Podcast Episode

431 – Prepare for an In-Person Event


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

Link Preview is a plugin you can add a preview to internal linked pages or posts.

Prepare for an In-Person Event

  • Get business cards printed and have them in an easy to reach area
  • Refine your elevator pitch
  • Figure out how to take notes / store information
  • Charge up your devices, figure out what you’ll bring and how to charge devices as the day goes on
  • Check the schedule. Make note of the sessions you’d really like to go to
  • Check the speakers list. Is there a speaker you’d really like to meet?
  • Prepare to never sit alone. Make a new friend before opening remarks, during lunch, at the after party
  • Bring a bag for swag. It’s a real pain to try to juggle all the free stuff.
  • Make sure you are ready to share on social. Do you know what the event’s hashtag is?
  • Don’t be overwhelmed. You might attend a session or two where you don’t know what the speaker is talking about and that’s okay.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Jeans and t-shirts are perfectly acceptable. You might have to walk to different areas of the venue, so comfy shoes are a must.
  • Always attend the after party

Thank You!

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

I’m back from WordCamp Dayton, but I still have Word Press events on my mind, so today we are going to talk about how to prepare for an in-person event right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, episode number 431. [music]

Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler and, like I said, I am here just a couple days after WordCamp Dayton. You can tell in my voice a little bit that it is completely gone, or it was completely gone earlier this week. It turned out that when I am out in public and I am around people for three straight days, it uses my voice a lot more than I do on a normal basis, since I am normally just in front of my computer and typing away to people either on live chat or answering tickets or to my colleagues inside of Slack. And so when I had a couple friends staying at my house and three days or two full days of WordCamp it really took it out of me, but I’ll do my best to not sputter around in this episode.

I do have a couple announcements that I want to share with you and a plug-in of the week so let’s go ahead and dive in. The first announcement that I want to share is something that I’ve heard on a couple other WordPress podcasts and in the news and the website is called WomenWhoWP.org and there is a whole site about that. It’s mainly to get a group together of women who design, blog, and develop and market in the WordPress community. So, if that is something you’re interested in I recommend checking out WomenwhoWP.org.

The next announcement is all about Jetpack and Jetpack 7.1. It is all the blocks your business needs and so it is a release that has a few new WordPress blocks. You know we’ve been talking about this block editor and Jetpack has blocks built in. So, a few ones that are added in 7.1 are adds so you can add different ads from word ads programs so whether that be images, you can add images, or you can add and you can specify the size. So, if you want a 300 x 200 pixel image or 700 x 90, whatever the case may be, you can add those images and you can set those up in the ads block inside of Jetpack.

The next one is business hours so you can specify your business open and closing times and so this is an easy way to build a page real fast. You can say that you’re closed on Monday and Tuesday and then open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and put your hours in and it makes a very nice looking page. You also can do contact info block and this is handy for a business with a physical address. By using this block, search engines will be able to connect your business address to your website so people can find you both online and in the real world.

And also in Jetpack is a MailChimp block and it allows your readers to easily subscribe to your MailChimp newsletter. So, that’s nice if you are using WordPress and MailChimp together. And then there is also one for slideshows. And so if you want to create a slideshow for your images instead of like a tiled gallery or a block gallery or whatever, you can use the slideshow block to insert a beautiful slideshow into your post. And then you can do videos. If you have one of the premium or professional plans, you will have access to Jetpack’s video hosting service, and you can use the video block and the player. So, that’s what’s built into the Jetpack version 7.1.
There’ve also been a few changes with related posts and tile galleries and you can add up to six related posts per block and tiled galleries now include filters so you can customize the look of those images a little bit more. So, that is what’s related in Jetpack. If you are not using Jetpack I do recommend all websites have Jetpack. Even just the free version will give you some really cool things.

All right, and the last news is – and this isn’t to be confused with WordPress 5.1 that came out last week – this is Gutenberg 5.1 that came out in the last week as well and it is the new version. Again, like I was saying a few weeks back, that Gutenberg is going to continue to be developed and it’s going to add new features that will eventually roll into WordPress Core. And some of those things that they’re working on are just like – some of the things that are in this new version are just kind of UI enhancements, and I installed it and I started to play with it trying to figure out what is different and how it works differently or what type of features are in 5.1. And the biggest thing that I have been able to notice is the animations. And so as you go to a menu, as you are adding in a new block, as you are doing things that kind of – it almost looks like IOS when an app opens and it kind of like zooms in or zooms out – that’s kind of what I’m seeing when it comes to the new menu section, the enhanced views.

They’ve also added a search block, a calendar block, and a tag cloud block. Those are all in 5.1. And then they also, like I said, added some enhancements for those micro-animations opening up the pop-overs and the sidebars, and then they’ve done a whole bunch of other things. They’ve improved some of the accessibility features. They’ve gotten rid of some background colors on menu items. They’ve done a bunch of things. And so if you’re interested I recommend just checking out Gutenberg 5.1. You can install that with WordPress 5.1, and the two plug-ins do not conflict in any way so you can go and see those new improvements with Gutenberg while using the block editor. And, as always, Gutenberg is one of those beta plug-ins or ones that you probably shouldn’t have on your live site, but I don’t see why you can’t. It’s just going to give you some new UI features on the backend. So, that’s what’s happening in the Gutenberg land and we’ll probably re-visit that in about a month or so with more details on what’s happening with Gutenberg.

And then the last thing is the plug-in of the week when it comes to the announcement kind of section in the top of the show. And this one is called a link preview. It’s brought to you by Extendlab. It is a free plug-in on the WordPress repository. And what this is it’s a tiny plug-in that you can add to do previews for internally linked pages or posts. So, if you are going to -- maybe you have a post series and you’re like Post 1, 2, 3 and 4 – you have that at the top – and you’re on Post 5, people can, when this plug-in is activated, they can hover over the links and as long as it’s for an internal page it will show a pop-up and it’ll show the featured image at the top and then it will show all of the text. Then if you want to read more you can click the “Read More” button.

It looks really, really cool and I don’t know how useful it is – like I don’t know if that’s something that people were looking for, but that’s the beauty of the WordPress repository. You can go and somebody can create a plug-in that really is something for their needs but then open it up and allow other people in the community to use that. So, that’s what that plug-in is. You can search for it by searching for “Extendlab link preview” or you can click the link in the show notes for episode number 431.

All right, today, as I said, I am still in WordCamp mode. I am just excited that we had such a good turnout and there were so many people. And we’ve been getting email messages saying how great the event was and how much they learned and how excited they are to come back and continue with the WordPress – meet up and whatnot.

So, I wanted to kind of take some time as we are getting towards “Meet up season” if you will, usually February, March is not really the best time for WordPress events. You know people are still kind of bundled up inside. They don’t want to go out because it’s cold. And the meet up season kind of kicks off about this time of year and then that’s when we’ll see 50 to 60 WordCamps all over the globe in the next four, five, six months.

And so I wanted to talk a little bit about if you are getting ready to go out to a WordPress event, whether that be a local one or maybe you’re going to drive a few hours to get to a local one, I recommend these tips to get yourself ready so that you can go and get your most bang for your buck when you’re at the WordPress event. And this can be WordCamps or this can be other events that are very similar. I know that there are things called PodCamps that are podcasting related but still have a lot of the WordCamp feel to them. And most of these events sometimes might be just marketing events or social media events or, you know, something along those lines so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a WordCamp, but I kind of made this with WordCamps in mind.

So, the first one is get some business cards printed and ready and have them in an easy to reach area. I don’t know how many times that someone’s like “Oh, can I have a card,” or “Here’s my card,” and then they’re like digging through their purse or it’s at the bottom of their backpack. Like have them in your pocket or have them easily accessible so you can just hand those out when people want to stay in contact and be connected with you.

Another thing when you go to an event is to prepare your elevator pitch. Like you don’t want to kind of stumble along when you are talking when someone asks you what you do. You know, maybe you say “I build custom plug-ins,” or maybe “I’m converting my town’s 19th century newspapers into blog posts so that people can see this for years and years to come.” That might be a good way to start a conversation. If you are a small business owner – maybe I worked with small businesses that are restaurants. Or I work with small businesses that are in the wedding industry that would like to, you know, improve their SEO. Or, you know, you know exactly what you do but make it short and sweet so you’re not kind of him-hawing around when somebody asks you what you do. Say “Oh well I kind of do this and this and this on the side and my full-time job is this.” You know like, just be specific and that will be a good start to conversation when you’re meeting new people.

The next step – and none of these are really in, you know, this is the first thing to do and the second thing to do – like these are things that need to happen leading up to the event and then in the event. So, then the next one is before the event you want to figure out how to take notes. How are you going to store information? Are you going to bring a notepad? Are you going to jot things down on your phone? Are you going to have your computer with you and maybe a simple note open or a notes app and take notes in there? How are you going to capture these ideas that you’re going to get? And believe me, going to an event you always capture more ideas than you physically have time to ever do. I know that I still have to-do list items that are like “Oh I should do this” and this is from a WordCamp in 2012 and 1) I’ve probably forgotten about it, and 2) it’s most likely never going to happen. So, make sure that you have a place to write down those notes and be able to follow up with those a few weeks after the event to make sure that they are still a priority.

You also want to, the day of the event, you want to make sure that you charge up your devices, figure out what you’ll bring, how to charge devices as the day goes on. You know it’s the worst thing if you show up at an event with 30 percent battery on your phone and that’s the only device you bring and now you’re writing notes down on your phone and then all of a sudden your phone dies and you could be in a world of hurt. So, if you are bringing multiple devices plan on that. If you think your laptop can last all day maybe you don’t have to bring a charger. You want to kind of pack light. You don’t want to be lugging things around from room to room especially if you are moving from session to session all day long. It’s kind of a headache to carry a bunch of stuff but that’s something to think about. What kind of devices are you going take?

Another thing is in going along with that is what kind of bag are you going to bring? Are you going to bring a backpack or will your tablet or computer or your phone fit in your purse? Think through the strategy of what do you want to carry around throughout the day. This is something that there will be probably swag at these events. There may be free giveaways to pick up. Maybe the sponsors are giving away free stuff and you don’t want to just be holding this stuff all day long. You want a place to put it so some sort of bag would be really, really great.

Next on my list is check the schedule. You want to make note of the sessions that you’d really like to go to. And most of the time you know WordCamps have multiple sessions happening at one time or WordPress events and so you want to make sure that you’ve picked the ones most important. And you want to either print this out or write this down or somehow save them so it’s very, very easy for you to know when it’s time to go to the next class – maybe even put it on your calendar. And this is just mainly because if you don’t do it you’ll miss sessions that you really want to see.

And this is because you’ll run into somebody or you’ll start talking to somebody and all of sudden it’s like oh, the next session’s going to start. I don’t know which one to go to. I have got to find the schedule and whatnot. But if you’ve got it written down or it’s in your notebook or it’s on your calendar this is the session I’m going to go to it makes it really, really easy to know where you’re going as soon as the time permits. So, that is the next piece of advice.
Another thing is while you’re checking the schedule look at that list of speakers. Is there somebody on there that you’d really like to meet? Now I know there’s some people in the WordPress community that seem like celebrities – like they either have a huge following or they make a ton of money or whatever – but you know every person I have ever met in the WordPress community has been super nice and super down-to-earth and they like to meet all kinds of people.

Everybody likes to meet people at WordPress events. I don’t think that I’ve ever went up to somebody and said oh hey, I’ve been following you for a while or I’m really excited to meet you or thanks so much for coming. Like everybody says thanks – like it’s just a cool environment and a cool atmosphere. And so check that list of speakers and if there’s somebody that’s on there, you know maybe it’s a Chris Lema, maybe Matt Mullenweg is there, maybe you know somebody in your local community that you just have never had an opportunity to talk to – see if they’re a speaker. Go to their session and hang out afterwards and ask them questions. That’s a great way to connect and say hello to those people that you want to meet.

I also recommend kind of preparing yourself to never sit alone. This is a little bit harder for introverts out there, but when you go to these events make sure that you’re never sitting alone. Just grab a seat next to somebody when the day’s getting started. Grab a seat next to somebody when it’s lunch time. There are opportunities to network and connect. At one WordCamp I met somebody that gave me a business idea that I had never thought of and it turned out to make me money later. We have no idea. There are so many people doing the same thing and in kind of the same space when it comes to WordPress. Just bouncing ideas off each other is one of the greatest things that you can do at a WordCamp.

We typically when we’re developing websites you’re always at home or you’re always working from a coffee shop or whatever and you never have that physical interaction with somebody. Well this is the point where you actually can – you can spend time digging in and talking with and you have a face-to-face human being there right there that wants to learn the same things that you have or maybe they have different experiences than you. Anything that you share with them they can probably share with somebody else as well.

So, there is always a great opportunity for learning, but you just have to put yourself out there and just know it may be uncomfortable but for these two days when I’m at this WordCamp I am going to make sure that I sit and talk with three, four – set a number – new people that I’ve never met before and you’ll be amazed at where the conversations go.

Another thing is make sure you are ready to share on social. Do you know what the event’s hashtag is? Do you have the Twitter app or Instagram or how are you going to share online and let people know where you are and just give that boost of encouragement to the organizers? It’s a great feeling as an organizer to see people re-tweeting different sessions and good points made by speakers because it’s very hard to narrow down all the speakers into the ones that you select for a WordPress event. And to see re-tweets and Facebook messages about the speakers that you’ve selected makes our heart feel really, really warm. We really enjoy that and so just make sure that you have a method to share one or two things on social while you’re there throughout the day.

Also, you might be overwhelmed at an event like this. WordCamps are great in the fact that they have a wide range of knowledge. So, there could be sessions that are going on that are very basic that maybe you know everything that they’re talking about, but then there’s others that are very complex and it could be even over your head.

Or maybe you have no idea what even the very basic things they’re talking about are and that’s okay. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. You may be in those sessions where you don’t know what the speaker’s talking about and if it’s something that seems interesting to you I recommend staying in the room, but you always have the two foot rule and you can get up and you can walk out and the speaker’s not going to be offended. They just know that maybe it’s not interesting to them, or maybe they’re not getting any value out of that because it may be too overwhelming.

Or maybe you already know exactly how to do something and that’s what they’re sharing so you want to get up and you want to interact with other people. So, that’s okay – don’t be overwhelmed when you go to a WordCamp.

Spend time in the hallway track. This isn’t really a thing but we talk about this in the WordPress space. It’s basically spending time not in sessions but kind of in the hallways or in the common areas just talking to people. This is a great way to, again, get to know people and spend time one on one building relationships with those people that maybe you’ve never met before or some of those folks that you see only a few times a year. This is a great time for in-person facetime and it’s a good track, if you will. Most times it’s never mentioned in the WordCamp websites but let it known it’s always a thing. It’s always okay to skip sessions and just hang out and talk with organizers or talk with the sponsors or whatever. It’s a good thing to do. So, that’s the hallway track.

Also, remember wear comfortable clothing. This is something – you know you’re in a place for two or three days depending on the size of the event and most of the time you have to walk from classroom to classroom or to the lunch area. I know at WordCamp US they are in a massive building, the last couple of years when it was in Nashville, that you could easily get 10,000 steps just walking from session to session and to lunch or the sponsor area. Do that a couple times a day and you are maxed out. And so wear comfortable clothes. Jeans and t-shirts are completely acceptable – shorts if it’s in the summer months. Just feel comfortable. Wear shoes that allow you to walk, and that’s one of the big, big things. Don’t feel like it’s a big thing to dress up and look super professional. No ties are necessary. But just comfortable clothing is a good thing to wear.

And the last piece of advice is to always attend the after-party. I’m not a big partier per se and when I first heard about going to the after-party I was a little bit apprehensive I guess. I was like I don’t want to go to some party. Well it turns out it’s usually just either a place where they have drinks and appetizers or maybe just appetizers or food or sometimes it’s bowling. Sometimes it’s just kind of a fun, social event and you can meet and hang out with those people that you just met or maybe some of your friends are there that you’ve met from previous WordCamps. It’s just a great way to continue relationship building and whatnot. I always recommend at least go for a little while.

It’s usually a little bit awkward in the fact that the WordCamp ends and then there’s usually a half hour to an hour delay before the after-party or the social event starts. That’s usually just for logistical reasons to get the WordCamp cleaned up, for the organizers to get cleaned up and organized and then move over to the next place. But always spend time there. I find that it’s lowly attended in comparison to the WordPress event but always schedule time especially if you have to head out of town or you’re booking flights or whatnot. Always spend some time at the after-party.

So, those are my tips and my tidbits and I think if you follow those and kind of plan yourself you’ll have a very good, successful event and be able to get a lot out of it, meet some new…