How to organize the first WordCamp “after” the pandemic? Lessons learned

👋 HELLO WORDPRESSERS

Welcome to this new adventure, and thank you for being here. In this first season of this newsletter, we will talk about people, projects, companies, or initiatives that I know. But I hope that all the people who have something incredible to tell -which are most of you- will contact me to make the snowball keep growing. Enjoy and share The Other WP!

🎟 What does an event after a global pandemic look like?

In Spain, we love a good fiesta. Beyond the clichés, anything is an excellent excuse to get together with a soda or a beer in hand, food on the table, and hours of conversation.

And WordPress is a great excuse.

On March 7-8, 2020, the last in-person WordCamp in the world was held in the city of Málaga. A week before, I had been at WordCamp Valladolid, and we already knew something wasn’t right. Hydroalcoholic gel, jokes that seemed less and less jokes and soon after, a confinement that kept us in our homes for weeks. No more events. Video calls appeared in our lives. And online events. One after another. At first, they were fine, but soon we started talking about fatigue.

When would it all end? The answer was 643 days later.

“We tried to do a WordCamp a little bit differently, in the sense that we wanted it to be a community WordCamp. There was no open call for speakers; we called them directly.” The one answering is Rafa Poveda, the lead organizer of the event and one of the thinking heads of this madness that the Sevillian community decided to do last December 11, 2021.

With this premise was born the WordCamp Sevilla 2021, the only one in person in the world for the whole year. An event that was not the typical event with its two tracks of talks, speakers, coffee, and farewell. With the safety of all attendees in mind, the event would be a reunion among the community members. A celebration that, despite everything, we were still there.

The first concern: health and conditions. WordCamp Central has a very clear document about the conditions for this kind of event, based on the situation of each country or region, the possibilities of the venue where it will be held, and a code of honor (since neither legally nor socially you can ask people if they are vaccinated or not) that asks all attendees not only to comply with the already known code of conduct but to be vaccinated or to have a recent negative test.

“People put on the mask and were all the time with it, everyone was careful going into the venue, and it was terrific. Also, we asked around after the event and have checked a little bit through various channels, and we haven’t been notified of any cases.” We breathed a sigh of relief, and that is also because Spain at that time was not yet in the current wave of COVID cases.

The second concern: how many people will come? Will it be just a party of old acquaintances? “We thought that there would be little power of gathering, and we were wrong. The total count was 107 tickets sold, and there were about 90 of us there. And more than a third, 34, were new people.”

The third concern: would the format work? Of course, it did. Reading recaps in blogs, podcasts, or in the different channels where some of the attendees commented on their experience, it was extraordinary.

So… what happened at this WordCamp?

On the one hand, the organizing team sought to fill the stage with experiences, a look back, and an eye to the future. It started with a presentation by Rafa himself about the WordPress community and how it has been growing since the beginning in events, people, and other milestones. Then, a talk by Nilo Vélez and Miguel Angel Terrón about intertwined lives that end up coming together in the WordPress world.

There was also time for brief presentations of projects that emerged during the pandemic in different local communities and how they adapted to the circumstances: from WordCamp Spain Online or WordCamp Galicia Online to events like Mowomo Camp or informal meetings like El Cafelito.

And closing the morning, Rocío Valdivia talked about the future of WordPress and how to contribute to it, and some colleagues from Frontity/Automattic showed the wonders of Full Site Editing and what we will be able to do soon with the tool.

On the other hand, the afternoon after lunch and the entire event was focused on communication between attendees and gamification.

There were tribe meetings, where attendees were “grouped according to a theme and every ten or fifteen minutes we would change to get them moving and talking. We started separating by Gutenberg or classic editor, but soon we made groups based on your favorite food or similar.” And why is this? “We’re not just a tech community, we’re people who have other interests, and it’s okay to talk about other things. Also, by changing every ten to fifteen minutes, the conversations were left unfinished, so people continued later in the coffee break, which instead of 15 minutes lasted 45.

In addition, the event badge was a game in itself. Attendees had to pass a series of tests to enter the final drawing for sponsor gifts. What tests? From taking a photo with a person you didn’t know, talking to all the sponsors, finding a hidden Wapuu, participating in the group photo… A fantastic way for everyone to interact. The organizers marked on the badge when each task was completed!

And, as if that wasn’t enough, “on Sunday, we rented a roofless bus and took a tour of Seville, where locals told outsiders anecdotes. We organized a small gymkhana around the most famous monuments, and everyone was talking to each other.

What a weekend!

💭 A FINAL THOUGHT

We often get obsessed with events with more and more talks, workshops, round tables… and we forget that what people value most are the contact with other people, the community, the values, and the fun. This WordCamp is a beautiful example of what’s ahead of us in 2022: make local networks, meetups, small gatherings happen so we become a strong WordPress community again. Good luck to all the people who have this among their new year’s goals!

🔑 THE KEY PERSON

Rafa Poveda was the lead organizer of WordCamp Sevilla 2021. But also, he is the heart of WordPress Sevilla and WordPress Spain. Since the first national WordCamp in 2008, he has spread the spirit of the WordPress community to all the people he has helped (hundreds of people).

🥰 This article is powered by Simple Iframe, a plugin by Jorge González. It lets you insert iframes inside the block editor so you can embed anything you need. It has more than 5000 active installs and fantastic reviews, and Jorge is such a nice guy! You should all meet him!

🚀 THE LAST LINK

You probably know the Big Orange Heart Foundation. It is a non-profit with a mission to support and promote positive wellbeing and mental health within remote working communities.

They’ve released the coloring book “Color My Heart Orange.” If you want to know everything about the process, take a look at their blog. It’s a fantastic present, and you’ll be funding an incredible project.

📷 Featured image by Pablo Moratinos in his recap of the event.