WordCamp Miami 2017 just wrapped up its 9th community-driven conference and right now there are many volunteers who are completely spent, exhausted and plain tuckered out. I even overheard Cafecíto Wapuu say, “Bro, estoy hecho polvo.”
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, WordCamp is a conference for anyone working with the web: bloggers, marketers, students, e-commerce pros, business owners, designers, developers and pretty much anyone who wants to hang out with tons of highly creative and fun people. WordCamps get their name from WordPress, the open-source software that, as of 2017, runs 27% of all websites on the internet.
WordPress is software, yes, but much more than software. Since its creation in 2003, the developers of WordPress have birthed a living, breathing, multiplying organism known as the WordPress community. And the best place to observe this magnificent creature is at a WordCamp.
WordCamp Miami 2017 consisted of three full days of workshops and presentations given by over 70 speakers from all over the world to over 800 adult attendees. Florida International University hosted the event for the third consecutive year and the Saturday and Sunday sessions were streamed live to people around the world who could not make it to the “305” in person.
I have attended every WordCamp Miami since 2009 when it was a “track” at BarCamp Miami. Although I have been “just an attendee” once or twice in order to get a fresh perspective and to regain my sanity, I still look forward to being part of the organizing team every year. My job has been to manage the WordCamp Miami website and to be the communications “dispatcher” using our ever-growing Slack channel.
My position on the organizing team has allowed me to observe the people who work tirelessly “behind the scenes” to make WordCamp Miami amazing. I am super proud of our organizing team.
These volunteer leaders exemplify what it means to be humbly awesome. Here are some of the reasons why our team is successful.
It all starts with good leaders. We have had consistent leadership for several years and this is why WordCamp Miami has been able to improve every year and maintain a high level of quality.
Delegation and Empowerment
Throwback to 4 or 5 years ago when WordCamp registration felt like being in a battlefield emergency room. We would have a list of volunteers whom we prayed would show up early the day of the event. Then the lead coordinator would triage and to send people scattering on urgent tasks. It was a mess. Since then our registration process has literally become a pleasurable experience! The registration desk is well organized and the flow of attendees is managed well. Attendees are greeted by friendly registration volunteers! Attendee materials are prepped in advance and neatly packaged in bags. Well-designed sturdy name badges are printed out in advance and sorted. Speakers and sponsors have their own registration area and materials.
There are two main reasons why our registration process became a success and it is also why other areas also improved: 1) Excellent advanced preparation and 2) Empowered organizers. Our lead organizers are hardly involved any more during registration because we have a dedicated team of volunteers responsible for this area and a registration manager who is empowered to make the decisions and give direction.
You cannot run an event of this size without a team that is committed to quality. Our volunteers and organizing team are not content to just let a problem exist without fixing it. We care about making WordCamp a good experience for all those involved and that means that WE CARE ENOUGH to make things the best they can be.
We start planning for WordCamp at least six months in advance of the event. We use Slack for our main communication along with email and hold several online meetings using Zoom. We use Google drive to collaborate on documents especially our master planning spreadsheet.
Why Would Anyone Ever Want to Be a WordCamp Organizer?
I often get asked why people serve on the all-volunteer organizing team. Why would someone spend so much time over the course of months without pay? Here are some possible reasons:
- Face it, we organizers are just plain crazy. I mean loco. (Not really. Well, ok, maybe some of us.)
- We thrive on meeting and interacting with people and making new friends
- We like serving together with our teammates
- We have opportunities to interact with speakers and sponsors
- We learn and grow, especially with our “soft skills”
- We have a local pride for South Florida and want to share our local community and culture to out of town visitors
- We get to attend the VIP party!
- We get an extra t-shirt
Why Am I on the WordCamp Team?
When I first volunteered at WordCamp Miami I was a freelance web developer specializing in WordPress, but since then things have changed for me professionally. For the past several years I have been employed full-time as a web developer using ASP.NET and I rarely use WordPress except for personal projects and pro bono work. However, I am more involved in WordCamp than ever for all of the reasons listed above, especially that extra t-shirt.
Seriously, here is why: I love my community and am proud to be a part of South Florida. WordCamp Miami is a microcosm of the diversity of people, cultures and ideas that define our community. At WordCamp Miami you can see firsthand that startups, entrepreneurship and small businesses are thriving in our region.
So, when are you going to volunteer? C’mon bro.