Day One is In the Bag. Get Ready for Day Two!

I don’t know about all of you, but I had a blast yesterday!

Yes, it’s true, organizing a WordCamp is a ton of work. A TON! And in my experience, things just happen that you cannot prepare for. For me, yesterday was a lot of running around, making sure people knew where they had to go (sorry for posting the schedules outside of the rooms a bit late – won’t happen today), and doing my best to put out any fires that might come up throughout the day. Fortunately, there really weren’t many.

What I saw yesterday was three rooms, full of people, engaged audiences, and speakers covering interesting topics. A lot of smiles, and a lot of fun.

As far as the after party. . . Could we have asked for better weather or a cooler place? Nicole did a fantastic job putting it together (she also created those really cool record decorations). Great conversations were had, and I suspect there was some fun karaoke’ing going on after (I bowed out of that one).

Today, I expect the mood to be more subdued, as the Sunday of a WordCamp typically is. But having said that, I am super excited about the content that will be shared today. Whether it’s Jamie’s Immersion Track, JJJ talking about things that only JJJ can, or Erica Conway’s talk on how to package yourself for success (one I am particularly interested in), I know you’ll find today an invaluable learning experience that you’ll take with you.

As always, if you see me buzzing around the hallway, have any questions or concerns, or just want to say ‘hi’, don’t hesitate to stop me. The same is true for any of the fine folks in blue “Volunteer” WordCamp Milwaukee shirts. We’re all here to make sure that YOUR WordCamp experience is awesome!

So, with that all said, I’m packing my things and will see you all down there!

-marc

Things You Need to Know

WordCamp Milwaukee, 2016 is upon us! WOOOOHOOOOO!

Tonight it kicked off with a speaker/sponsor dinner which was a laid back affair with lots of good conversation. It was held at the Milwaukee Waterfront Deli, and from all accounts, a good time was had by all.

Saturday, registration will start at 8:00 AM with the first session starting at 9:30. This will give you all plenty of time to get that cup of coffee, socialize, and get to know each other. We expect it to be a nice, casual, intimate day with plenty of time to unwind throughout after having all of those knowledge bombs dropped on you. I’ve never been more excited about a speaker/topic lineup as I am this year, with very little redundancy and all sorts of diversity. And while we realize that we’re not covering EVERYTHING, we know we’re covering a lot of new and exciting things.

Here are some things you need to know for WordCamp:

Directions to the venue and parking information can be found here. Please bring your parking ticket in with you and have it validated for $6.00 parking (all day).

Lunch

This year lunch is on your own. We decided to do this for a couple of reasons. For one, frankly, it costs less. Adding a meal to the venue costs would have meant a price increase in your ticket. This would be well and good if the venue was in an area where there were no eateries. However, as many of us who live here know, Milwaukee is quite the foodie city, and the venue is smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Therefore, there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from. We’ve created a short list here for you to choose from, but there are plenty of other options. And with two days, you’ll get the opportunity to try two different places (or more!). These are a few of our favorites, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try others and let us know what you found:
Mo’s Irish Pub
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Kiku Japanese Restaurant
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
George Webb Restaurant
Skyway Cafe
Brunch
John Hawks
Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop
BB’s (Build-a-Breakfast/Build-a-Burger)

WordCamp Milwaukee Photo Booth

One of our traditions is our photo booth. This year, our theme is 50s Television Shows and so our photo booth theme will have some 50s props. We’ll be shooting photos all day which can be printed, emailed, and tweeted to you. It’s loads of fun and these photos have become a favorite keepsake from our annual shindig!

Wordcamp Milwaukee BACON Bar!

We’ve already posted about it, but just as you can not have too much bacon, you also cannot have too many posts about our other big tradition: the bacon bar. At 2:40, the venue will bring out bacon and other deep-fried munchies which will remain out until it’s all gone. Get it while it’s hot and don’t hold back. The bacon bar has become one of the favorite “events” at WordCamp Milwaukee!

That’s it for now! Now let’s make WordCamp 2016 the BEST ever!

 

The After Party

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Photo by William Rieselbach, local Milwaukee Photographer (and friend). His turned out better than mine.

Let’s face it. WordCamps are great, but many times, it’s about the after party. Two years ago, we had a REALLY awesome speaker/sponsor dinner held at Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub in the old Pabst Brewery, located in Downtown Milwaukee. Personally, I think it was one of my favorites. This year, we figured, why should we only limit it to speakers and sponsors? We decided to make it the venue for the after party. We know you’re going to love it! Continue reading The After Party

Leon’s Frozen Custard

LeonsIt’s a bit of a drive from the venue, but one of the things that Wisconsin is known for is its custard. And one of the best places to go for custard is Leon’s. Located on 27th Street in Milwaukee, it’s been a mainstay since 1942 and, rumor has it, was one of the landmark food establishments that served as the inspiration for “Al’s Diner” in “Happy Days.” Continue reading Leon’s Frozen Custard

WordCamp Milwaukee 2016 2nd (and Final) Round of Speakers Announced!

And here we go!

Tracy Apps

Erica Conway:
Title: to Be Determined
Subject: How to help you stand out to clients

John James Jacoby

Julie Kuehl: “CSS Sanity with Sass and the Inverted Triangle Approach”

Dwayne McDaniel: “Pricing Strategy and Planning for Agencies”

Kevin Barnes & Megan McGee: “Bringing Clients into Every Step of the Website Process”

Geoff Myers: “Importing, Exporting, Moving and Synchronizing Data in WordPress”

Tonya Mork: “Programming is Easy, Once You Master…”

Chad Mowery: “Why It’s Not Your Host’s Fault”

Andy Nathan: “Turning WordPress Into a Lead Generation Machine”

Shanta Nathwani: “Facet-nating!”

Brad Parbs

Steve Persch: “Why Your Site is Slow”

Michelle Schulp: “DIY Design: Think Like A Designer When Creating Your Site”

The full schedule will be announced shortly! Looking forward to this year’s great lineup of speakers!

 

Why You Should Sponsor a WordCamp

IMGP4736As a business owner who makes his living, by and large, from people within the WordPress Community, it’s likely that I have a pretty good perspective on sponsoring WordCamps.  As an organizer, it’s likely that I have a good perspective on dealing with the budget needed in order to put a WordCamp together, and as a frequent attendee to WordCamps, it’s likely that I have a good perspective on what it means to have WordCamps and sponsors.

I’m not saying that I know it all, and I’m certainly not saying that I’m unique, but I am saying that I might know a thing or two about it.

The Business Owner’s Perspective

The question I am probably most often asked as a regular sponsor of WordCamps throughout the U.S. by other business owners is that of my R.O.I. (Return On Investment).  My biggest issue with answering this question is that it definitely falls under the “your mileage may (WILL) vary,” category of answers. And secondly, when we sponsor a WordCamp, it is never determined by measurable R.O.I. I understand that this may be counter-intuitive, and have spoken with other business owners who feel differently, but for us, we’ve found that it’s a great way to stay in touch with our customer base and keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s needed by the Community. Because so much of our business is done behind the screens of computers, we find that the face to face time with the Community helps us to establish our brand and keep it in line with the needs of those who work within WordPress. There has yet to be a single WordCamp that we sponsored where we did not feel like it was not worth the investment.

If you are a business which relies on WordPress, WordCamps are an essential part of the Community’s growth and WordCamps have been a huge part of our branding efforts (and results). So, while I could not point to a datapoint and state, “that’s our ROI  for such and such a WordCamp,” I can tell you that having been a participant in WordCamps over the last three years has helped establish our brand as one that is in line with the ideals of the Community. And that’s big!

The Organizer’s Perspective

True confession here: I hate asking people for money. Absolutely hate it. It’s not that I’m not relatively decent at it so much as on my top ten list of fun things to do, it falls at about 500. But, as I mentioned earlier, part of putting one of these things together involves money. Without money, it doesn’t happen. Now, Central is always very supportive of WordCamps and they do fork over some cash. But the philosophy of a WordCamp is that it’s put together BY locals FOR locals. It’s a Community event which means that some money needs to come from the participants. Ticket sales make up part of it, but the reality is that venue, food, parties, swag, etc all cost. And while we, as organizers, don’t mind the organizing part, we all hate the money part. It’s what we all call a necessary evil. We definitely want to put on the best WordCamp ever, every single year, and despite keeping costs low, it still costs a lot.

The Attendee’s Perspective

I have to admit, one of the greatest things I see when I go to a WordCamp is one that is well attended by its sponsors. Whether they show up and hang out behind a table, come simply to speak, or only meander through the Hallway Track to get to know the Community more, I love it. When an individual or company comes to support a WordCamp, it shows me that they have a vested interest in what we’re doing. As a sponsor, I have been made to feel like a rock star, at times, because of the appreciation shown by attendees of our supporting their local WordCamp.

Lastly, I just want to say that there are ways that every company can sponsor, and most of them are pretty affordable. If you like to put swag on a table, packages start as low as $150.00 for individual Community Sponsors (and include tickets, mentions, and did I say, table space?). That’s pretty reasonable, and goes to support something great! So, if sponsoring a WordCamp trips your trigger, check out your options at a Camp near you! If you’d like to sponsor WordCamp Milwaukee, hit us up on the sponsorship page!

Thanks!

A Slightly Different Approach (Speaker Application Deadline Extended 48 Hours)

imgp0766_15287065268_oOver the weekend, I watched some of Wordsesh 4. Weekends are a tough time for me to find any time to do work or anything work related, but there was one session, in particular, I was interested in. It was the one David Bisset did called, “WordCamp Things.” David has a ton of experience when it comes to organizing WordCamps and has had a hand in organizing Miami, in some capacity, for the past eight years. Eight years organizing an event that is 100% volunteer driven? That’s crazy talk right there. And yet, not only has he done it, but he’s had something to do with Miami being one of the premier WordCamps in the United States. With somewhere in the vicinity of 800 attendees each year, I’d say he knows what he’s talking about.

One of the points David made in his session was that organizers need to think a little bit outside of the box when it comes to WordCamps. Having personally been to somewhere between 40 and 50 camps myself, I can definitely see what he’s getting at. The format of 30 to 40 minutes sessions with a few minutes break between is great for many, but not necessarily ideal for others. A 40 minute session can be too long for some topics, yet too short (WAY too short) for others. I know that for my presentations, I tend to make them so that they have one or two take-aways for every member in the audience, but nothing is covered in depth or comprehensively. So it got me to thinking . . .

What if we had a track where the presentations went a bit longer? What if some of those longer sessions were actually sessions and maybe throw in a workshop or two in there. It was the beginning of an idea. It isn’t necessarily THAT far outside of the box from what most of us know at a WordCamp (and don’t get me wrong, others have done the workshop idea with great success). So, people will still feel like they’re with an old familiar friend, but it’s enough different that it won’t feel completely the same.

I took what was the beginning of this idea to the organizing team and they ran with it, built upon it, and made it better. When you have an awesome team, that’s what happens. The concept turned into having a couple of “intro” classes on Saturday which would prep you for some longer classes on Sunday. In other words, by the time you leave on Sunday, we want you to have a really good basis or understanding of ways to enhance your business and take your skills to the next level, whatever they may be.

This is not a complete change of format from our typical WordCamp. We will still have plenty of the standard sessions to feed your appetites. We will still have our “Hallway Track” which is a fantastic opportunity to meet, socialize and network with others and yes, of course, we will still have the bacon bar for which WordCamp Miwlaukee has become famous. Our goal is simply to have you leave with a head full of knowledge that goes a bit beyond surface level.

So, with all that said, we’ve decided to extend speaker/presenter applications for another 48 hours. If you’re a speaker and would like to get in on some of this type of action, let us know! We’ll be making our selections later this week and should have announcements up by the weekend. Applications will be closed Thursday morning, about the time I get up and in front of my computer (that’s about 8:00 am CST if you’re wondering what that means), so get ’em in while you can!

Thanks!

Pokémon GO

The crowd was just starting to gather as the evening began

The crowd was just starting to gather as the evening began

According to my son (11), Milwaukee’s Lake Park was rated as the 8th best place in the U.S. to go hunting. I have googled it and have not found any absolute verification of the fact, but if my son says it, it must be true.

Here’s what I know. Last Thursday night, I took 4 of the kids to go hunting with me and it was nuts. After finding a parking spot, I got out and saw the path that goes along the lake crowded with hundreds of people, all looking at their phones. They were not there for a formal event. Rather, they were out to capture virtual creatures in virtual balls. There were families, vendors selling their “unofficial” wares, grandparents, kids, and real animals walking the path. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it.

Walking the path, there were several Pokéstops all appropriately “lured” and the little buggers were everywhere. About every ten minutes you’d see an ever growing crowd of people running in the same direction as shouts of “Charmander” or “Snorlax” could be heard. At first I was laughing at everyone, but before I knew it, I was caught up in the action, looking for that “rare” or “legendary”  Pokémon.

Beyond the searching, I’d find my kids talking to others about what they had as they shared the contents of their Pokédex with each other.

We wandered around for about three hours, when, at 10 O’clock, the park closed and we loaded up the van and went home.

If you’re coming to WordCamp Milwaukee, and play Pokémon GO, I highly recommend you check out Lake Park. It’s a beautiful walk by a beautiful lake, and the sense of community you’ll experience is not at all dissimilar to that of the WordPress Community.

Why You Should Speak if You’re Not a Developer or a Professional Speaker

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Photo Credit: Shanta Nathwani Location: Speaker Sponsor Dinner – Marc’s House

Ya, that’s me. No, this is not a self-serving post about me speaking at a WordCamp. It’s just the only photo I have of anything from a previous WordCamp Milwaukee that has anything to do with the subject (I promise we’ll get more pictures of NOT ME this year).

Instead, I wanted to write a bit about the kind of people we’re looking for to speak and the misconceptions that seem to go with a WordCamp. As someone who’s been to a wazillion or so WordCamps, I know I’ve seen this as a common occurrence. It’s that people, many times, think that the only way they can apply to speak is if they are, or have been:

  • WordPress Developer
  • Active member of the WordPress Community for an extended period of time
  • Experienced public speaker
  • Asked to speak by one of the organizers
  • A sponsor
  • Probably a lot of other things I have not thought of

The reality is that this is not the case. We mean it when we say that WordCamps are an INFORMAL event where people come to share their ideas, learn, network and socialize. So, the reality is that if you have ANY sort of experience you want to share that has to do with running a business, being an entrepreneur, marketing, or anything that could be useful to others, I encourage you to apply to speak. We’ve had some REALLY interesting applications come in already from people of varying backgrounds, with some of the most original topics I’ve seen in a while at a WordCamp.

So, whether you live inside or outside of the “box,” and wish to give to the Community, I highly recommend that you give it a shot! There is no better way to get public speaking experience because the environment is so casual. And if you’re looking for topic ideas, I’ll give you just a few general non-dev-centric ideas here (but this is definitely not an extensive, or all-inclusive list). Maybe others will chime in in the comments with ideas of things they’d like to see as well!

  • Horror Stories: Everyone loves a good horror story. Whether it’s one you have to tell about an epic failure on the development side, or a time where you fell flat on your face with a business decision, let us know! Case studies are always fascinating because they talk about the problem and then about the take-aways/learning experiences gained from the “failure” which ended up positively impact a decision making process down the road.
  • Marketing Techniques: Every business owner is always looking for ways to get their product into the hands of customers. What marketing techniques have you used, whether inside or outside of WordPress to help you become successful?
  • Business Strategies: What are the strategies that you use to run your business from an operational standpoint? What process did you go through to come up with these strategies? What’s worked, and what hasn’t? Why?
  • Content Strategies: What are they? How do you organize your content? What is the purpose of your content? How have your strategies changed over time? What factors affected their evolution?
  • SEO Strategies: Similar to Content Strategies. How have things changed? Where are things going? Is SEO as complicated as people make it out to be? Why do people think it’s snake oil sales? How do you know if your strategy is working?

I’ve seen applications come in from people who are not even within the WordPress Community and I’ve found the topics to be fascinating and seen how they can be applied. So, don’t be shy! We welcome all to apply! And while we make no guarantees that you’ll be selected, we can guarantee that we will give every application our full attention!

If you’re looking for the speaker app, you can find it here.

Thanks!

-marc