I want to tell you about one of the most important lessons that I learned years ago. Marc Benzakein is probably the one who introduced me to the idea of the “Hallway Track” at WordCamp Milwaukee when I first attended in 2014. This is the phrase used for the most important and undocumented tracks in the WordCamp ecosystem. These are not scheduled, nor are they talks in the “presenter and audience” sense of the word. These are discussions, networking and impromptu meetings. They could last a few minutes or much longer and tend to consist of smaller groups; they can be one-on-one, they can be with one speaker and a couple of people, or it could be a couple of people who want to have a longer conversation with their laptops and turn it into the “Spare Room” track.
From my research I learned that the first time that this is mentioned was actually at WordCamp Los Angeles in 2013 with Sé Reed and Jason Tucker (regular organizers and contributors of the WPWatercooler). In that instance, they actually interviewed people in the hallway. Maybe we’ll do a few in Milwaukee if we get a chance.
Of course, I also felt the need to put this out into the internet and find out what everyone else thought of it. Here’s what I would call some of the biggest names and experts in the WordPress World had to say about it:
“Where all the cool kids hangout.” And, “Happiness bar would be for real tangible problems or people starting out. Examples: setting up a local environment or teaching someone about colors with CSS. Hallway track is trade secrets, and hanging out with friends.” – James Tryon
“Where you get frank discussions about things and situations you’re dealing with. You get to talk and network with the presenters, sponsors and other attendees. I’ve learned just as much in the hallway track as I do in any session.” – Jonathan Perlman
“Relationships.” – Cory Miller
“Conversations instead of presentations.” – Andy McIlwain
“Watercooler conversation, impromptu chats, friendships made, business relationships forged, informal and spur of the moment.” – Michelle Schulp
What you have above is an example of what you’ll find in the Hallway Track. I set up the “hallway” on Facebook and people answered.
Since then, the Hallway Track has been used to describe conversations that go on outside of the actual presentation. These can be prompted for a variety of reasons, such as a talk, or something that wasn’t covered in a talk. The Hallway Track is networking or connections and not just troubleshooting. Conversations are a welcome side affect of any presentation, but a necessary staple of the Hallway Track.
So, if you’re looking at the schedule and you don’t see a particular talk that you’re interested in, hang out in the Hallway Track. One thing I learned from Marc at my first WordCamp Milwaukee is that some of the best conversations happen there, and that he purposely doesn’t go a talk during every single session, because of some of the amazing talks that go on outside the rooms. Best thing is to plan to hang out in the Hallway Track for a session or two. Plus, it’s relaxed and a nice break from the heavy duty learning that goes on inside the classroom.
I hope you enjoy WordCamp as much as I have the past two years. I’m really looking forward to this year. If you don’t find anybody let me know. I’m sure any of our team or any of the speakers, attendees, or anyone else you can find will be more than happy to chat. Welcome to WordCamp Milwaukee!