While I could gush all day about how much I loved attending, here are the 5 main reasons WCMIA19 is my favorite WordCamp so far.
The Size was Perfect
I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration in August. And while it was a beautifully inspiring and unique event, it was gigantic. I felt dwarfed and alone almost the entire time. The few people I did connect with were focused on their own thing and weren’t really there to make the kind of connections I was hoping to make.
The size also meant that we as attendees could know and recognize the volunteers and organizers. Ask me who put on the Grace Hopper Celebration and I couldn’t even bring a face to mind. But at WCMIA2019, I could actually see and speak to the individuals who were volunteering their time and appreciate them for exactly what it was they were doing.
If you’d like to attend or volunteer to speak at a WordCamp, they’re happening all the time and in tons of cities all over the world! Go to WordCamp Central and search for the WordCamp closest to you.
The End of #Hustle Culture
In 2017, I heard a few talks gently begin to introduce the idea of the things that plague us all, about which we don’t like to talk: depression, anxiety, loneliness, burn out, lack of exercise, poor diet, and so much more. Adam Soucie’s talk from WCMIA17 always stood out in my mind as a prime and brave example of this.
This year, half the talks I heard on Friday alone emphasized (or focused entirely) on shunting the “the hustle” to the side and actually taking care of yourself. That focusing purely on keeping your business alive can have a detrimental effect on keeping you alive. Joe Casabona, Michelle Schulp, and Scott Mann knocked this idea out of the park with vulnerable, honest, and moving presentations. We talked about putting family first, developing healthier habits, and not measuring inner struggles against the successes of others.
And, I tell you, it was liberating. I learned a ton of specific business or web-oriented things this year. But the validation that came from hearing incredibly successful people admit they’ve struggled (and telling me it was okay to struggle) was of the most valuable parts of the entire event.
One of the newest features of the camp this year was the live-typed captions that accompanied every Saturday and Sunday talk. They were quick and virtually flawless. While I myself didn’t need them, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of appreciation each time I glanced over to the screens. I know that if I were struggling to hear or see at that very moment, I wouldn’t miss any important information. It inspired me to think more about how my users actually use my products and what challenges they may be experiencing that I cannot personally identify with. And it will be a factor against which I compare every conference or networking event I attend in the future.
Accessibility as a whole was a huge theme of the event: there was a nursing room available, food options for almost everyone, and so many of the talks touched on its importance as a whole.
Lunchtime Table Topics
This was a new idea that was implemented this year at lunchtime. We got to group together at tables and discuss specific topics with other interested attendees. I myself hosted one on my favorite project management tool, Trello. But there were topics on plugins, UI/UX, content, and so much more. This was a great way to allow people to network and chat and learn in a structured way, without actually needing to work specific talks into the schedule. My tiny Trello group was incredibly fun and I feel like I was able to provide a ton of value to the people who joined in. I really hope this idea stays on the schedule and that people continue to take advantage of it.
I Volunteered and Loved It
It happened sort of suddenly when I asked if there would be a non-dairy option available in place of ice cream. I was told that they actually needed someone to advise a bit on what non-dairy/vegan/vegetarian sorts of food to get. This small (nay, tiny) responsibility gave me insight into the world of the volunteers and organizers. A peek behind the curtain at all the people (and there were a lot) who contribute, in ways big and small, toward making the event happen. It gave me an appreciation for those people that I couldn’t have had unless I’d seen it first hand. And it made me want to do more, and more, and more. I even spent some time in the Happiness Bar this year, actually helping others. This was amazing to me because as a self-proclaimed life-long learner, I’d always imagined that I’d be stuck on the opposite side of that sort of interaction. Helping someone else troubleshoot their site, teaching them what they didn’t know, was immensely rewarding.
As a result, my largest takeaway in terms of personal goals from this WordCamp is to make volunteering and contributing my time a priority in my life this year. I plan on attending more meetups, volunteering in the WordPress support forums, and volunteering in a larger way for WordCamp 2020.
Curious about my talk?
I gave a really detailed talk about my client process, with a special focus on how I use Trello to make my web design projects more fun and easier to understand.