WordPress is constantly evolving thanks to its open-source community. To stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technologies, and features in WordPress, there are hundreds of resources. You can read up on the official Codex, subscribe to blogs like ours, take a course, listen to podcasts, and much more.
Another way to not only listen but actively be part of the conversation shaping WordPress’s future is to attend a WordCamp.
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about WordCamps in general and about one of the biggest WordCamps, WordCamp Europe 2022, in particular.
What is WordCamp?
WordCamp refers to community-organized events that take place around the world and cover everything related to WordPress, from how to use WordPress more effectively, to developing plugins and themes, to securing WordPress sites, and more. They typically last one to three days and attract hundreds or even thousands of WordPress users.
These events are designed for all WordPress users, from casual users to Core developers. Users can attend to simply learn or to present — or both. Robert Wilde, a cloud technology engineer who spoke at WordCamp Sydney and WordCamp Sunshine Coast in 2016, said in a video on WordPress.tv, “I keep on challenging myself. I’ve been to two WordCamps and I’ve spoken at both of them. So I like to give and get at the same time…to learn more from everyone else and give back as much as I can.”
This year, there are WordCamps being held in Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United States, and many more are being planned.
Verdi Heinz, the Global Community Manager of Elementor, explained why they're looking forward to attending this year's event: "WordCamp is all about connecting. People, knowledge, products, creative ideas…there is never a shortage of interesting moments and conversations. This is where you meet your peers in the community. [The Elementor Team] can't wait to meet in person again."
What to Expect at a WordCamp
While every WordCamp is unique, you can expect presentations, panel discussions, workshops, networking events, social events, perks, and possibly job boards over the course of one or more days. Each event is designed to help you learn more about WordPress, make connections with other WordPress users, and find new opportunities to use or develop for the platform.
Let’s take a closer look at these common ingredients of a WordCamp below.
While WordCamp sessions take on a variety of formats, the most common is presentations. These include 60-minute lecture-style presentations as well as 10- to 15-minute “lightning” presentations.
At WordCamp Europe 2022, there are lightning talks on the Gutenberg editor. Five speakers will talk for approximately 10 mins about different aspects of the Gutenberg editor, including how to create interactive custom blocks, how to extend the editor with the WP-DXP plugin, how to create block themes, and more.
In addition to these lightning talks, there are over 20 presentations to choose from at WCEU 2022. With so many options available, it can be difficult to decide which to attend. In an article on Weglot, Juan Hernandogo, a freelance web developer and past WordCamp attendee, offers the following advice: “Go to talks that don’t catch your attention. Often the best speakers, the best experiences, the most unexpected knowledge occur in those talks where the name does not engage you, or the subject does not seem to be your thing.”
Workshops are a popular format for WordCamp sessions as well. In fact, at WCEU 2022, the schedule is split between presentations and workshops. So for about every one-hour time slot, attendees can choose between two presentations or two workshops.
At WordCamps, workshops can run between 60 and 90 minutes and cover a range of topics. Most will be interactive so attendees will not only learn about a topic but also perform a task. For example, you might learn about the files used in a block theme and create a basic but fully functional theme yourself.
Another common format for WordCamp sessions are panel discussions, which bring multiple speakers together to discuss a common theme or topic. Often, speakers will have different opinions and debate the topic so the discussion will have a moderator.
WCEU 2019, for example, featured a panel discussion about user onboarding and retention for site builders in particular. It had three speakers and one moderator. You can watch a recording of the discussion on WordPress.tv.
WordPress.tv is a great resource for all WordPress users. It contains hundreds of videos that are relatively short and address a variety of topics, from basic questions about site building to very specific questions relating to the use of WordPress features and addons.
A major benefit of this repository is that there’s a dedicated section for footage from WordCamps (called “WordCampTV”). So there’s no need to stress if you can’t attend every presentation or workshop you’re interested in at a WordCamp — or if you can’t attend at all!
Since meeting other WordPress users face-to-face is one of the main draws of WordCamp, many block out time for networking to help attendees make these connections. Some even have a designated space for networking.
For example, at WCEU 2022, attendees are encouraged to make time to connect with others in the WP Café. This space is designed for attendees to meet and chat about a range of topics that interest them (over coffee). Each day, there are scheduled morning and afternoon sessions about WordPress SEO, working with blocks, choosing themes and plugins, and getting involved in the community, among other topics.
In a video on WordPress.tv taken at WordCamp Sydney 2016, Troy Dean from WP Elevation said, “I think one of the most valuable things is the conversations that happen in the foyer and lunch areas outside of the talks, where you find out what projects people are working on.”
In addition to networking events, WordCamps have dedicated social events typically for speakers and all attendees. Almost every WordCamp follows up the conference with an afterparty at the venue or a nearby location.
WordCamp attendees stress how important the social events are, as well as the networking events. In the video from WordCamp Sydney 2016, Wilde explained his biggest motivation for attending was “to socialize more than anything. To learn from other people that I look up to and admire in the industry and get to know other people.”
Similarly, Nik Cree, a web developer, explained that it was the fourth WordCamp he attended and said, “It’s a really good place to connect with people I see online on Facebook, Twitter, and other channels.”
WordCamps also offer perks, although the exact perks depend on the organizing team and their budget. You might get food and beverages at the event or commemorative t-shirts or other swag.
To get an idea of what you can expect, check out the individual WordCamp’s website for what’s included with each ticket purchase. WordCamp Europe 2022, for example, mentions attendees will get a yearly event t-shirt.
Many WordCamps set up a job board so attendees can post job openings, their business cards, or other opportunities. Job boards are great for users who are looking for a new job, and for those who are just curious about the WordPress job market.
WordCamp US 2021 was an online event so they set up a digital job board promoting open positions at GoDaddy, Bluehost, WooCommerce, Yoast, and other companies sponsoring the event.
Agnes Bury, a Client Advocate at WPML who’s been participating in WordCamps in Europe since 2013, explained that she got a job after attending a WordCamp, which is just one reason she loves attending these events: “What I like best is after each one I come back richer with experiences I never would have expected. After my first event, I got a new job. During the next event, I had lunch with one of the WordPress pioneers. At the last one, I learned that the creators of one of my favorite form plugins are also ordinary people who, in addition to their ambition, aren't shy about talking about the bumpy road they had to go through before they got to where they are now. In WordCamps you get it all: people, knowledge, and great experience that can even shape your future.”
What can you learn at WordCamp?
You can learn anything about WordPress at WordCamp, from WordPress performance trends to prototyping WordPress projects to creating multilingual sites. These are just a few topics that have been covered at WordCamps in the past three years.
You may also learn about blogging, business, social media, and other topics that relate to WordPress, but at least 80% of a WordCamp’s program is specifically focused on using and developing for WordPress. Typically, you can expect a mix of “big-picture topics” like full-site editing or the future of WordPress themes and more granular, technical topics like deploying a WordPress web server or using WordPress transients.
In another video on WordPress.tv, attendees at WordCamp Columbus 2015 were asked what value they received from attending WordCamps. One attendee said, “You really get your mind blown as to what you can do and what the possibilities are [with this platform].”
WordCamp Europe 2022 is focused on the future of WordPress in particular. Its agenda includes sessions about:
- The Gutenberg Editor
- Block patterns
- Block themes
- WordPress security
- Image alt text
- Paint Web Vitals
- Community building
- Headless WordPress
- WordPress developers
- Full Site Editing
Taking a look at the full schedule, you’ll see that some sessions are specifically related to WordPress like “Using WordPress as an API,” while others are more general like “The what, why & how of code reviews.” There’s also plenty of content for developers and non-developers. Here’s a look at the morning schedule of the first day:
Now that we have a sense of what you can learn at WordCamp, let’s take a look at what you should bring.
What to Bring to WordCamp
If this is your first time attending WordCamp, then you’ll need to know what to bring. Here’s a list of some recommended items:
- Personalized agenda: While the full schedule will be available online, it’s a good idea to create a personalized agenda that includes the sessions and events you are going to attend. This will detail exactly how you’ll spend your days so you can maximize your time at the event. In an article for ManageWP, Will Morris said, “You definitely want to do this before you arrive at the venue. Standing in a huge crowd of people, unsure of which way to go or what you want to do first, will likely lead you [to miss] out on the fun while you’re trying to make a choice.”
- Questions: Using your personalized agenda, you can come up with a list of questions for speakers or fellow attendees related to the sessions or workshops you plan to attend. These will be great to have on hand for any Q&A or discussion portions of a session.
- Passport or visa. Because WordCamps are held around the world, you may need your passport or visa to get there, depending on the country you live in.
- Laptop and charger: Many attendees will bring their laptops to take notes during sessions, to post on social media, and to connect with fellow attendees on LinkedIn or other platforms. Make sure you bring your charger as well!
- Notebook and pen: Other attendees may prefer pen and paper over their laptops to take notes. It’s a good idea to pack both in case there’s WiFi issues, limited electrical outlets, or other issues.
- Business cards: Since a huge aspect of WordCamp is networking, don’t forget to bring your business cards. These are great for exchanging with fellow attendees and speakers so you can stay connected after the event.
- Tote or backpack: To carry your laptop, notebook, business cards, and other essentials, you’ll need a tote or backpack. You can also expect to get some swag at the event. Having a bag to carry all these items will ensure you can easily travel to different sessions and events without having to go back and forth to your hotel.
- A friend or colleague: Bringing a friend or colleague can help you network, according to past attendees. In an article on Impress.com, blogger Bridget Willard said she brought a fellow blogger to her very first WordCamp: “Our experience was that it was much easier to get to know people when you already had a friend. Also, this made it less lonely for the unstructured times of lunch and dinner.”
- Hygiene kit: Scott Massey, Managing Director of International Regions at Pantheon, said, “I’ve attended dozens of WordCamps and similar events around the world, first with an agency, then with Pantheon. I tell this to any new team member, before they begin several intense days of meeting people, running from session to session, or even presenting at sessions themselves: Bring a water bottle, deodorant, and a toothbrush. Come midday, you (and possibly those around you) will be grateful.”
Attending a WordCamp
Whether you want to learn more about WordPress, present something you’ve learned, or make connections with other users that love WordPress, WordCamp is a great opportunity. Thankfully, there are WordCamps held all over the world every year. Maybe there's one near you.
Originally published May 10, 2022 6:00:00 AM, updated May 17 2022