I spoke at WordCamp US and you can, too. Really, you can.
Early last spring (2018), I submitted three proposed talks for WordCamp US, the annual conference for developers and users of WordPress. It was to be held in Nashville later that in year, in November.
In this post, I’m going to share the three things I wanted to speak about, two reasons why I almost didn’t speak, and the one reason why YOU should totally apply before the deadline for this year’s Camp, April 15.
Three things I wanted the opportunity to speak about at WCUS
I submitted three sessions for WordCampUS 2019.
1. Lessons in Community: WooCommerce vs. Shopify. This was meant to be a comparison between the type of engagement and growth the Shopify community has seen the past few years, compared to the WooCommerce community. I think there are valuable lessons to be learned by taking a look at how other ecosystems grow, or don’t grow, and certainly Shopify is worth our attention.
2. Onboarding new users. I don’t remember the description for this, but it was basically about how to create your first series of emails that help users know how to use your product.
3. Marketing Your Plugin to Users, Not Other Developers. It’s so easy for developers to get lost in the weeds when it comes to trying to sell their software, because they built it! It can be hard to see it from a user’s perspective when you built ever square inch of it. This session was designed to give a few specific tips for how to see and sell software for your user’s goals, not your own. This is the one I was hoping they would choose first.
I’ve read that over 500 speakers applied for a slot at WordCampUS, and less than 40 were selected. I was one of the 40.
I was invited to present Session #3 as a lightning talk. A lightning talk is a 15 minute session with 5 minutes of Q&A at the end.
Why did I want to share at WordCamp US?
Last year was the second year I had submitted a session for consideration. The year before, none of my talks were accepted.
So why did I submit again even after the previous year’s sessions were accepted?
Simple. I still had something to say that I genuinely thought could be helpful to our community.
Two reasons I almost didn’t attend at all.
The first reason is that I wasn’t sure if I could work out babysitting for Nila. The conference was Thursday – Saturday, so if I went, Bob would have to take Nila to school before taking himself to work, and then also leave work early to pick her up Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
That meant that in addition to taking off of work myself, Bob would also have to use a day of his own personal time so I could go (if he could even get the time off). With Bob’s job, any time he doesn’t use, he can redeem at the end of the year for cash, so this was a direct loss of income for us, even if only a day.
And secondly, I had to consider the cost of a rental car and gas, the hotel, and meals. Lunch was served at the conference, but other meals would come from my own pocket. I figured the total bill for that would be approx. $1000, if I scored a good deal on a hotel room.
As the weeks moved towards the conference, side projects I had planned to cover the cost of the trip fell through, and I realized that we weren’t really in a position to so freely spend $1000 on attending a conference. We had other priorities.
See, it wasn’t a matter of paying rent or going to the conference. It wasn’t like that. It was more, “We have a plan for what we’re doing with our money right now, and this conference doesn’t fit into that plan.”
And I think a lot of families, and maybe even women or moms specifically, keep themselves from submitting to conferences for these same reasons. They have to figure out details like childcare or transportation that they’re typically responsible for. And for conferences that have a cost associated they know, “We COULD do this, but there are these 15 other things that are more important that we should do first…” and so they don’t.
And then that thinking takes away an opportunity to share their talents with others, AND to receive the professional benefits that come with presenting at a large conference like WordCamp US.
So I emailed WordCamp Central to tell them that regrettably, I wouldn’t be able to attend.
It felt really foolish… withdrawing my session over just $1000.
I thought to myself, “You can build WEBSITES that do amazing things and make magic happen with EMAIL but you can’t manifest $1000 for a conference?”
I thought, “You shouldn’t have even applied if you didn’t have the cash in the bank to cover the costs. You took a spot from someone who prepared for this opportunity more than you. And, if you REALLY had something important to say, you’d figure this out.”
Yeah. That’s some shit talk, isn’t it?
Nonetheless, I figured they had backup speakers they could invite to take my spot who would be able to prioritize Camp, so I let Andrea and Courtney from Central know that I wouldn’t be joining the roster after all.
They emailed back pretty promptly to ask if budget was the only constraint. “Yes, of course,” I said…to which they replied, “Let us talk to our sponsors to see what we can do.”
Two days later, Bluehost offered to cover the costs of my trip entirely, and I graciously accepted.
(Actually, we ended up covering the car rental and food, but not because Bluehost didn’t offer… but because that’s what we could contribute so we did. Bluehost would have covered an airline ticket and the hotel both if I needed.)
When I arrived in Nashville, I parked my rental at the public library garage downtown where overnight parking was a fraction of the cost at my hotel. I walked the block to the hotel (which was lovely), and checked in to my room on the 26th floor (which was also LOVELY).
Two days later, I gave my talk about Marketing Your Plugin to USERS, Not Developers. You can catch it yourself here:
The #1 one reason why YOU should totally apply this year…
There is only one reason why YOU should apply to speak at this year’s WordCamp.
Ask yourself, “Do I have something to share that our community can benefit from?”
If your answer is yes, then apply! That’s your reason.
I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did and nearly miss the opportunity to share something that someone else NEEDS to hear because you’re worried about cost.
You take care of the “having something to share” part, and just as you give of yourself to the community, the community will give back to you to say thanks.
And of course, I couldn’t end this post without saying thank you again to Bluehost! Their generosity both to ME personally, and to our community, helps to make the web a better place.
Are you thinking about applying to speak at WordCamp US 2019 in St. Louis? Go do it now before the deadline April 15. And if you have questions about speaking at WordCampUS, feel free to drop them in the comments below. I’m happy to chat.