Last month I went along to WordCamp Belgrade – the European edition of WordCamp which is held each year in a different city. I was a bit nervous about attending because I was going to be on my own – but I wound up having a fabulous time. And so I present to you a User’s Guide to Having Fun at WordCamp Belgrade (and learning too!)
Attend smaller events
A great thing about this year’s WordCamp was that there were loads of small events. A large auditorium full of people with just one guy on stage talking is not the best way to learn, engage or connect. Fortunately, WordCamp Belgrade featured many workshops covering every aspect of the web – from really technical stuff, through to design, content, and even wellbeing.
I attended two of these, both centred around design and content. As my mum always says, you can always be learning.
Another great feature was the Tribe Meetups. Dedicated networking sites can be a disaster – no one wants to actually stand in them and gawk, hoping that someone else will show up. The Tribe Meetups however took all the awkwardness out. They were just small groups of likeminded people hooking up for a chat.
When I arrived for the Freelancers Tribe Meetup, the previous group were still deep in conversation. The facilitator said they were from Agencies – and judging by their enthusiasm, I think they all gained a lot from the experience.
In my own Tribe, I wound up reconnecting with someone I’d met at Zagreb WordCamp last year (hi Nela!) as well as making two awesome friends (hi Dean and Pedro!). And I also scored a new client (hi JungleWP!)
If you fail at networking, try again
During the first lunch break on day one, I took my plate of food and stood at a table. I wound up striking a conversation with the man opposite me – as you do. And after a few moments it dawned on me that he was not actually an attendee. It became obvious that he was very poor and had snuck into the conference centre to score a free meal!
I have no problem with this; the event was definitely way over-catered and I’m pleased that he was able to enjoy the great food. But it did mean that my very first attempt at networking did not really go to plan.
Following this minor disaster, did I skip any of the other breaks or meals? No, of course not. One, I was hungry. And two, when you fail at networking, you always need to try again.
I hadn’t realised this before, but having human-centred talks is a great catalyst for discussion.
What I mean is this: you go to a very technical talk in which someone talks about how they solved a particular problem. At the end, there might be a few questions, and afterwards a few diehards will go up to the presenter to tell him how he was wrong or to ask a follow up question.
However, when you have a more personal talk, one that shares something about the presenter, as well as about the technical, design or commercial problem that they’re trying to overcome, it becomes easier for your audience to connect with both you and your solution.
Maybe I’m still being vague, so here’s exactly what I mean.
Aaron Campbell gave a talk on succeeding as an introvert. He went into his own personal journey – but he also explained the science behind introversion and extroversion and outlined the different ways people respond to stressful situations. It was an engaging talk and prompted some great discussion from both introverts (agreeing with him) and extroverts (who had had their eyes opened). And then afterwards, those people who hadn’t got a chance to pose their question – myself included – all gathered round to chat about the topic in great detail.
And yes, I wound up making another two friends then 🙂
I’m not saying every talk should turn into a TED talk, but including a bit of your own personal journey into even the most technical of topics can help your audience to connect.
My WordCamp Belgrade
So that was my WordCamp Belgrade. I had a fabulous time, I learned a lot, made some friends, and even worked on my business.
I’m definitely looking forward to going to Berlin next year.