Speaker-Dinner on WordCamps

Speakers-Dinners on WordCamps are exclusive events, which are excluding attendees of a WordCamp to participate. Why are we doing such events like the Speakers-Dinner on a WordCamp?

Honestly, I am very often on WordCamps. At my lamp in the dining room I have a lot of WordCamp Badges, my little trophy collection of my visited WordCamps in the World. Some people maybe think I am crazy, but I think it is   a very useful kind for networking and to meet the community.

But because of that I recognize little things, which other are not recognizing who are not so often visiting WordCamps. In this case there is a specific kind of event, which is disturbung me and caused me finally to write this post.

On WordCamps outside of germany WordCamps often have a special event, called Speakers-Dinner. Those Speakers-Dinners are used to give the Speakers, Volunteers and Sponsor a “Thank you”. To give the supporters of a WordCamp a “Thank you” is of cause not the problem. That should be done. But I am disturbed by the fact that it is done on a Event which is closed for other peoples.

The Speakers-Dinner mostly takes place one day before the event. If you think about that the most attendees of a WordCamp are arriving one day before, this has a negative secondary effekt: The Community is splitted. That sounds theoratically, but it has a practical impact.  There is no WordPress Community where on the one side are the organizers and on the other side the visitors. The attendees of a WordCamp are friends, they are networked and are participating on it in a different kind of way.

It’s happened to me and others, that attendees at the end of the day hiked alone thru the city or stayed alone in their Hotel, because they couldn’t attent to the event where their friends attending on an event where they don’t have access to. In my opinion this is not in the sense of the community. It’s the opposite: In the “WordCamp Organizer Handbook” we are speaking about “Inclusive and welcoming events” which WordCamps should be. In this case there is a conflict to the own rules of the communty with practical consequences.

One example that the inclusivity is enforced normally, is the “WordCamp in the Green”. We had a location with avery nice atmosphre, because it was a monastery which is renting their rooms to companies, organisations and other people. The area was really nice and had a very own and nive atmosphere. The people who have visited this place have been really excited. But the whole building is shaped by the catholic church. After requesting the WordPress Community Support, we have been told, that the WordCamp could not happen at this place, because we are excluding people who are not catholics. Nevertheless that their has be a room where also mulsims could pray.

So why are we doing exclusive events like the Speakers-Dinner on WordCamps?

Again, I am absolut not against to paying peole attention, who are supporting a WordCamp or giving them a “Thank you”, I even expect that. If it’s about to meet other speakers personally, there are different ways to do that. Of cause it’s a nice experience to participate on a even like this with all the important people of the WordPress community, but it does not fulfill the open and inclusive charrackter of an Open-Source Community.

An alternative would be a Warm-Up evening, which alread has been made on several WordCamps. Our experience shows us, that there are paticipating one third of the WordCamp Attendees. That is, except on the WordCamp EU and WordCamp US, about the amount of people who are attending to a WordCamp, but it is open for all and the core of the community is also present.

The WordPress Meetup Day

At our WordPress Meetup in Dusseldorf, we thought about to do a WordCamp. But we don’t wanted to do a WordCamp at first, we decided to do something linke a small WordCamp. We decided to extend an already existing WordPress format: We would like to do a WordPress Meetup Day.

The Meetup us our monhtly meeting, where about 20 till 30 people are attending. The meeting takes place one time in a month at a private company in the near of the Dusseldorf center of the city. Additionally to the rooms which are sponsored by the company Newcast, the company sponsors us drinks and sandwiches. This is the way, the company is doing a giveback to the community. With that the Meetup is without costs for the attendees and the organizers.

After I have helped planning several WordCamps, Ia am aware about that one of the biggest challenges is, to have the eyes on the budget and get the money together. The costs for the location, catering, party and so on have to be collected, the sponsors have to be found for it and everything have to be approved by the WordPress Community Support.

So we have decided to do a little “WordCamp” before, which have to be planned as is as it can be. Meetups were planned pragmatically. In the most times Meetups have a location which is sponsored, drinks and something to eat which the people can buy. We can access on an existing infrastructure and we don’t have to think about anything, that we can concentrate on the content of the Meetup. So how would it be to do a Meetup not only on an evening, but on a whole day?

On WordCamps we are making ourselfs a lot of work. We are searching for locations, doing complex design works, creating a Website, creating T-Shirts, Badgets, Wapuus, designing many other things, organising a big Party and so on. Thats what a WordCamp is making really exhausting. The main thought is now, to do an event with lessest effort which is possible. We are coming back to the essential.

We are reduce the work and changing to alternatives. We are taking a cost free place and we are eating at the restaurants around our location or we are ordering Pizza. Also the party takes place in the location nextby where you just have to reserve your place. In the best case the event will not cost more than the effort to plan the event.

This idea or this post shouln’t discriminate the WordCamp itself but should be an alternative for small groups for planning an event like this. Planning a WordCamp requires a lot of responsibility for the planning people, also there is a lot of money which a WordCamp costs. For an average WordCamp in germany you have to plan about 100€ per attendee in your budget. For a WordCamp like the WordCamp US it is about 500€.  The money is raised by the tickets for the attendees, the local and the global sponsors. But there is a risk that you won’t get the whole money for the budget. In this case the WordPress Community Support helps you out.

If you think about that the WordPress Community is non profit, and the people who are planning are doing that in their free time, you have a lot of responsibility in the opposite, which can scare a lot of people. Also if the WordPress Community Support will help you out in the end, the people who are planning such an event don’t take this easy if they would get the money together for the budget.

The idea to have zero costs and to reduce the work would let out the pressure from all and encourage people to do such WordCamps in other, new cities.

In Dusseldorf we have decided, to do a WordPress Meetup Day. On the WordCamp London 2017 we have been recommended to name it WordCamp instead of a Meetup Day. Regardless how it’s named in the end, as long as we thing to push down the costs and the efforts, we maybe have won a little bit, because the content would be the same but it would be much easier to organize a Camp in this way.