What I learned at WordCamp Seattle

And why you should go to one near you

First, let me just say it was an amazing event and I am so honored I got to present my workshop “Let’s Build a Course! And Why You Should.” (Even though I had a few snafus!) But I made the best of it and I received a ton of great feedback from those who attended and said they loved the presentation.

Now, I’m not going to talk about any of the presentations and the reason for that is because the point of this post is not a review of WordCamp itself. I didn’t write this post to review the presentations or to give a synopsis of the talks I attended. I’m not writing it to “share my notes,” so to speak. I *may* consider doing that in another post sometime soon but, honestly, I highly doubt it. ;-)

So, here’s what I learned, what I shared, and why YOU should go to one near you – even if you’re not a WordPress techie or a developer or a designer.

What I learned from this and other conferences I’ve attended

There’s as much value in talking with other attendees as there is in going to sessions. In other words, don’t feel like you have to fill your time going to a session every hour. It’s totally ok – and worthwhile – to skip a few sessions each day and get to know the other attendees and speakers.

Likewise, you can also visit the vendor booths and chat up the representatives there. It’s often less crowded during sessions and you can get some great answers to your questions that you might not have time to ask when the booths are busier. They often have some cool stuff too, like t-shirts, notebooks, stickers, pens, and even giveaways where you can win tvs, game consoles, and other prizes.

Plus, cramming your brain with information isn’t always helpful. In a conference setting, it can be particularly overwhelming. Instead of feeling energized and excited, you end up feeling tired, run down, and out of patience.

My suggestions and general takeaways:
  • Pick 2 or 3 sessions each day that you don’t want to miss. Note the date and time of those sessions, and if you’re feeling organized, add a reminder or an alarm to your smartphone’s calendar so you get there a few minutes early
  • Get to the event venue a little before it starts each day so you can take advantage of the registration and networking hour (and coffee!)
  • Go to the “after party” on the first day and other meetups scheduled around the event (you don’t have to stay long). They’re a great way to talk with like-minded people, make connections, and have some fun outside of the event itself
  • Bring some extra snacks and a water bottle you can refill throughout the day to keep hydrated. This is especially useful if you have to walk a few blocks to the venue from wherever you park (or from the bus stop)
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing! It’s hard to feel like chatting with other people when your feet hurt or you’re otherwise feeling uncomfortable
  • Don’t bring anything you don’t really need. Besides the obvious reasons like losing things – or god forbid, something gets stolen – laptops and tablets can be bulky and heavy to lug around all day. Leave them home or in your hotel room if you don’t really need them. Use your phone to capture snippets – photos, quotes, thoughts, even record audio or video – when you really want to remember something

Other insights about attending conferences

Don’t miss the keynote address! It sets the tone for the entire conference.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make the keynote talk at WC Seattle last weekend and I really wish I had! Not only to support my fellow speaker, but because I enjoyed hearing other’s takeaways and realized I missed out on a great talk. I could have learned a lot from hearing her presentation as a fellow mom building a business. Hopefully, it (and all the other sessions) will be available on WordPress.tv next month.

WordCamp is not just for tech nerds! A lot of attendees were small business owners, bloggers, social media managers, and others who aren’t necessarily WordPress and/or design professionals. I knew this, having been to a WordCamp several years ago but it was interesting to see how things have evolved over the years. I think I met a lot more non-design professionals this time.

Always bring extra business cards. To be honest, I haven’t carried (or really used) business cards in YEARS. Most of the time, I just write down my website for someone or open it up on their laptop/phone. Or I give them my social media handles and we connect that way. But it turns out, A LOT of people at WordCamp handed out business cards and asked for mine. So, lesson learned! Bring business cards and hand them out prolifically.

What I talked about WordCamp Seattle

I was sort of a last minute addition to the speaker line-up. Someone in the WP Seattle Facebook group told me the speaker deadline had been extended and thought I should apply, which I did – at the 11th hour! After a few weeks worth of waiting, I figured they’d offered the spaces to others and hadn’t been chosen.

But in the middle of October – a mere three weeks before the event – an email landed in my inbox congratulating me and inviting me to present my workshop, “Let’s Build a Course! And Why You Should”. . . which by the way, I wrote on the fly. . . ON MY APPLICATION! I literally came up with it right then and there.

See, I’d been toying with idea of creating a course around building and designing courses on WordPress – something I’ve been doing for my clients for about 5 years now. It’s a niche I’ve come to really enjoy. And over the past few months I’ve been realizing I want building courses on WordPress to be the main focus on my design work.

So, it was only natural to build both my actual course AND my workshop presentation for WordCamp Seattle at the same time. Because I did so, I was able to use my outline for the course itself to create the flow of my presentation. Each section of my course – each module and lesson – became a topic and bullet points for my WordCamp session.

You can check out my session slides here. Just scroll about halfway down the page and you’ll see a link to “view session slides.”

Even though I had that outline and I knew exactly what I needed to do and how I would give my talk, did you know I didn’t create my session slides until Saturday night. . . and my talk was on SUNDAY?? Yep! I stayed up until midnight after getting home from Day 1 of the conference at 7pm and created my slides.

With all the stuff that’s happened over the past month – my aunt passed away four days after I got the invitation to speak, then just two days later I got very sick and was out for almost two weeks, then the Monday before the conference, my 13 year old cat passed away after a brief illness. . .

And let me tell you – my most trusted friend and mentor had to talk me off the ledge on Friday before the conference! It took a lot for me to get up on the morning of first day of the conference and even go, not to mention, to finish that presentation enough to actually give it.

Thankfully, I have some pretty amazing people in my corner who poked and prodded me, gave me pep talks and then shoved me out the door on Saturday morning. And I’m truly grateful for that.

My presentation went really well and confirmed I’m on the right pathway. After being a solo freelancer for several years, I’ve decided to rebuild my design agency. The agency will be focusing on helping my clients build their courses on WordPress.

So, with all of that said, over the next few weeks, I’m going to finish up the How to Build a Course on WordPress course (you can pre-order it) which will officially launch on Thanksgiving week and start December 2nd.

Before I wrap this up, here’s why you should attend a WordCamp near you

Like I said earlier, it’s not just for techies and developers and designers. It’s great for bloggers and writers, digital agencies, social media managers, e-commerce websites, and other small business owners and entrepreneurs of all kinds. It’s not all tech talk. Sure, there’s some tech stuff but there’s also things like content planning, digital storytelling, podcasting, working with clients, clarifying your message, time management, marketing, and more.

Don’t be afraid to go learn! That’s really what WordCamp is all about.

And if you do go to one, please reach out and tell me all about it! I’d love to hear about your experience.

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Photo on 6-23-18 at 1.53 PM

Hi, I'm Annie. . .

"Your instructor for How to Build a Course on WordPress as well as the one behind this website. I'm a graphic designer and web developer with over 25 years experience. I've been working with WordPress since 2005, have spoken at WordCamp Seattle and other local venues, and specialize in building course and membership sites for my clients.

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