WordCamps Are Awesome and You Should Go

WordCamp Nashville is coming up on May 16th, 2015. If you live within 4 hours of Nashville, and work with WordPress – developers or bloggers – or work with people who work with WordPress – designers, account managers, content creators – you should definitely be there. I went to my first WordCamp in Columbus, Ohio in 2011 and I don’t want to say it changed my life, but it kinda changed my life.

If you don’t know what WordCamp is – and apparently, that’s a lot of people – it is a conference, organized by the community, that focuses on WordPress (more specific info here). WordCamps are organized, planned, and staffed 100% by volunteers from the local WordPress community and is paid for through ticket sales, local as well as national multi-event sponsorships. They usually last between 1 – 3 days and tickets usually cost between $20 and $50 depending on the number of days the conference is held. At that price, WordCamps are far more economical than the typical tech or design conference.

“But I don’t know enough about WordPress to go to a WordCamp.”

Yes you do. Seriously. Most WordCamps have several ‘tracks’ of content. This year WordCamp Nashville, for instance, will have a Beginner track – focused on blogging, and marketing your site. An Intermediate track – with talks that get into how themes work, and how to start coding. Then we’ll have a Developer track – this is where you can expect to hear talks about more advanced topics like building an enterprise level application with WordPress. WordCamp Atlanta this year also had tracks that focused on Business and Design.

So regardless of your comfort level or involvement with WordPress, there will be something at WordCamp for you. It’s also the perfect place to go if you want to get more involved with WordPress. If you’ve never written a line of code in your life but have a blog and want to try it, pick a few talks from the Intermediate track. If you’re a business owner who needs a new website and you’re not quite sure where to start, spend the day in the Beginner track to learn what you can do with WordPress. There’s also going to be a help desk at WordCamp Nashville this year. So if you have a question and don’t really know who to ask – come to help desk and there will definitely be someone there who can help.

WordCamps are also a great place to network.

Need somebody to build you a website? A developer that needs a new job? Come to WordCamp. At WordCamp Atlanta this year, there were literally people walking around with signs and t-shirts that said “Talk to me. I’m hiring.” and “I’m looking for content creators.” If you’re that business owner that needs a new website or something built onto your existing WordPress website, WordCamps are filled with developers who do freelance work. My experience at WordCamps has been this: there are always people looking to hire, and there are always people looking to be hired.

You get a free t-shirt, coffee, snacks, lunch, and beer for $20.

Yep. There’s always coffee and some sort of muffins in the morning. Lunch is usually catered in. And there’s always coffee. Apparently developers run on coffee. Oh, yeah. Then there’s the after party. After a fun-filled day of WordPress awesomeness everyone gets together at a bar/restaurant. This year for WordCamp Nashville, that means the Flying Saucer. There’s usually a tab that’s paid for by your WordCamp ticket that will get you some food and/or beer. You get to hangout and relax with everyone else that came to the conference that day. Have a question about a talk earlier in the day and didn’t get to ask your question? The speaker will probably be there, go ask them! The after party is also a great time for that networking I mentioned earlier in a more relaxed, casual environment.

So what’s this about it changing your life?

When I went to my first WordCamp, I was just getting my feet wet in coding. I was self-taught, inexperienced and insecure about my abilities. WordCamp exposed me to a lot of people – some lightyears ahead of me, some on my level, and some behind me. I saw someone on the intermediate track I think do a talk about something that I knew how to do and understood well. That was a little bit of validation for me that I was, at least sometimes, “doing it right.” I also was currently working on the largest, most complex site I had built to date and wasn’t sure how to attack a problem. I started talking to some of the people that knew more than I did and was able to ask them how they would handle that issue. There was some stuff that went over my head, but I was able to see the problem from a new angle and work out a solution.

That experience of getting validation for what I had been doing combined with being able to learn from those more experience than myself was fantastic. It caused me to get more involved with the Nashville WordPress community, go to the developers breakfast, attend WordCamp Nashville. I wanted to make WordPress my career so I dove in to the local community to learn everything I could about WordPress. I’ve met a lot of new friends, landed freelance projects worth tens of thousands of dollars through networking, and also was hired at my current full time job because of my local WordPress community. All of this started with WordCamp.

I’m not saying WordCamp will change your life, but it’s definitely had an impact on mine for the better. Plus it’s just fun to go to. Meet new people. Hangout. Get a free t-shirt. Go out to a bar later. I can’t think of a reason you shouldn’t go to a WordCamp. So go ahead and get your ticket now.

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