How to Prepare for WordCamp

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Photo by naokomc

Photo by naokomc, flickr.com/naokomc

WordCamp is one of those events where WordPress users either have gone, or else really want to go. It’s a place for developers, bloggers, and industry professionals to meet up and share ideas, if only for the day. And they happen all over the world throughout most of the year.

Some are lucky enough to have one show up in their town, or close enough to drive to and attend. But attending isn’t really the way to get the most out of the event. By thinking ahead, preparing a bit, and showing up with a purpose, odds are you’ll come away feeling not only excited and pumped up, but with a feeling of accomplishment.

Bring questions for the speakers

Have you ever been at a talk where, when the time for quesions from the audience arrives, everyone stares dumbly ahead? That’s a wasted opportunity.

Don’t let this time slip by. Take the initiative and brainstorm questions for the WordCamp speakers. Like, right now. Actually take a pen and notebook and write down your questions, in full sentences. Don’t underestimate the power of actually writing something down — odds are you’ll remember most of them now and won’t even need your list at the event.

This doesn’t just stop with the speakers, either. Odds are you know of a few others that will be there. And odds are you’ll want to strike up a conversation with them. Rather than miss out later, think up things that you’ll want to talk about right now.

Hand something to people

I’m not suggesting you go all douche-y and make your WordCamp experience all about “networking.” For your sake and for the enjoyment of everyone else attending Wordcamp: breathe out and enjoy yourself.

That said, it is useful to have something to hand off to interested people. And by “interested people” I mean “those who ask for a card.” Seriously. That’s it.

And when I say douche-y, this is what I’m talking about:

For a world-class example of how to do business cards well, see Andrew Hyde’s “unboxing” of Merlin Mann’s business card from SXSW this year:

Memorable, simple, and personal. Perfect.

Create 3 tangible, measurable goals

The only way to know whether the event is a success for you or not is to have goals you can evaluate afterward. By actually recording them — however you do it — the things you want to achieve will be fresh in your mind.

Then, when you fail at achieving your own expectations, you’ll know how to do better next time. That’s called progress.

And in the interests of playing the game myself, here are my three goals:

  • Meet a number of WordPress gentlemen I’ve only known online for some time. Jeff of WPTavern, Brian Gardner, Justin Tadlock, and Cory Miller, just to name a few.
  • Record a podcast with someone new. This shouldn’t be tough, since everyone there will be new to me.
  • Meet someone who’s interested in contributing / being a part of Theme Playground.

Obviously I can only control that last one to a certain extent. What I can do, though, is talk openly about what I’m doing here at the blog, the forum, and what’s coming yet.

What are your goals for WordCamp?

Choose one: camera, laptop, or other people

macbook

I really believe that there are only so many things you will have time to do at any conference, including WordCamp. Having been to a few shindigs in the past, I can say that you can either bring:

  • Your camera. Taking photos will be exciting Especially when trying to re-live the event with the photos of people you can’t remember because you were taking pictures of them instead of getting to know them.
  • Your laptop. The truth is you don’t need your laptop to take notes. You do need a laptop to transcribe every word the speaker says. I’ve gone down this road in the past. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
  • Nothing. Limit yourself to paper and pen for notes. Leave your hands free to shake the hands of others.

Granted this is all said with my tongue firmly in my cheek. I’m guilty of bringing all sorts of stuff to events that I don’t need. This time around though, I’ll be set with my iPhone (a man’s gotta tweet!) a moleskine and a pen.

Get in touch with others who are going

WordCamp will be more fun if you actually know some of the people you’re going to end up running into. I’m not talking about the speakers, I’m talking about the other attendees.

There are a number of ways to get in touch with others attending WordCamp. Check Twitter, your WordCamp’s website, and try a Google search or two. In the case of WordCamp Chicago, coming up this weekend, some places you can catch up with other attendees are:

Regarding this weekend…

WordCamp Chicago site header

This weekend is WordCamp Chicago. I’ll be attending and looking forward to, among other things, meeting some of the Theme Playground crew. Plans are, so far, that we’ll try meeting up with some of the WPTavern group for pizza near the venue on Friday night.

Also, if you’re going to be tweeting about WordCamp Chicago, use the official hashtag: #wcchicago.

6 thoughts on “How to Prepare for WordCamp

  1. “My card is diecut.”

    Wow, I really can’t tell if he is intentionally channeling American Psycho…

    You’ve got some great ideas here, now I have to think up some questions and goals, thanks for the homework 😉

  2. Hey Ryan,

    Great thoughts – especially writing down questions and not making it all about networking.

    I’ll be there so hopefully I’ll get to meet you.

    • Thanks, I’m sure we’ll see each other. There are a few of us, showing up on Friday night, looking to grab pizza nearby the venue. Might be something to look into if you’re coming up that night.

  3. Looking forward to WordCamp Chicago. The rocketgenius team will be in attendance (myself, Kevin Flahaut and Alex Cancado).

    For those that don’t know, we are getting ready to release a killer new plugin and will have more information for everyone at the event.

    We also run ThemeAtlas.com

  4. Pingback: the Guamaso » Blog Archive » Post WordCamp RDU Thoughts.

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