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Get the Most Out of a WordCamp for Your Nonprofit

WordCamps are one- or two-day conferences all about WordPress. They’re one of the best ways to find a WordPress consultant for your nonprofit, plus they’re super affordable and happening all over the world. Put simply, if you have a WordPress website, it’s one of the most affordable and impactful technology professional development opportunities you’ll find.

WordCamp’s are usually for anyone using WordPress, and since nonprofits need all the support they can get, WordCamps are a valuable opportunity for any nonprofit staff or volunteers to learn and even get free help! If you’ve never been to a WordCamp before, this post is all about how to do it right the first time.

Prepare Before You Go

Despite the name, there’s no camping involved with WordCamps, so leave your tent at home! ­čĆĽ

Start by finding a WordCamp near you. Sign up for the mailing list so you know when tickets go on sale and get all the updates leading up to the event.

Learning is more fun in groups, so see if you can find a few colleagues to go with you. If two people from the same organization can go, you’re doing a great job at lowering your “bus factor”! If you know folks from other nonprofits, this can be a great way to start a group of nonprofit WordPress users who support each other!

The week before the event, review all the talks and select the ones you think look most interesting. Of course, you should go to the sessions that look most interesting and applicable to your work, but don’t be afraid to pick a couple sessions that stretch your knowledge or introduce you to something new. Pro tip: Not all WordCamps will print out a schedule, so having notes ahead of time will be really valuable.

Finally, use this as an opportunity to reflect on your website and your WordPress skills. What problems have you been having with your site? What changes have you struggled to make on your site? Write down a list of questions in preparation to get answers!

During the Event

Get to your WordCamp on time so you don’t miss any sessions. Hopefully your WordCamp will have some coffee and tea to help get you going!

As you go through the day, remain flexible to get the best experience. Here are some specific tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to change your plans and go to a talk that someone highly recommends. The best conferences have moments of serendipitous learning.
  • Take a break if you need it. Some quiet time helps you keep your energy up and digest the knowledge you’ve gained so far.
  • If you leave a talk inspired to put your knowledge to use immediately, find a table and get to work!
  • Stretch your legs and check out the sponsor tables. There’s almost always some good swag, ranging from cute Wapuu stickers to a year of free hosting.
  • Check out the “hallway track” during a slow period. Oftentimes, the most interesting conversations are happening in informal small groups in the hallway. Don’t be afraid to mosey on up to a group and see what they’re talking about!
  • Find the “Help Desk” (name may very). Many WordCamps have a table staffed with experts who desperately want to help you solve your website problems for free. This is free consulting! Put it to good use! If there’s no help desk, just ask people about your question and you’ll probably find someone happy to help.
  • If you’re in need of a new consultant for your site, don’t be shy about it! Get the word out and people will probably recommend the best folks for you to talk to.

The WordPress community is huge, diverse, and almost universally welcoming to new faces as long as you put forth the effort to ask questions and contribute your own knowledge. First timers often can’t believe how friendly and helpful their fellow WordCamp attendees are, and hopefully you’ll feel the same way.

Putting Your New Skills to Work

Once the event is over, push yourself to write down any important new ideas you learned or things you want to change on your website. Those thoughts can fade fast, so you don’t want to let them escape!

Next, give yourself a break and congratulate yourself on surviving an intense conference experience! Brain’s need a chance to recharge.

When your new work week starts, try to block off some time to work on your website and put your new-found skills to work ASAP. If you don’t use new skills, they fade fast. If you went with a friend or colleague, schedule a meeting to debrief what you learned and plan next steps you can hold each other accountable for.

Finally, you’ll hopefully have learned where the nearest WordPress meetup is to you. Consider staying involved in the community so you continue building new skills and giving yourself the space to think about ways to continue improving your nonprofit’s website.

What are your favorite tips to get the most out of conferences?

Image: LexnGer on Flickr

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