This year, I’m the lead organizer for WordCamp Kent, June 9-10. Though I was an organizer last year, I wasn’t deeply involved in the process – especially involving being the “face” and collaborating with sponsors and speakers. My involvement last year was more of a role where I shared my opinions and voted on things.
Similarly with my running of our local Meetup, it seems like people have the impression that I know what I’m doing or I’ve done some of these things before. To be clear, I don’t have Impostor Syndrome when it comes to planning events. – I actually don’t know what I’m doing. The thing that gives me solace is that I know I’ll be able to figure it out. So I want to share with you, potential WordCamp organizer, some things I have screwed up but managed to live through:
I referenced the email from 2017 for the Global Sponsors. WordCamp Central warned me not to do this; my mentor reminded me to look for the updated info at the start of the new year and update my site accordingly. – What did I do? I was looking for email addresses so I had to reference the 2017 email because the 2018 one didn’t have contact info. Instead of just getting the contact info from that one, I grabbed the level information, too. So I emailed a sponsor that was no longer in the Global Sponsorship program and sent out wrong levels/level information to two other sponsors. (I’m still alive though.)
I was receiving Speaker Applicant notifications via email, but not Sponsor Applicant notifications, so I didn’t send out my first 2 agreements and invoices promptly. – Check the Feedback section on your WordCamp site constantly!
Sidenote on Sponsors: Based off last year’s numbers, I was very confident about reaching our local fundraising goal. I shouldn’t have been that confident. We’re short.
Another Sidenote on Sponsors: We offer blog posts as a part of our Sponsorship Levels as well as the standard description/sponsor page, but it’s nice to ask sponsors if they want that content to be different. I didn’t even consider it until one of ours sent me their blog post (which was awesome!). Another thing to remember with Small Business sponsors or new sponsors is that they might benefit from brief guidelines for their description. For example, “please write in [first/third] person, note where you would like links [they don’t come through the contact form], and descriptions are typically [___ – ___] words (based on your Camp’s average description).”
One speaker submitted 6 talks and only 2 came through. He tweeted about having submitted 6 talks and I should’ve verified right then, but I waited until we went through the selection process. He’s a great speaker though and had his talks saved, but it made me realize I should’ve emailed each applicant as they came in. From what I understand, none of the speakers got a default confirmation email, so they were left in the dark on if we received their submission or not.
Reminder: Check the Feedback section on your WordCamp site. Things will get marked as spam. Especially if you have excellent speakers applying and they are rapid-firing them. You won’t get an email notification if it gets flagged as spam on the site. I had a handful that got marked as spam that I didn’t notice right away.
Because of the uncertainty behind what the speaker sent (or even thinks they sent), include the title of the talk you are accepting in the email.
Email the acceptance emails to the speakers who only submitted one talk first. (They might not be able to make the event anymore.) That way, you know if you need to ask someone who submitted multiple talks to give multiple talks.
Sidenote on Speakers: Apparently we didn’t put the talk length on our Call for Speakers, either.
Another Sidenote on Speakers: I followed what’s listed in the WordCamp Organizer Handbook for speaker deadlines, but WordCamp Orange County turned out to be the same weekend as ours, so we lost a few speakers because they finalized speakers 3 weeks before us. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ You can’t predict it all, even when you follow guidelines. They had their sh*t together!
Hopefully these tips can help you plan a successful WordCamp, or just give you a chuckle! This whole experience has been mind-blowing and I’m sure once the event passes, I’ll have a lot more to share. (I have a few fun stories about working in the admin of the WordCamp sites, too!)
Of course, there are things that I believe I have done well when it comes to communications as an organizer. Primarily my correspondence with the venues/vendors (negotiated a lot of costs) and the fact that I sent (/am currently finishing up) personalized speaker emails.
If you are one of the sponsors, speakers, or vendors that I’ve been communicating with throughout this process, thank you so much. Everyone I’ve worked with has been extremely understanding and supportive. I’ve also had a great mentoring experience and support from Central. The success of WordCamp Kent is the result of the culmination of all of your efforts.