It’s that time of year. Typically when one of the larger WordCamps is on the horizon, a lot of great community members share their tips for first-timers attending WordCamps. And each time I appreciate the perspectives that everyone takes. Whether it be on reflections of their first-time, or a follow-up on a first-time experience.
I have written them in the past myself.
And you may ask, what can be shared that hasn’t already been said? Well, I would answer by saying that everyone has a different perspective with their own experience. And then there is the fact that there are always newcomers for every WordCamp.
With that said, I did not come here to share my own list of a dozen tips. But instead I want to give you two examples of this that I came across recently, specifically for the upcoming WordCampUS. Then close with a few thoughts that will give you something to ponder, whether you are a newbie or a veteran in the ecosystem.
The Newbie experience
First, here is a thread from someone that recently attended WordCamp Europe and wanted to share her thoughts for those going to WCUS for the first time. The interesting part is that she is reflecting on this as an attendee and also from the perspective of her first time as Field Marketing Specialist at GoDaddy. To me, these kinds of tips are priceless and I appreciate Gina Marie taking the time to share them with us.
— Juniemarie (@GoGinaMarie) August 8, 2022
Attending as a builder or business owner
Whether you are new to the WordPress or WooCommerce space, or a product builder who has not spent much time at WordCamps if any time at all, sometimes that first experience can be a bit intimidating or, even, a little odd. WordCamps are not your typical business conference. Nor is the community your typical business community. And I say this is a good way.
Only yesterday, Jonathan Wold, one of our podcasts hosts here on Do the Woo, wrote a great post on this subject that you can find here on JonathanWold.com. Again, this goes into a lot of thought around WordCamps and that first experience with the event as well as with the community.
Also, I cannot help but share the image Jonathan had on his post. It is so cool. And his daughter, Jensyn, who is 9-years-old created this illustration of Jonathan with some friends at WordCamp. Guess who that dude on the far right is? LOL! I don’t believe anyone has ever done a better illustration of me than Jensyn has done. I think I’m going to have to commission her sometime to do one (or two) for Do the Woo!
My own personal insights, lessons learned from my pre-WordPress days
If you have seen me at a WordCamp, or will be seeing me at WCUS, you likely will notice I am like a pinball, bouncing around the booth area and hallway chat, talking to dozens of people. I have spoken at several WordCamps over the last 16 years and love meeting new faces. But if we go back to my pre-WordPress business days, say as far back as the early 1990’s, this was a time when I began “business networking”.
One that I recall is the first time I started attending chamber of commerce meetings. We would go to these breakfasts and lunches where you would sit at a table and, one by one, they would ask you to stand up and introduce yourself. The room was usually filled with 30-50 people. As a result, my stomach would be tied up in a knot waiting my turn. As it came closer to my time I would start sweating, and fear that I would lose my lunch or breakfast in front of them all. When it came time, I would stand up, red-faced and stumbling through my pitch. It was horrifying.
Over the years I learned to be more comfortable in those situations and grew to accept and love the interaction that came with running a business.
As I grew more comfortable I started to feel empathy for those that were going through what I did in the beginning. As a result, I created a new strategy. If I saw someone at a networking event, standing off to the side and looking either frantic or uncomfortable, or both, if that’s possible, I would make the effort to approach them and introduce myself. I would also use my gut feelings to decide if they wanted to continue the conversation or if it was best for me to leave them alone after a brief intro. Most times the conversation would continue and I would make the effort to introduce them to others I knew at the event. I feel this is the least we can do for those who are more comfortable and know more people.
Ditch the plans
And lastly, this is likely the biggest thing I learned, but it may not be right for everyone. In those early years I was told to plan out my networking. Who I wanted to meet. Make notes of what I needed to learn or ask. Etc. etc. etc. Now this does seem like the most effective way to get the most of our networking. But often I found that this made me more tense, having so-called deadlines and focusing so much on that “list” that I missed other, more enriching opportunities.
So guess what?
One day I decided to go into an event without any expectations or preparation. And that was the best and most effective time I have ever had at an event. And I’ve carried on that non-plan ever since. Sure I might make note of some people I would like to meet but I don’t make it a priority. Last thing I do is have people sign up on my Calendly account to grab slots to chat. Booked slots can interrupt conversations that should not be interrupted.
Again, this may not be the way you should do it. But I suggest that if you are feeling your time isn’t as well spent at WordCamps, or that you walk away thinking you missed out, give it a try.
In fact, all three of these thoughts I shared with you will hopefully give you some insight into other things to consider whether it’s your first time or your 100th time at a WordCamp.
I hope Gina’s, Jonathan’s and my final thoughts will help you or someone you know get the most out of their next WordCamp. And if you are coming to WCUS, make sure and say hi. And if you want to see all the Twitter peeps that will be there, here is list for you.
This content was originally published here.