WordCamp Europe 2023 is gone and the vibrant atmosphere is far away by now. It’s a good time for introspection and for wrapping up some lessons learned from this year’s experience.
My Experience with WordCamp EU
The first time I attended a WordCamp Eu was in 2019, in Berlin. It was a great experience, but mostly overwhelming. Too many people for a working-from-home introvert like me, and not many occasions to interact on a deep level, as a simple attendee.
My Experience at WordCamp Athens
I was happy to attend as a volunteer for my next WordCamp EU, in Athens. I craved for interactions and I supposed this role would help me to interact more with people than a simple attendee. And it was different and a much better experience than the first one. For 2 Days I was involved in volunteer activities and on the last day I attended some talks and engaged in conversations with sponsors and other participants.
Day 1 – Contributor Day was my first day as a volunteer. My first job was to fold the cards at the Community booth. It was a great opportunity to chat with other volunteers while doing some repetitive work. Next, the Volunteer Orientation Session helped me to understand more about the big place (Megaron Athens International Conference Centre) with all the venues. The first day ended with the Social Event for Organisers and Volunteers at a beach bar – stunning view, delicious food, but very loud music – we bearly were able to understand speaking (shouting) at each other.
On the 2nd Day, I helped at the Registration desk – a few hours in the morning and the afternoon shift. The morning hours were a bit crowded, but the afternoon shift was lighter – another opportunity to speak about our experience with WordPress with our other volunteers at the Registration desk. It was a valuable time spent together.
Day 3 – I attended a few talks, visited the sponsors’ booths, and talked with new people (attendees and volunteers). Very quickly it was the end of the event: the emotional moment with the last group photos, the announcement of the 2024 location (Torino), and many-many promises to keep in touch and meet again next week.
There were many other side events and parties, hiking, and yoga, but I chose to take some quiet time in the evening to clean my mind and put in order all the new experiences along these full days. I had a good time climbing Lycabettus Hill behind the Megaro Mousikis Hall and taking a nice walk on the beach at sunset.
After a few years of working in isolation, I can say this was the first time being happy in the work environment, gathering with nice people. I’m so grateful for connecting with lovely people and having a meaningful conversation over the days: Elizabeth, Mahi, Lorna, Patricia, Monica, Franco, Benjamin, Ruth, Anchen.
Talks I attended (the subjects I was interested in)
- Cathi Bosco: 15 ways user experience impacts business success (question)
- Fellyph Cintra: What is new in CSS?
- Mitchell Leber: Accessibility meets style: a design revolution
- Panel: Enterprise WordPress delivery – How some of the leading agencies deliver WordPress to enterprise globally.
What I really liked
- Connecting with new people all over the world;
- That feeling (so needed as a freelancer) you are not alone, you are a part of a big community;
- Finding inspiration in other’s experiences;
- Learning about new products in the WordPress ecosystem, new WordPress features (Playground, Openverse);
- Good energy, new insights, a lot of smiles, hugs sometimes, being welcome as you are.
- Overall, it was a good refreshing pause at work.
What I don’t like about attending these big events
- too many things to do in a short amount of time, and it’s almost exhausting;
- it’s not the best place to really learn something new, on a deep level;
- it’s difficult to build meaningful conversations: too noisy, too many things to do, and lack of space and context for engaging and meaningful interactions; the talks, the workshops, and the panel discussions, even WP Connect are not the best place for deeper interactions. Networking is in fact mingling – which is fine, but not enough;
- after leaving the event and arriving in my home office, everything seemed to be like a big firework. A lot of energy (and money) spending, but just a few small results.
How attending WordCamp EU helped my business as a freelancer web designer
When you hear about WordCamp, the first word that came into your mouth is networking. But is this kind of big event the best place for networking? How to find the proper connection among 2500-3000 attendees? You may say the networking has to start before the event… Totally agree, but the list of attendees doesn’t mention their role in WordPress ecosystem.
For the 2023 WordCamp, one of my goals was to connect with Agencies, or with other freelancers. How could I find them?
- I didn’t find any agency in the sponsor area.
- The panel about working with enterprise agencies (Enterprise WordPress delivery – How some of the leading agencies deliver WordPress to enterprise globally) was full of attendees, but the context was not networking-friendly.
- The Organizers’ Party was the worst space for networking possible, because of the very loud music.
- I met an agency owner during my afternoon shift at Registration, and we had a great chat between the volunteer tasks. But this was pure luck, not a strategy.
Simple, I didn’t find any strategy for this year.
WordCamp has something magnetic, and an amazing energy impossible to find in another networking event. But beyond that: how have all of these helped me, as a freelancer to develop business relationships? I don’t have too many answers. But I still love WordCamp and hope to come back to Torino next year :)