One of my most favorite things about working with WordPress is the opportunity to meet people in real life at WordCamps.
I’m in the process of helping plan WordCamp Dallas / Fort Worth and it occurred to me that we’ll likely have campers who’ve never attended a WordCamp and are a little apprehensive.
The following WordCamp tips will help you do more than just survive a WordCamp – they’ll show you how to have a blast.
Tip #1: Don’t Stress Out
Unless you’re one of the folks organizing the event, there’s no need to stress out over WordCamp. It’s not like kid camp — You won’t have to get on stage or do a chicken dance or stuff your face with marshmallows (unless you just really want to). The most outrageous thing you’ll have to do is introduce yourself to people (we’ll talk about that in another tip).
WordCamps are very informal and usually follow some sort of structure like this:
- Opening Remarks (everybody)
- Morning sessions (break out in various rooms)
- Lunch (everybody)
- Afternoon sessions (break out in various rooms)
- Closing Remarks (everybody)
WordCamp sites will post a schedule ahead of time and usually have a printed schedule at the event. Just pick out the sessions you want to attend and roll with it.
Tip #2: Don’t Be Self-Conscious
WordCamps attract many different folks (you’ll easily see ages spanning 5 decades) who work with WordPress in many different ways (i.e. blogger, hobbyist, developer, designer, etc.).
So, if you’re just a blogger (I say that tongue-in-cheek, ’cause I don’t think any of us are “just” anything), know that you’ll find other people like you. Don’t assume that you’ll be the only representation of your personal or professional demographic.
That’s not to say that WordCamps have diversity conquered, but it’s high on the radar. WordCamps are welcoming environments. I say all of this so that you can relax. Don’t be self-conscious.
We’re all a bit nerdy or we wouldn’t spend a weekend at something called “WordCamp.” Trust me, you’re gonna fit right in.
Tip #3: Don’t Be Shy
You will meet famous people at WordCamps. Well, famous in the WordPress world anyway. Maybe you’ll recognize them from Twitter, maybe they work for Automattic, or maybe they even taught you WordPress via Lynda.com.
You will get a little star struck, you will want to meet them, but you might be tempted to walk away if a lot of people are talking to them or they just look particularly Busy and Important.
Don’t walk away. March right up to them, introduce yourself, say whatever it is they’ve inspired you to do, and then move on. I mean, don’t be a stalker about it, but don’t miss an opportunity to speak with someone in real life that you interact with or admire online. Put your brave pants on.
Tip #4: Don’t Wear a Prom Dress or Tux
Speaking of pants… I almost titled this tip “Dress like it’s casual Friday,” but for those of us who work from home, casual Friday might be code for “work in your underwear.” (Side note: if you do find yourself in need of clean underwear, you never know when some famous WordPress person may help you get them!)
WordCamps are casual events. You’ll see a lot of t-shirts and a lot of flip-flops. Dress professionally if that’s what’s comfortable to you, but know that most folks will be rocking a well-loved tee and some chuck taylors. Just be yourself.
Tip #5: Don’t Sit By Yourself at Lunch
When the last morning session breaks, there will be a mad dash to the lunch line (did someone say “food?!”). You’ll grab a sack lunch lovingly provided by some volunteer and then you’ll stand there, possibly awkward and not sure where to go. It’s lunch on the first day at a new school all over again.
Try this: Head over to any table with open spots and simply ask to sit down. Unless you just really need that lunch break for personal time, don’t miss an opportunity to meet folks over lunch!
Tip #6: Don’t Be Afraid to Miss a Session
Sessions are awesome. Sessions are where various subject matter experts (or at least enthusiasts) get up and talk about a topic for 30 or 45 minutes. You will learn cool things in sessions. You will learn tips that make your life easier.
But here’s the deal: don’t be afraid to skip a session.
This isn’t like school where you get demerits for missing a class. If you get the opportunity for a fantastic hallway conversation in lieu of a session, do it. You can make valuable connections, forge new friendships, or even spark up new business at a WordCamp. While sessions are awesome, leave plenty of space for conversations.
Tip #7: Don’t Forget to Have Fun
The whole point of WordCamp is to learn, engage with others, and be a part of the larger WordPress community. HAVE FUN. You’ll be wiped out by the end of the day (information overload, awesome overload, social overload), but chances are high you’ll already be thinking about your next WordCamp…