2014 WordCamp Tampa recap

This past weekend was WordCamp Tampa: the first of its kind, and I wanted to jot down a few takeaways, both as an attendee and as a speaker.

  • 2014 was the first WordCamp Tampa and it was excellent. It was so well organized, planned out and executed, that I have no reservations about buying my 2015 ticket now. Much thanks to Alison, Andrew, Brianna and more for all their hard work.
  • Attend your local WordCamp. The conference is pretty much free when you consider all the food and drink included in the ticket price, and you come away with so much knowledge and goodies to boot.
  • I met some familiar faces from the past two WordCamp Orlandos (James, Mason, David, David, DavidSyed, Andrew, Alison), some local faces that I’ve been meaning to meet, but just haven’t had the chance (Jesse, Mark) and some completely new people (Chris, Chrissie, Clifton, John, Joseph, Trey, Mary). This is what WordCamp is all mostly about.
  • The talks are important, but the after-party may be even more important. The chance to network with so many fellow WordPress users and businesses is not to be missed.
  • Mark Jaquith is far more approachable than you might imagine. Fascinating, intelligent and very likable guy.
  • Don’t be shy. Easier said than done right!? I should know: I too am shy, but you have to force yourself to talk to people. At WordCamps, people (both regular attendees and the “big guns”) are only too happy to talk to you.
  • If you want a video of yourself speaking (you know, to critique your delivery, for your portfolio, or to show your Mum), arrange for it yourself. Even if the event is being recorded, don’t count on ever seeing that footage. Make your own version and be safe (I’ve twice fallen victim to this now).
  • Apply to speak. There are a great variety of people at WordCamps and you cannot underestimate what you know. It’s excellent experience and a great lead-in to further relationships with your audience.
  • Make sure you’re on Twitter. It vastly enhances the WordCamp experience.
  • Volunteer. I spent two sessions in the Happiness Bar, helping users out with WordPress. In the first, a very new WordPress user wanted to make several simple changes to her site, but had no idea how to do them. Within 30 minutes, she had most of them solved and she was over the moon. One very happy WordPress user and one gratifying experience for me. Win-win.
  • Avoid being self-promotional. It’s not the atmosphere of WordCamp at all. Build the relationships instead and people will naturally learn more about what you do, both in your presence and when they get back home.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Trust me, the speakers are urging you to engage with them, no question is too silly and no one will make you feel that way.
  • Clearly, I am not gifted in public speaking, but I’m glad that I keep forcing myself to get up on stage. People learned some things, I’m getting more confident and my presentations are getting a little better each time.
  • Having a blog post schedule to publish during your talk, with the slides, extra information, any code discussed during your talk and links to helpful information and resources is a big plus.

Some of the things I learned:

  • Research and discovery is rightly worth charging for, and helps better define your scope. Being involved that intimately from the beginning also all but guarantees that you’ll be asked to implement the work.
  • Grunt.js sounds like a really promising tool for automating repetitive tasks on your local dev environment.
  • “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over again?”
  • “You might be selling your what, but people are buying your why. Tell your story.”
  • “Don’t run after success. Run after excellence and success will follow you.”
  • “Our need for speed fundamentally betrays us. Anything good takes time”
  • Chris Lema is a born storyteller.
  • “Don’t feel like a failure when a project fails. Failure is a teaching tool, not a label.”
  • “Your code isn’t the time to be a unique snowflake. Use coding standards.”
  • “Over communication will make or break you in the long run. It builds trust.”
  • “When you talk with clients, don’t expect them to know what they need. Even if they tell you what they need.”
  • As developers, our technical expertise is second to none, and we continually learn and improve. However, we don’t give nearly the same devotion to improving our business skills. Time to change that.
  • “It’s all about relationships. Treat the people like people and you’ll go far.”

All told it was an excellent experience. The organisers did an amazing job and I can’t wait to be back next year. Every moment of contact that I have with the WordPress community makes me even more proud to be a part of it. There’s such an atmosphere of generosity, assistance and shared interest that everyone, from the bottom to the top, thrives.

By Dave

Dave is the proud father of Ellie and Jack. There's nothing that makes him happier than spending time with his incredible wife and their amazing children. He's a civil/mechanical engineer and he also builds and maintains WordPress websites.

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