In short? Yes. But that doesn’t make for a very exciting post, now does it? Still, it’s the truth and if you’re serious about WordPress, you can benefit enormously from attending local events. I’m going to spend some time today going over the benefits of attending and what you can expect to get out of the experience as a whole.
First, you might be surprised by how many movers-and-shakers you’ll get to meet at conferences like these. As WordCamp brags, “It’s not uncommon to meet…speakers who are featured at expensive web industry conferences like South by Southwest.”
And while many conferences won’t attract big names, sometimes what you do get is even better. You get to meet all kinds of web designers and developers working on all kinds of projects, many of whom live right in your town.
And even at events without the star power, it’s worth going just to experience your local WordPress community in its most “real” and passionate form. These events are primarily run and attended by local people who really care about WordPress, and there’s no way to quantify the benefit of immersing yourself in an environment full of people who’ve all come together for a purpose you’re interested in.
Don’t be scared if you’re not experienced enough, however. Most of these events go out of their way to welcome people of all skill levels. In fact, if you’re new to WordPress, attending a gathering with people who make their living off of it may be just the motivation you need to take your work to the next level.
And don’t confuse these with one of your typical stodgy, corporatized business events. Most conferences even feature afterparties and networking events that will let you get to know your fellow attendees in an even more informal setting. Need more reasons? You got it!
Not only will you gain information from other people, you get to give it out yourself. If you’re a dev or website builder, what better way to advertise your services than one-on-one interaction with people you know are interested? It’s a surefire way to drum up business.
If you do plan on networking, make sure to get your ducks in a row, first. That means having your portfolio with your best works sorted out in advance and posted somewhere with an easy-to-remember URL that you can tell people about. That means getting business cards printed if you haven’t done so already. And it also means working on your introduction and elevator pitch in advance so you’re not stumbling over your words when it’s time to sell your services.
This ties into networking but merits its own section just the same. Most of the work opportunities you find at conventions will be through one-on-one conversations with people who need help with their projects. It is through this real, face-to-face interaction that you have the chance to really appeal to prospective clients and use your personality to win them over.
But even if this kind of interaction isn’t your thing, many conferences post Job Boards, giving you a better overview of the WordPress development and web design opportunities in your area than you could get even by browsing the online variety of the same. It’s specialized, focused, and tailor-made for those in attendance.
Conferences, like most trade shows, offer noted experts in both developing and using WordPress. These experts give lectures discussing how they’ve built the careers and how they do what they do. The ability to see how they persevere through certain challenges, or how they go through their work process, is invaluable.
You might even end up learning about aspects of web design you never thought to study before. Someone who’s an expert in the entire process may end up revealing that the key to a problem you’ve been having is in a place you would have never thought to look. For example, if you’ve always been more focused on the technical side of web development, it may help to attend presentations on how more traditional methods of graphic design can be applied to WordPress. And that’s just one example. There are so many others!
But don’t think it’s just the featured presentations that you’re coming for – you can learn a lot about your trade just by talking to your fellow attendees. Many of them may end up being just as knowledgeable as the people behind the podiums, and if you’re lucky, you may find a new mentor or collaborator.
There’s no better way to learn any skill than one-on-one interaction. Working in isolation can be far more difficult than when you have someone on-hand to help you. Events like these will often help you make friends that can be those sources of support later down the road.
Information on New Features
You can get live demonstrations of the latest updates to WordPress and its plugins at local events, too. You’ll also find yourself exposed to aspects of WordPress and features that you may never have thought to use, or third-party frameworks that you would have never seen explained.
How Do I Find These Events?
WordCamp, the biggest name when it comes to WordPress conventions, holds tens of events all over the world, negating the need to justify spending hundreds on travelling to the other side of the country to attend one. The full WordCamp schedule can be found on their website.
One of the most interesting features at WordCamp events is the Genius Bar – yes, just like the one at the Apple Store – that operates for the duration of the conference and provides a one-stop shop for all your WP-related questions.
WordCamp events are generally pretty affordable – usually within the range of $40-$60 for the whole weekend – and at that price, I can almost guarantee you’ll see a massive return on your investment.
If you’d like to start smaller, you can attend a local meetup instead of a conference. They happen much more often and more regularly anyway, so you might want to start with one for that reason alone. Also, they’re usually free – the WordPress Foundation pays the organizer dues for many of them, meaning they don’t have to pass the costs on to you. So if you want a preview of your local WordPress scene without having to shell out any dough for it, you can check one of them out.
There are over 1,500 WordPress Meetup Groups worldwide, too. Chances are, there’s one in the nearest population center to your home. As an aside, one of the most interesting features of the Meetup is they can be themed. For example, many Meetup groups will have events specifically to preview particularly exciting new features, or to develop certain types of apps. So, if there’s a specific topic you’re interested in, make sure to monitor the meetup schedules to see if it’s coming up soon.
Really, if you have any interest in WordPress beyond the hobbyist stage, there’s no reason not to attend at least a meetup. And truly, you should attend WordCamp events, too. I can’t recommend them enough.
Any WordPress meetup or convention-related information you want to share? Did I miss something? Or maybe you have a fun WordCamp memory or advice you;d like to share? Let me know in the comments!