In 2011, my WordPress developer friend, Russell Fair and I were asked by WordPress Foundation to organize WordCamp Atlanta. We were targeted, I mean chosen, because we were both active in the local WordPress community hosting Meetup Groups and spoke at other WordCamps. At first we both resisted thinking, “No way. We’re way too busy.” But, after losing our minds we stepped up and took it on.
And, I’m very glad I did. Over the last four years, I’ve had a lot of fun, made great friends, learned a lot and have had some big adventures all because I said yes.
WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg came to our first WordCamp Atlanta in 2012. We held it at SCAD that year, and in every picture of me I am wearing my MailChimp Monkey hat. Whatever made me think that was a good idea? Despite that, Matt gave me his American Express Black Card to charge lunch for the 400 attendees. A couple of years ago, a contingent of people from Asheville attended WordCamp Atlanta and thought they would like to have a WordCamp there. We mentored WordCamp Asheville when they were getting up and running and I got to do my first Keynote speech there last year.
Every year when the time comes around to do it again, despite all the positive that comes from it, I still go through the stage of thinking, “No way. I can’t possibly do it again.”
This year, when that time rolled around, for what would be my fourth year, I had a really good excuse to take a break. I was scheduled to have my knee replaced in January and I had no idea ‘what condition my condition would be’ in during the planning stage. But again, knee or no knee, I said yes.
I’ll tell you a secret, putting on WordCamp Atlanta has gotten easier over the years. For one thing, we have developed into a core group of very competent and totally reliable people, who are very busy, but said yes anyway. Russell and I picked up the core group that this year included Kathy Drewien, Mickey Mellen, Carel Bekker, Renee Dobbs, Claudia Arkush, and Cliff Seal. We are all so good together that WordCamp almost puts on itself.
We couldn’t put on a WordCamp for $20.00 a day if it weren’t for the many terrific companies who generously stepped up to support us.
When Carel Bekker announces the call for sponsors, he just has to take names and sign ’em up. This year we had MailChimp, Site Ground, JetPack, Code Guard, Pantheon and Ninja Forms as our platinum sponsors.
Speakers apply with the same enthusiam. We open up for speaker applications and they start rolling in from our own community as well as our extended family of cousin WordCamp communities such as Miami, Orlando, Birmingham and Asheville. Usually we get some top talent from far off places coming in to speak and hang out, but this year we were scheduled the same weekend as WordCamps in San Diego and Seattle.
Getting together for organizing meeting in Atlanta, being such a large metropolitan, would mean a lot of people would be stuck in traffic for a lot of time. We found a way around that by having weekly meetings on Google Hangout for the four months leading up to WordCamp. That way we can grab a glass of wine and plan a WordCamp for an hour or so and not have to drive home afterwards. It is very civilized.
The only time we actually get together in person, during the planning phase leading up to the event, other than the occasional WordPress Meetup, is when we all get together to pick the speakers. As you can see, it also includes wine.
This year we scheduled a full day pre-camp for Beginners. We sold 200 tickets that included the beginner workshop. Then we sold an additional 380 tickets to people for only the two days of regular camp.
This made for a long time to be “on”. On Saturday, I did the opening remarks and introduced, our keynote speaker, Nathalie Lussier.
Later that afternoon, I led a panel discussion doing rapid fire website critiques and spent the rest of the day doing more of them and helping people with their website strategy in the Happiness Bar.
We also had a fun Speaker Sponsor appreciation party this year on Saturday night. See the WP Ninja’s hanging out in the backyard.
It was a family affair too. My son, Michael, who works with me at New Tricks, gave a talk about plugins. And my husband, who has a WordPress website attended and joins in.
I know there are probably things that you think you can’t possibly have time for. Its funny though. When you agree to do something epic, time seems to expand and you may find that there is more of it available than if you chose the softer easier way. I am going to have to remember that myself next year as I try and think of a reason I can’t possible do it again.
Photo Credit: Kari Leigh Marucchi 2015