I loved the ease with which I could fill my mind with new concepts.
At lunch, I approached the awkward room of strangers and chose a table with a lot of empty seats. I introduced myself to the two people sitting there. “Hi, I’m Chris Lema” I heard, and thought the name was familiar from some tutorials I had read. He told me about what he did, and I realized he was the keynote speaker – a well-known personality in the WordPress space. The woman next to me was a bit shy, but she told me she was a theme developer who made the most popular theme on the Genesis framework, “Foodie Pro.” I sat with Shay Bocks during some of the afternoon sessions – she shared tips with me and I told her about some productivity tools I use. After talking to Shay and hearing from some other Genesis developers, I decided I would commit myself to the Genesis framework, which changed by life as a web professional and has helped me expand and grow my knowledge quickly. The advice and information I received at that WordCamp changed the trajectory of my career with WordPress.
So for me, WordCamp really had a huge impact on my professional development. Since that first WordCamp 18 months ago, I have attended 4 other WordCamps, and I plan to attend many more!
Here are my top 5 reasons why YOU should attend a WordCamp.
- Get Familiar with the WordPress Community
If you are new to WordPress, attending WordCamp will introduce you to the community. You will get a better sense of the fullness of the community, resources available, vendors and personalities.
- Learn new things
Of course, each WordCamp is focused around presentations on various topics related to WordPress, website design and development, coding, as well as freelancing, running a business. Volunteers submit presentation ideas to the WordCamp organizers, who select what they feel are the best and most appropriate talks. Many WordCamps record these presentations for WordPress TV and most presenters make their slides available online, so if you can’t attend or absorb everything, you can access the presentation content later.
- Solve Problems
I have found answers to questions and solutions to problems either from information gained at a WordCamp or from an interaction with someone at the WordCamp who has a solution and/or has had a similar issue. Many WordCamps have a Happiness Bar, where volunteers are available to help answer questions and solve problems with you.
- Meet Influencers and Make New Contacts
By far the most valuable part of a WordCamp is making connections with others in the community. Many of us work alone as freelancers, and might interact with others online, but there is nothing like meeting people in person and talking shop outside the WordCamp sessions or over a beer at the after party to enhance those relationships.
- Give Back
After attending some WordCamps, you might get the confidence to become a part of one. As much as I gain from WordCamps, I have also been able to help others. In addition to contributing to the Training Team at Contributor Day and volunteering, I have been able to recommend resources, developers, and solutions. As a next step, I plan to propose a presentation to an upcoming WordCamp.
When you will you attend a WordCamp? I hope to see you there!