WordCamp London 2019: an organiser’s perspective

This weekend was WordCamp London! By all accounts, it was a very successful event! People seemed to enjoy themselves, the talks were excellent, and everything ran smoothly. As mentioned last week I was on the organising team, and it was my first time doing so.

Nearly all of the team was new to organising, but fortunately with the same venue as last year we were able to build on the excellent work previous organisers have done. We focused on changing two things: content and sustainability.

The content theme aimed to get people out of the hallway track and into quality talks. There are long breaks between the sessions so there’s plenty of time for chatting, but there’s a strong trend to not attending many talks when you go to a WordCamp. I’m pleased to say we did fix this, with a really really good speaker line-up – and those speakers delivered! One of the tracks was consistently overflowing with people having to watch on a TV screen outside!

The second theme was sustainability, and we copied most of this from WordCamp Brighton, one of my favourite WordCamps. We encouraged sponsors to produce swag they could re-use, gave everyone a reusable water bottle and coffee cup in place of a t-shirt, and even had trees as our speaker gifts! This was very well received, and we even had a sustainability workshop at the Contributor Day which I’ll write up soon, and hopefully that can inspire other WordCamps to do the same thing.

Here’s the other side of this: organising was a lot of work, and I was totally exhausted in the weeks running up to this and over the weekend. I knew it was lots of work, but I didn’t quite appreciate how much work it is to organise a big WordCamp.

Real talk: I’d never let a client project dominate my life in the same way WordCamp London has: late night meetings, last minute urgent requests, and no pay! People being nice to me on Twitter is cool, but spending time with my fiancée, or friends, or family is – I hope nobody who’s tweeted me minds me saying – better.

Photo of WordCamp London organisers
Most of the Organisers on stage at Closing Remarks

Yet, I’m already seriously considering doing it again – I certainly feel a sense of duty to the UK WordPress community who’ve done so much for me over the years, and organising is an effective way of giving back to that. Despite the rollercoaster ride a lot of the organisers have already said they want to do it again next year.

I’m proud of the event we put on this year. My organiser colleagues did a phenomenal job, especially so for the co-leads Dan and Babs. The same goes for the volunteers – I found at the end that David Artiss, for example, who saved me on live tweeting a track we couldn’t otherwise cover, hadn’t even signed up to volunteer!

Thank you to everyone who spoke to me or Ben at the weekend and said nice things about the newsletter: we really appreciate it, and I especially love the reminder that the words I draft in Google Docs each week are actually read by real people who are taking time in their busy lives to do so.

Marketing chat at WordCamp London
Marketing professionals at WordCamp London!

Also: I arranged an impromptu chat for marketing people and it was one of my favourite parts of the weekend. It was essentially a “tribe” meetup – I can highly recommend it!

This first appeared in MasterWP, a weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals I co-author!