If you use WordPress for your small business website, I want to tell you about two amazing resources that are available near you and you may not even know they exist. I’m talking about WordPress Meetups and conferences (called WordCamp).
Often when I suggest to small business owners that they attend a local WordPress Meetup, I’m met with apprehension and a fear that the events will be too technical. But, I’m here to tell you, no matter your role in working with WordPress, there is plenty to be gained by attending.
Meetups vs WordCamps
Both WordPress Meetups and WordCamps are volunteer-run events. And while they do have their similarities, there are some key differences.
At Meetup.com, there are over 1,000 meetup groups around the world focused on WordPress. Depending on where you are, typically 10-50 attendees meet once a month for a few hours to discuss anything and everything related to WordPress. There’s no strict format; so you may find some meetup events have formal presentations while others may be more of an open discussion. With either format, you’ll almost always find there’s time to ask questions. Presenters at a meetup are more than likely local WordPress users. There is typically no charge for attending a WordPress meetup.
WordCamp, on the other hand, is typically a one or two-day conference with 100-300 attendees that takes place once a year all around the world. Again, there’s no strict format, but these events typically contain one to three tracks of presentations primarily by local WordPress users. Although many WordCamps attract attendees and presenters who travel in from all over the country, which gives you a great opportunity to hear ideas and points of view outside of your local WordPress community. In most cases, many industry conferences will cost you several hundred dollars to attend. WordCamps are astonishingly affordable at a cost of roughly $20 per day. You can find the schedule for upcoming events at WordCamp.org.
Diverse Small Business Content
Thinking about your business, there are a lot of aspects that go into it. Sure, there may be one primary product or service that you provide, but you still have to think about accounting, marketing, banking, suppliers, and even office products. If you’re a plumber and I ask you about your business, it’s unlikely that you’d bring up the accounting software you use to run your business, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of how your business operates.
The presentations you’ll see at these events are kind of like that: all-encompassing. They don’t just cover developing and coding for WordPress, but typical presentations cover any and all topics as they relate to running a successful small business website.
Here are a few presentation topics I’ve seen at recent Meetups and/or WordCamps:
Five Simple Steps to Attract an Audience
A Beginner’s Guide to Free Plugins
Three Mistakes in Online Business and How You Can Avoid Them
How to Optimize Images to Speed Up Your Website
Hands-Off Sales with a Hard-Working Website
How Your Page Title Can Affect SEO
I think you’d agree. You don’t need to be a WordPress developer to find valuable information on that list!
Often your local meetup organizers will provide a list of topics that will be covered days or weeks before the event. Think about the topics and how they apply to you and your website. Then, when you get to the meetup, be prepared to ask questions.
Sometimes people are afraid to ask questions or they think that their question is going to sound silly. Nonsense! If you have a question in your head, I can guarantee that somebody else has the exact same question and they may be too shy to ask. Your question may also spark others to ask a related question that you hadn’t even considered. And there’s nothing wrong with steering the question towards a real-world issue you’re having with your own site. It may give the presenter an easy way to explain a solution that everybody can relate to.
It’s also a good idea to be ready to pay somebody for their time. If you ask someone for help at the meetup and the problem requires more than a quick answer or maybe a follow-up email, keep in mind that all of the presenters are volunteering their time. If you need assistance that goes beyond what can fit into the time allotted at the meetup, take the initiative and ask for the person’s hourly rate. Being willing to pay goes a long way!
At our local meetup, we encourage everybody in the crowd to consider giving a presentation. The common response is, “But, I’m no expert.” As an attendee, some of my favorite presentations aren’t the ones from the small handful of regular presenters, but the ones where somebody gets up and talks about an issue they had and how they solved it. This could be as simple as giving a demonstration of a plugin they found and how they used it, or it might be a cautionary tale of how they failed 10 times before finding the right solution.
No matter where you are in your WordPress knowledge, you’re ahead of somebody else. That problem you just recently solved is likely still a problem for somebody else and sharing that information will make them eternally grateful. Don’t be afraid to share the knowledge you have!
Take Only a Few Notes
This may sound counterintuitive to what you might think I’d say here, but when you attend a meetup or WordCamp, coming home with a full binder of notes may be more overwhelming than helpful. I try to remind people that a presenter isn’t going to teach you an entire subject in a single session. Instead of writing feverishly during the presentation, stay engaged. When the presentation is over, jot down a note or two about a plugin, a website, or an idea that sparked during the session. Once you get back to your office, spend the time you need to research the items on your list.
Use the Resources
The volunteers who run WordCamps and Meetups genuinely want you to succeed. They go to great lengths to find presenters and topics that will help a wide variety of users from beginners to seasoned professionals. Find an event in your area and go. You’ll be glad you did.