Going to WordCamps is really great. Mainly because, no matter if you are just going to build your first personal blog, or you are part of a multinational business built around WordPress, you are sure to meet people that are up to the same challenges as you and are willing to share their experience. Visiting even a single session can be very beneficial, but if you go beyond just listening you will be amazed how much more you can learn. Looking over WordCamp Phoenix, we sponsored and visited last weekend, I can say it was a great example for the different ways you can benefit from such an event.
Start easy: Visit Sessions!
Listening to the sessions is obviously a no-brainer and all it requires from you is to attend the event. A great thing about WordCamps is that they usually have sessions for each proficiency level and interest.
If you are just starting with WordPress, you can learn from great sessions like those hosted by Se Reed (a professional web consultant) and Zac Gordon (who teaches WordPress at Treehouse). They walk you through the basics of WordPress and design, and with their shared knowledge help you get a better understanding of what it takes to build websites with WordPress.
If you have already set up your website and would like to turn your attention to start adding quality content to it, there are usually also great tips. In Phoenix some great ideas on optimizing your writing efforts and exploiting the power of content were given by Jennifer Bourn (who manages a design company).
Another interesting topic in the WordPress community is the question how to charge for the product you have created. Patrick Rauland’s presentation on Freemium models turns out quite helpful in guiding you away from less successful pricing models such as relying on “donations” and “pay as much as you want”, and disclosing more prosperous methods like building a personal brand over a successful free plugin, or developing a big user base with a free version and charging for premium features the people who need them.
And if your are a developer or designer, WordCamps give you the opportunity to learn from the top of the top WordPress developers. In Phoenix there were quite few of them too: Pippin Williamson (PippinsPlugins.com and Easy Digital Download), Brad Williams (co-founder of WebDevStudios and the newly launched super-hot product AppPresser) and a lot more others, who present on …code stuff…obviously…
Take the next step: Talk to the people!
I personally enjoy WordCamps most of all because I feel I get to learn from anything and anyone, including our competitors, clients, people with totally unrelated business profile, and anyone else at any moment of the day and even of the night. Most of this happens outside the session rooms.
However, I understand that talking to people can seem challenging at first. Many people are scared of that social contact with strangers. I remember well my own first event ever, more than 10 years ago, though it was not a WordCamp. Some of the questions that bothered me at that time were: How do I approach all those new people? Why would they want to talk to me? And most of all: Am I smart and interesting enough for them? Who am I anyway, I just started…
So if you feel like this when you are reaching out, you have to check out Chris Lema’s speech from WordCAmp phoenix on “Escaping the Imposter Syndrome”. It helps you recognize a problem that many of us have faced at some point or another – the inability to internalize success and admit our own worth and achievements. I could not agree more with him that there is always someone smarter than us, but we shouldn’t forget there are at least a few less smart. You may not know that “new” stuff, but you know a lot more other stuff. Just be yourself and don’t try to pretend you know things that you don’t. People will forgive you that you don’t know and will be even willing to teach you, if you are genuine and want to learn.
And another personal advice – do not forget to fave fun! At the end of the day, when you all get together in the nearby bar, you can actually relax and enjoy the less formal conversations and get to know the humans behind the “suits.” You still learn useful stuff like how to drink Fireballs for example, but most of all you get to seal your new bonds so firmly with liquor that you can count on them next time you are rolling on the learning speedtrack.
Go beyond: Get involved
Now if you want to keep that learning momentum you got on WordCamps and maybe even overcome the imposter syndrome faster, you may want to get involved more actively in the WordPress community. Andrea Middleton, the master WordCamp Coordinator talked about the ways you can do that. A great way to do it is write code…. Well, that’s not for everyone…. You may try organizing WordPress meetups in your own town or grow your meetups into WordCamps. You can also apply for a session or even sponsor an event. Imagine that! You can be in the middle of it all – a great excuse to talk to anyone about anything and LEARN!