WordCamp London 2017. After the event.
The night before
After months of hard work, slack channel meetings, design visuals, artwork creation and lots of last minute changes to the venue I found myself London bound, ready for my first WordCamp as an Organiser.
The AirB&B was superb, great location and shame I wasn’t s football fan, especially a ‘gunner’ as I believe they are known, as my room was adjoining the Arsenal Stadium, just a stone throw from our venue for WordCamp 2017.
Once checked in and unpacked it was time to locate Jenny’s apartment. As our Lead Organiser, Jenny handles everything she can, brilliantly, but there was still much to do. A tonne of admin, checking of print and posters, attendee name badges and the very important checking of dietary / allergy information on the said name badges. This activity saw us working late into the night…
Led by the genius that is Gary Jones, the Contributor Day got off to a great start, with record attendance for WordCamp London. Once the teams were allocated and settled it was time for our team to continue with event planning and the arduous task of applying the extensive amount of signage throughout the 3 buildings of the Metropolitan University. Not helped with the fact the University demands a specific type of tape fixing to be used for all signage…Uh, I don’t want to have to repeat that. Not an easy task by any means.
The Contributor Day finished with fantastic feedback and a lead into the Organisers Social Evening. Held at a fantastic club in central London the concept is ‘beer and ping pong’. Quite funny watching the games go awry and balls flying everywhere the more bottles were consumed. Lol.
With our duties assigned by the superb Barbara Saul, us Organisers began the day with signing in our attendees and supplying their name badges. Followed by the Opening Remarks from Jenny and Ana, day one was in full flow. Being an Organiser is fantastic but of course we are working so we miss the sessions, but luckily for us, our Barbara had worked the duties rota around our wish lists for sessions to see. How caring and generous was that. I missed just one of my wish list so I couldn’t complain there, not that I was expecting so see one session, so everything additional was a bonus.
It’s hard work, being an Organiser, and with that comes responsibility. Being responsible means not overdoing it at the after-party. Difficult not to with the fantastic food and drink supplied for all attendees…but for me and my sidekick Paul Smart, we were trusted ‘unbelievably’ with enough drinks tokens to drink a pub dry. We considered locking the main doors and enjoying the night together but took pity on everyone, so the tokens were shared amongst our fantastic WordPress Community. This was well received and Mr.Sensible here took responsibility to the extreme. I was back at my AirB&B and crashed in my bed by 10pm. Mr.Hardcore-Smart made up for me and I am told was still going strong at 2am.
The early night was a winner for sure, waking up feeling bright and rested is the best feeling. Now I love a beer or two but all in the right place / context.
It was more of the same for the second day of our WordCamp London 2017. It was such a rewarding experience being able help attendees with various queries, standing by and watching the event roll on with energy and excitement.
One of the biggest compliments to the whole team was the moment Jenny came to the main control desk ( managed by our Barbara ) to make sure the walkie talkies were working correctly. "Yes, they are all fine", we replied. "Why are you asking Jenny?". Jenny replied "Because I haven’t heard a thing from anyone, I had so many problems last year and the radios never stopped, this year they are silent". Ha, ha. We laughed and took that as a huge compliment.
The second day ran on brilliantly and into the closing remarks. We all expected the emotion that overflowed with the closing of the WordCamp. This was Jenny’s last WordCamp London as Lead Organiser. It had been her baby for the last 2 years. It’s incredible how close you all become over the months of working together on a common goal, even being remote. Apart from a Christmas Social where I travelled to London to meet the team, all communication was performed via Slack from September 2015 right up to the event. The common goal brought us all together and in a lot of cases our Organisers were swapping roles to whatever needed most resource at that time.
Our Barbara had the fantastic idea of creating a gift for Jenny to remember us by and to thank her for all her efforts. We collected monetary gifts from each organiser and also created a mug using our Wapuu and poster design. Presenting this to Jenny brought on the tears we expected and in response the sincere thanks from us all flowed.
But, in true WordCamp Organising Team style, as soon as all attendees had left the building the pack down began. Removal of all signage, rubbish collection, return of attendee’s bags from the store and all details checked off, returning the University to the same condition as we found it.
That pack down process itself demonstrated just how slick and supportive we’d become as a team. Sorted in no time! Time enough to celebrate the whole event and its success at the pub. A few hours to kill before my train home to Bristol. As an Organiser we fund our own travel and expenses, it’s all part of ‘giving back’ to the WordPress Community, so it had to be a First Class ticket home. A treat to myself, knowing I would be exhausted. It was worth every penny. Who would have expected the train to be overflowing with passengers at 23:00 on a Sunday night. Being in a quiet First Class carriage at that point was money well spent.
My closing remarks
There is no mistaking that being an Organiser for any WordCamp takes commitment, time ( a lot of time ) and effort ( a lot of effort ). The time challenge and demand is only added to being the owner of my own business. My customers must come first always so the weekly Slack meetings and regular work required was performed after customer work was complete for that day. This saw me working late most nights and over weekends.
Even with those demands ( including financial spend ) I cannot recommend becoming a WordCamp Organiser highly enough. The experience was worth all the effort. Overnight you are working with peers from some of the world’s biggest and most respected WordPress agencies. The ‘imposter syndrome’ is well and truly wiped out when you become part of such a fantastic team, a large team, full of names in the industry that I have always looked up to and highly respected. Now I am working alongside them. Incredible. Even more incredible is those names have now become friends.
Giving back to the WordPress Community is an indescribable feeling. I run a business with this fantastic software, of which I pay nothing for. It feels so good to have given my time and expertise to help organise and run WordCamp London 2017. I have experience working with some of the best names in our Community and received some wonderful feedback on the design and artwork created for the event. Priceless.
We finished the event in the local pub and the subject of WordCamp 2018 came up… What? It’s like running a Marathon ( I have 3 under my belt )… you wonder how you were ever going to finish and it’s struggle, struggle, struggle. But when it’s over and you sit with the achievement you’ve just made, you want to repeat the task to see if you can beat it again.
I love a challenge. So keep watching in 2018. I’m hoping our fantastic team will be back and organising an even better WordCamp.
Thank you to Jenny, Ana and the team for such a wonderful experience. Elliott @ Weblake