After a couple of really grueling sessions, we are excited to announce this year’s First Round of speakers.
As 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!
Over 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!
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.
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.
I have to admit, when my wife made the suggestion that we move from the Northwoods to Milwaukee, it took me a while to wrap my mind around it. Growing up and spending many summers in Wisconsin, Milwaukee was always one of those cities where we went to visit people, but didn’t hang out much. My only real memory of it from my childhood was the one time we went to the Ice Capades with my cousin’s maternal grandparents. Other than that, pretty much nada. Continue reading What’s So Cool About Milwaukee, Anyway?
Are you coming to WordCamp Milwaukee? Have you been itching to find a way to give back to the WordPress Community? WordCamps are a great way to give back and WordCamp Milwaukee could use YOUR help! All skill levels and all skills are needed. If you can move a chair, you can volunteer. If you can dodge a wrench, you can volunteer. Continue reading Call for Volunteers
Heyyyyyyy!!! Comin’ to you from Milwaukee, Wisconsin! The site is live and ready for action. WordCamp Milwaukee will be taking place on September 17 & 18 this year and we’re really excited! Continue reading We Are LIVE!
Want to Sponsor?
Date: September 17 – 18
Venue: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education
Ticket Price: $40 per person
Expected Attendance: 250+ Continue reading Call for Sponsors
Speaker Submissions Are Now Open!
NOTICE: You MUST log into your wordpress.org AND wordcamp.org (same login credentials as wordpress.org) account in order for the application to appear. If you do not have an account, you can create one here.
Speaker submissions are open through August 22. We will begin with announcing an initial round of speakers shortly thereafter. You may submit multiple talks, but only one talk will be selected per speaker. Continue reading Call for Speakers