Last weekend, the first WordCamp Nijmegen took place. The Contributor Day was on Friday and there were plenty of interesting talks on Saturday during the Conference Day. With 170 visitors, WordCamp Nijmegen was an enormous success. Our online marketeer Benoit Gütz was involved in the organisation on behalf of Savvii. We asked him a few questions to learn more about the ins and outs of organising WordCamp Nijmegen.
What is a WordCamp and what typifies a WordCamp?
A WordCamp is a one-day or multi-day event for anyone who is, in one way or another, working with or interested in WordPress. It is attended by visitors, speakers, and sponsors, all of whom have come to contribute something to the WordPress community: to learn, to network, or simply to gain inspiration.
Above all, it is the sense of ‘belonging’ that characterises the WordCamps and the WordPress community alike. Everyone is easy to approach and happy to help you in whatever way they can.
What do you think is so important about the WordCamps?
The planning ensures the further and better development of WordPress, because the whole community is working on this. WordCamp participants are willing to share a great deal of information, and both companies and private users benefit. Naturally, the WordPress community is very active online as well, but WordCamps make it even easier to share information and developments.
Why did you opt for a WordCamp in Nijmegen?
The WordPress MeetUp (an evening event), which is organised by Yoast, Savvii, and Linus Wiggers, has been a great success in Nijmegen for a number of years. It attracts many visitors and the maximum number of 100 participants has already been reached several times. There is a large WordPress community in this region, so the time had come to go a step further and organise a multi-day event.
Was it a success?
You could certainly say that. There was a high demand for tickets. We had 150 tickets available and 170 people finally attended the event. A large proportion of these attended a WordCamp for the first time. I spoke to a number of them. They said they visited a WordCamp for the first time because this WordCamp was close to home. Apparently, this is very important. We want to inspire new people to come to WordCamps and to increase the size of the community. During Taco’s closing talk, it was clear that many people were very positive. Just check Twitter (#WCNMGN) where many favourable responses have been posted!
What was the organisational set-up?
Firstly, the originator, (in this case Taco from Yoast), needs to find co-organisers. A request can then be submitted to WordCamp Central. This organisation supports local WordCamps with financial and practical resources. Once the formal request has been approved, the real work starts. It takes a great deal of time. Preparations started 8 months in advance and the more WordCamp Nijmegen drew near, the more there was to do. Depending on your role in the organisation of the event, you may spend 20 to 30 hours a week working on it in the final weeks.
What other skills are required for organising?
Obviously, you must have a passion for WordPress and the community. Other than that, it is difficult to name any hard and fast criteria. It is important for the lead organiser to be able to delegate, to plan well and to maintain an overview. In addition, it is important for everyone to make an accurate assessment of the time required for all preparations. Clear and timely communication is essential.
What was the division of roles in terms of organisation?
The team consisted of seven people. Taco was in the lead and was also responsible for the budget and the speakers. Anette and Louis dealt with the sponsoring, locations and swag/goodies, and Sharon was responsible for communication. Amir took care of everything in the areas of design, photography and film. I myself was responsible for the team of volunteers, and Linus had an advisory role, given his experience as the co-organiser of WordPress MeetUp Nijmegen.
What exactly did you do?
I was responsible for coordinating the volunteers and thus for all communication with volunteers. There had to be enough volunteers on both days. They had to be given clear instructions in terms of their roles and they had to know where they had to be at what time. I supervised 9 volunteers on Contributor Day and at least 35 on Conference Day. Naturally, organising a WordCamp also entails making many choices, and there are things you all do together. Initially, we met every 2 weeks and then every week in the last weeks before the event.
What is the biggest challenge you encountered?
Firstly, arranging enough volunteers and secondly, changing the schedule after it had first been published. When volunteers receive the schedule, they sometimes realise that they are not available after all. We had to be creative to find a solution. In that respect, it was important to have a good relationship with the volunteers.
What three tips would you give other organisers?
- Start when there is still plenty of time. Organising a WordCamp always takes more time than you think.
- Use your network. People within the WordPress community are happy to lend a helping hand.
- Enjoy! That includes the preparations. Find time to do something fun with your team of organisers. It is a perfect way to get to know one another and this is, of course, beneficial to cooperation. And don’t forget to enjoy the event itself.
What was the best thing about organising the event?
The best thing by far is to see that the energy you all invested together to make it a success was worthwhile. It was a highly successful WordCamp. The fact that you meet such a large group of (new) WordPress enthusiasts creates an incredible sense of community. It is very rewarding to see people enjoying themselves at an event that you and your team organised. That is very satisfying.
Moreover, because I supervised the team of volunteers, I met even more people in the WordPress community. You expand your personal and professional network and learn a great deal from one another. The satisfaction and appreciation you get when you organise a WordCamp, together with the people you meet, makes the time you put into it more than worthwhile.
— Savvii (@savvii) September 2, 2017
Are there plans for another edition yet?
Certainly! We already had a meeting with the organisers after the event. It was clear that everyone was very proud of what we achieved (in collaboration with all the sponsors, speakers, and volunteers). We look back on the event with pride and are motivated to organise another WordCamp Nijmegen.