This is a different type of episode to the normal interviews.
In this episode, I will be talking briefly about my excitement for this weekend’s WordCamp Edinburgh 2017 and also how my experience has helped me to appreciate conferences and similar events even more. I have listed a few points that we should all think about the next time we attend conferences.
Things to think about the next time you go to a conference or similar-styled event:
- How much planning goes on between different people within the team
- Working with venue organisers and accommodating the number of people attending
- The process of finding/using caterers and accommodating food requirements and allergy
- The importance of sponsors and not just for financial reasons
- The time and effort that speakers go through to put together the talks for you, regardless of whether they’re getting paid or not
- Technology is important, such as those provided by the audio and video specialists, and how WiFi is not always reliable
- How much effort you and everyone has put in to travel, so enjoy it, soak in the atmosphere and meet new people
“…make sure that when you go to the conference, you go there for the reason that you want to go there in the first place.”– Ahmed Khalifa
- Official WordCamp Edinburgh 2017 site – https://2017.edinburgh.wordcamp.org/
Ahmed Khalifa: Here we go everyone. This is going to be a different kind of episode than I’d normally do on IgniteRock Podcast. Normally I like to talk to different people who are doing really interesting, creative things with WordPress. But you know, today I’m going to do something different. I’m just going to be with me, yours truly, Ahmed Khalifa.
I’m sorry if you’re just going to have to put up with me just alone. I’m really really sorry, but please bear with me, because I thought it would be quite interesting to just have a chat, one on one, kind of one on one, but you know what I’m saying. It’s just going to be me and you.
Just to have a bit more connection with you, not just through other people as well. On top of that, this is going to be a good opportunity for me to talk to you about a few things that have been going on, but also share some tips from myself, I’ve learned, not just from other people.
I thought today would be a good chance to do it. Let me know what you think, if you like it, if you don’t like it, let me know either way, what can I do to make it better, what can I do to make it different?Click Here to Show Transcript
But, I thought of doing it differently today so it’s going to be me alone. Today is going to be something about, I’m going to be very excited about it actually, because I’m looking forward to this weekend in particular. On July 22nd and 23rd 2017 it’s WordCamp, Edinburgh 2017, and it’s going to be a very exciting camp for me personally, because this is the first time I’m going to be involved in organising a WordCamp and helping to organise a WordCamp.
For those who doesn’t know WordCamp, the best way to describe it is a conference for WordPress kind of thing. It’s a time where everyone gets together to learn something from a speaker, everyone helps each other, from beginners to intermediate to advanced users, from a technical to the non-technical people, many, many different types of people come. It kind of take place all around the world, simultaneously as well, so it’s not like it’s one at a time, you might have several WordCamps happen in one day.
This weekend is going to be in Edinburgh, and I’m really excited about it because it’s been months and months and months of planning. So many things goes on behind the scene. It just really interesting to understand what goes behind the scene, because I’ve never actually organised an event like this before.
Now, when you go to a conference you don’t really think about what goes on behind the scene, and it’s not your fault, you are there to attend, you bought your ticket, you want to learn, you want to meet other people and networking and these are kind of the things that you go for when you go to conferences. But, you don’t really think about what goes behind the scene, because you don’t see it.
What really goes behind the scene is quite amazing, really, and because of my experience with going through this organising WordCamp 2017 in Edinburgh, I have a much deeper appreciation now for any kind of event I organisation. Whether it’s a conference or a local event, small, you know, one like a meetup or something, it doesn’t matter, they all have relevance to each other and it’s all relative, as well.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences, especially in the area of digital marketing, SEO, website, e-commerce, that kind of thing as well. I’ve been to a few WordCamp, as well. What you see, as well, is they tend to be run very smoothly, but then there’s a lot of thing that goes on behind the scene, that kind of make sure it is run smoothly, as well.
I want to talk to you guys about things that maybe you should think about, the next time you go to a conference or anything similar style kind of event, even a meetup. There are a number of things that you should think about. I just want to highlight one by one what that is.
The number one, the one thing you should think about, and obviously the top one, probably, is how much planning goes on between the different people within the team. Most conferences, there is a team of people, whether it’s an event team or they have an event department, so on. There is a number of people that kind of involve in organising that. For smaller one, maybe it’s a smaller team, maybe it’s one person alone. Whether it’s a small team or a big team, there is a lot of people involved behind the scene, making sure that they have planned everything in advance.
Whether it’s a year in advance, six months, three months, next week, in a few days’ time in our case, there are so many things that they have to think about and check things off. Also, they have to make sure that they communicate with each other, to make sure that it pulls off. In some situation, to organise a conference like this is not always in the same room or people in the same department that meet together every month.
There are time where people do it virtually and they communicate using technology. In our case, we have a meetup and we meet now and then and talk on Skype calls now and then, but if it wasn’t for technology such as Trello or Slack, Skype, you know, it would have probably made things a little bit more difficult. Kind of helped us to organise things much, much better.
There’s a lot of things that goes on behind the scene when there’s a lot of people involved and even if there’s one person involved. So, I guess, think about that when you go to a conference, it’s really, really impressive how much goes on behind the scene.
Number two is the amount of work that goes on when you work with the venue organisers. Just making sure that it’s right for the people, it’s right for the conference, accommodating them as much as possible. The relationship between the organisers and the venue owners, organisers, etc., event planners at the venue for example. It’s quite important because you need to make sure that everything runs smoothly, you want to make sure that you have a good relationship, communication’s flowing, and I’d rather that, even for yourself, if you ever plan a conference or event one day and you visit a venue, you have to make sure that it works for you and it works for your attendees and people who are visiting.
The worst thing is when you go to a place which is uncomfortable, lack of seating or maybe it doesn’t have the right kind of facilities to accommodate disabled people or didn’t have enough space to accommodate the number of people that you want, or maybe didn’t have the technology for putting all the electronic equipment you want, and so on and so forth.
These are so many things to take into account when you are picking a venue. So, think about how much that goes on behind the scene, because it is quite a lot, as well. Working with venue organisers is another thing to think about, because they are huge, huge part of making a conference run smoothly and successfully, especially if they have their own team and they have their own staff helping. Maybe they have their own catering team involved, and cleaners, and the electronic people, and all the specialists, all these things, they have a big impact on it as well. So definitely big props to them, as well.
Number three is finding caterers. Now, I’ve mentioned, yes, some venue they will have their own caterers involved. If they do, it’s still something to think about. You have to think about how many to order and making sure that the food requirements and allergy have been taken into account from almost everyone. Making sure that you accommodate as much as possible. If there’s not any catering team internally, then you think about one externally. Then, you have to do your research and talk to people who you’re going to use.
Sometimes, it’s quite difficult to do that when you are in a big city. There is so many options to choose from, and if there are so many options to choose from, how do you pick one? There’s a lot of things that goes on behind the scene when you have to think about the quality of the food, make sure that they’re able to cater for X amount of people, they’re able to cater for different food requirements and allergy requirements, they’re able to possibly deliver it to the venue as well, and on time.
You know, there’s a lot of things like that goes on behind the scene, because at the end of the day, if a conference lasts at least half a day, you need food and drinks and refreshment, especially if it’s going to be run through lunch. It’s important to make sure that your attendees have these foods available, and get their energy back up again. You know, you had your meal, first morning done, have a lunch together, and then afternoon, let’s get going again. So, catering is also very, very important, as well.
This might not apply to all conferences, but sponsors have such a huge impact. I mean, it just really, really, really useful to have them, actually. Because WordCamp, for example, we have our sponsors that actually helps us to run this event. Without them, it probably wouldn’t have been possible to have the conference.
You probably have seen a lot of conferences that you have been to a past, it may have been free, but they most likely will have been free because they had been provided by the sponsors pitching in as well. Sponsors are really, really important.
Now, there will be some times where you might have some sponsors maybe overstep the mark a little bit in terms of they think they have the right to approach people and sell things, but in most cases, in my experience anyway, especially in the WordCamps that I’ve been, sponsors add to the atmosphere. They add to the occasion. They add to creating a vibe that we all love.
When you have sponsors that not only put their hand in their pocket but also add to the experience, it just makes things work so, so beautifully.
For example, we have sponsors in WordCamp that, you know, not only they have their own stalls and they give away goodies and freebies and stuff like that, but they actually help people. They actually talk to people. They provide service, they provide advice. They talk to people, they network, they join in the after-party. They get involved as much as the attendees, so it’s not just about the financial impact that sponsors have provided, but also how much they add to the atmosphere, as well.
I definitely have a lot of respect for sponsors who do that. They put all the effort to travel and accommodate and bring all their stuff and the staff with them and providing freebies and swags. You know, it’s a great thing to have. Think about your sponsors and make sure you speak to them. Make sure you thank them for making the conference possible. Definitely thank you for sponsors to this as well.
Speakers is obviously a big part of any conference that you go to. Some are paid, some are not, but regardless of whether they’re paid or not, the same concept is the same, the fact that they have put a lot of effort to make sure that you get value out of it, and you learn something from them that can have an impact on your business and in your life, potentially, as well. That’s something to appreciate, as well, because they are the one who put a lot of time and effort behind the scene to ensure everything works smoothly. They practise. They rehearse. They get their slides together.
Of course they have to travel, as well, and maybe some of them travel long, long distances away from home and then travel back. Of course, the attendees do that as well, but these guys, they also have to do a lot of work in terms of preparing for that, as well.
The speakers obviously are an essential part of any conferences that you go to. They have the same impact as a lot of people would in terms of making sure that the conference is successful, is enjoyable and obviously, making sure that the attendees get a lot out of it. You have to appreciate that.
You have to appreciate the speakers, talk to them, even say thank you, even on social media, even if you talk to them on there and to tell them, “Appreciate it, thank you for the talk, helped me with this, this and that.” This is a good thing, you know? Speakers are definitely something that you should think about as well.
Another thing you think about is technology when you go to a venue organiser. Now, when I say technology, I mainly want you to think about a few things. So, one of them is the fact that they have to make sure everything’s working correctly in terms of the microphones, the speakers, the audio equipment. You have to have a specialist team for that. That’s not an easy job to do. You have all these equipments available, making sure that everything works. Some people may also have their own camera, video camera, making sure it’s recording correctly and making sure it works correctly and making sure it’s high quality, as well, so that after the event it’s working and you can view it again. That’s really important.
So, you know, it’s a good thing to appreciate that, as well. You think about how much goes on behind the scene for the audio side and the video side in terms of technology.
As well as that, WiFi is a big, big thing. It’s not easy to accommodate hundreds of people to make sure that WiFi is correctly, because at the end of the day, if everyone is using the same WiFi network, it’s bound to be slow. As much as we all want it to be instantly fast like you do at home or on 4G, it’s going to have an impact in this high speed, or it’s not just high speed, but your phone speed, your connection speed, if everyone’s connecting at the same time.
Especially if you have one of those two, three or four, whoever, watching Game of Thrones and downloading…Yeah, don’t do that, please. There’s a lot of people who want to use WiFi for simple things like just accessing the social media, tweet about the event or just sharing Instagram stories or sharing all these kind of things that you see people do when they go to conferences with their phone our and recording where they are. That’s kind of what people want to do.
So, WiFi, although it’s difficult to make sure that it’s working fast and working really, really well for you, data all guaranteed. I guess we all have to appreciate the fact that the venue organisers and the conference organisers are trying their best, but I guess we have to appreciate that it’s not always going to be fast.
They’re going to try their best to make sure that everyone gets it, at the same time, it’s up to us to make sure that we don’t download anything excessively, because at the end of the day, we are all sharing the same WiFi, most often. So, that’s something you need to think about as well.
Lastly, the only thing left I want to talk about in terms of what goes on behind the scene, is just think about how much effort you have put and everyone else have put in to attend the conference and just to enjoy yourself. I’m talking from the build up, to invest in travel and maybe you have accommodation set up as well, and you are there, you want to listen, you want to speak, you want to learn. Think about that for a second, that you’ve put in a lot of effort to attend a conference so enjoy it. Enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the talks, enjoy the actual event itself. Speak to other people, meet new people. Learn lots of new things.
You know, that’s really, really important for anyone who goes to conferences, so make sure you do that because a lot of people travel and spend a lot of time and invest a lot of money to attend a conference, but they don’t really think about what they’re there for. If you are for just to have fun, to have a laugh, then that’s fair enough, but I guess the majority of you are going there for reasons such as you want to learn something new or you want to be part of the atmosphere. You want to meet new people.
Whatever it is, make sure that when you go to the conference, you go there for the reason that you want to go there in the first place. Think about that, as well. Make sure you really enjoy yourself and do everything that you want to do in the first place.
I guess that’s it, really, I mean, that’s all I’m going to be talking about. It’s a very short episode compared to my normal episode I talk to you when I do my interview, but this is my plan, to hopefully talk to you guys every fortnight, come up with a short topics now and then to discuss and to help you guys, to make you think about things and help you with your business, with your life and so on.
At the same time, it’s just something that we all have to think about. I want to think about conferences differently now, just because of my experience with WordCamp. So, this is it really. If you enjoyed the episode, just let me know. What do you think about this kind of style? Do you like it? Do you not? What do you suggest I should do differently? And I’m happy to listen to it.
If you want the show notes to this, just go to IgniteRock.com/episode18 and you will have all the information we’ve talked about there and the transcript and of course, any information there that we’ve talked about, links to WordCamp Edinburgh 2017, and if you are coming to that event, make sure you say hello to me. I would love to meet you, love to say hello, and I’d love to have a chat with you and just understand what you do.
Just say hello, be really, really good to know that you’re there, and be a part of the episode as well.
So in the meantime, let’s rock with WordPress.