Of all the tools web designers use to make a living, WordPress stands out as unique. And it’s not necessarily because of the software itself (which is excellent, by the way).
No, what really separates WordPress from just about everything else out there is the amazing community built around it. It’s made up of an incredibly diverse group – web professionals, bloggers, business owners and educators (to name just a few). They hail from all over the world and pretty much every background you can imagine.
Among the crown jewels of this community are the many WordCamps held annually. These events have taken place in over 60 countries, spanning 6 continents (sorry, Antarctica – your time will come).
If you haven’t gotten around to attending an event, it’s definitely something to put on your bucket list. There are a number of benefits to doing so, including:
A Low-Cost Day Out
Everyone needs some time out of the office – even if it’s work-related (though WordCamps rarely feel like work). And you can’t get one much more affordable than a WordCamp. Prices are generally kept to around $20 USD per day! How many pro-level conferences can you attend for about the price of dinner at a pizza place?
Speaking of which, you won’t go hungry while you’re there. For that more-than-reasonable price, you’ll often get a meal (typically lunch), while snacks and beverages are also included. Plus, just walking in the door nets you a giveaway item, like a custom T-Shirt.
Prices are generally kept low due to the kindness of sponsors – both corporate and individual. As a bonus, they often attend the conference with their own collection of swag to give away.
Depending on the location of the camp, the largest expense for attendees tends to be travel (and, if necessary, a hotel). However, various organizations may provide grants to those in need of assistance, such as the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship.
The Chance to Meet New People
Part of the WordPress community’s strength lies in its ability to attract people from all walks of life. Go to a WordCamp and you’re likely to run into experts and novices alike – not to mention everyone in-between those two skill levels.
And you can’t help but find yourself in at least a few good conversations. This is particularly true between sessions and at meal time, when attendees often congregate in a common area. Therefore, you’ll want to be prepared to answer the question, “How do you use WordPress?”
It’s also worth noting that the atmosphere is generally laid back. There is no corporate stiffness to be found and the dress code is pretty much come-as-you-are.
Overall, people are friendly and willing to chat. But even if you’re a bit shy – not to worry. You’ll find yourself in a place that lets you be you and move at your own pace.
As much as anything, WordCamps are about learning. Many camps split their sessions into multiple “tracks”, each one aimed at a specific skill level or use type. For instance, you may find a track for hardcore developers along with others for visual designers, content creators or marketers.
It can be very worthwhile to attend sessions across a variety of tracks. Even if you don’t know a lot about a particular subject, you may be surprised at how much knowledge you can pick up. At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of, say, what React does or how the Gutenberg editor affects design choices.
Not only that, but you might also just discover a new favorite plugin or technique for getting things done. Everyone approaches building a WordPress website differently, and there is a chance to pick up some pointers from both speakers and attendees.
Expand Your Reach
Of course, professionals primarily attend conferences to get their names out there, and a WordCamp provides a perfect opportunity to do so. And there are a number of ways to achieve your goal.
Volunteering to speak can be very effective, allowing you to show off your expertise in a particular WordPress-related area. If you’re comfortable giving presentations, this provides you with a room full of people who are eager to learn whatever knowledge you can share. Just know that you must apply to speak ahead of time, as there is often stiff competition for spots.
Even if you aren’t a featured speaker, there are still plenty of chances to network. As mentioned earlier, you’ll have opportunities to connect with other attendees, so make sure to bring lots of business cards! You never know when a casual conversation can lead to a new project.
A Worthwhile Experience
WordCamps provide a fun, affordable and potentially profitable experience. And, no matter your experience or skill level, there is an opportunity both meet new people and advance your career.
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