WordCamps are held across the UK and the world. They’re WordPress conferences where everyone is welcome to learn, share and celebrate together. This year was the first time we’d held one in Brighton. It was brilliant. Here’s my personal experience of the lead up and of the actual event on the 23rd and 24th July 2016.
Back in March, Pragmatic (some of them were on the organising team) asked if I could help out with the copy for the WordCamp Brighton website. I love WordPress and WordCamps, so I said “yes please!” I was subsequently brought on as an organiser too, in the role of content lead (yay)!
Since then – aside from creating the tone of voice, doing lots of writing/editing and running the social media accounts – I’ve been able to get involved in all sorts of different areas of the event organisation.
Throughout, I got to work alongside an awesome team of organisers, led by Tammie Lister. It was amazing to have the opportunity to work with and learn from these WordPress experts.
With eight organisers, it was challenging to get everyone into the same room at once, so online communication was a saviour. We mainly communicated using Slack (a lot) and Google Hangouts (weekly), meeting up face to face around once a month. There were also many spreadsheets.
Six months is a short time
You can organise a conference for 150+ people in less than 6 months, but it’s difficult. Pretty much all the complications we ran into came about because we only had a few months to organise.
Whether it was about the venues, ticket sales or finding caterers, our lives would have been easier if we had more time. In saying that, we did manage to find the venues, we sold out all the tickets and we had copious amounts of delicious food throughout the event. So, it worked out in the end.
And in many ways, the tight deadline was a good thing.
For example, when our water bottle and coffee cup supplier fell through, we found a better supplier with just one week to go before the event. Nail biting, yes, but a great result.
Plus, distilling everything into just six months helped us make quick decisions. Consequently, we have a solid reference point for next time, which we can now build on and learn from.
The essence of 2016 will remain. But we’ll have a whole year to pull it off, so in theory it’ll be a more laid-back run up.
Finding an accessible venue in Brighton is difficult
When it came to the after party, we didn’t just have to compete with availability (a Saturday night, in Brighton, in the middle of summer). We also had huge difficulty finding somewhere accessible.
Having broken my ankle earlier this year, I can attest to the fact it’s not always easy to get around Brighton in a wheelchair, or even on crutches.
We did eventually find accessible venues for the speakers’ dinner, conference and after party. But accessibility is one thing I’d like Brighton as a city to do better in the coming years.
We all need to do more about diversity
For all those conferences I’ve been to with abysmal percentages of female speakers, or even none at all: we proved you wrong.
It is possible to get more than 50% female speakers at a WordPress conference.
7 out of the 12 speakers at WordCamp Brighton were female. We removed all identifying information before selecting speakers so there was no chance of bias (unconscious or otherwise).
There is however a long way to go to encourage greater diversity. It’s something we’re working on for next year. Again, having more time to get the word out should help.
The generosity of others
People will constantly surprise me with their variety of skills, their empathy and their unending generosity.
I’ve learnt so much in such a short space of time. In the most part, this is down to other people in the WordPress community: sharing their knowledge and encouraging me into situations I wouldn’t usually feel comfortable in.
I’m so honoured to be chosen as lead organiser for 2017 – a year ago I couldn’t imagine that would be possible. It’s a daunting but extremely exciting prospect. Thank goodness we have a whole year this time!
The WordPress community is so welcoming. It’s made up of such a range of professions. If you’re at all interested in WordPress – whatever you do and whatever your experience level – I thoroughly recommend you come along to WordCamp Brighton 2017. You’ll be welcome, I promise.
Interested in WordPress but don’t want to wait until next year? There’s a meetup every last Monday of the month. Come along!
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