3 lessons learned from organizing WordCamp Europe

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Lessons learned from WordCamp Europe

I told you in the previous article that “a WordCamp is not over until you write about it.” But what if you really don’t want it to end? You can prolong it in time, as I have done, but there comes a time when you have to turn the page and start planning the next adventure (and there are many ahead, thanks to the fantastic WordPress community worldwide).

WordCamp Europe was held between the 2nd and 4th of June in Porto (Portugal) and was a great success. For the more than 2,300 people who were in the Super Bock Arena. For the more than 800 people who enjoyed Contributor Day. For all the organizers and volunteers who did their part to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible. For the more than sixty sponsors (of course Weglot among them) who provided not only financial support to make it all possible but also for the spectacular atmosphere in the Expo Area.

And because I think it was an event that recharged the batteries of a community that needed it (including mine!). That’s why I want to share with you three of the lessons I have learned from organizing this event, so let’s take a look.

#1 The community couldn’t wait to be back together 

Photo from official WordCamp Europe Flickr

At the end of June 2019, I had just attended my first WordCamp Europe in Berlin. I found the experience incredible. Something totally different from our little local WordCamps. And I said to myself, “Juan, you have to participate in this and lend a hand.” So I joined the WCEU 2020 organizing team.

Fast forward to June 2022; it had been a terrible few years for all of us, we hadn’t seen each other in person for a long time, and we didn’t know what would happen the first time we met, health safety measures aside.

On the one hand, countless times, we all said “last year,” referring to 2019. On the other hand, there were so many hugs, exciting conversations, and so many people catching up that most of us wished the WCEU had lasted a whole week – and even then, we wouldn’t have had enough time.

And, in the end, the contagious desire for this to be the beginning of a normal return to normality as possible. To reactivate the local meetups, to see each other at the WordCamps in our cities. To discover in person that people are still there, that they will show up, that they will lend a hand, and that they have many ideas to continue growing.

#2 Teamwork allows you to do unimaginable things

Photo by Nilo Vélez, photographer at WordCamp Europe

Do you see all the people above and below the stage in that picture? They are the WordCamp Europe organizing team and all the volunteers in their black T-shirts who were ready to make everything work on the days of the event, and there were still more people who couldn’t be in Porto or who were still at work at the time!

When you are working for months (or years in this case) for something that will happen in three crazy days, it is tough to get an idea of how all the pieces will fit together at the right time. When you have a team of people from dozens of countries who dedicate their time for the love of this community and without professional experience… it’s pure magic!

Being my first WCEU as an organizer, I wanted to arrive in Porto on Monday to understand how it was possible that an empty arena could become what we had drawn and planned in just three days. That there were plugs everywhere, booths for all the sponsors, cameras, microphones, cables… the outdoor tents with the coffee, the catering… that all the designs went from pdfs to canvases of meters and meters in length… that the fantastic speakers could prepare all their excellent talks and workshops without any problem… and infinite more details (from the live studio to the media partners area, passing through the childcare or the registration area that welcome those thousands of attendees).

If you trust your team, magic happens. And believe me, there is a lot of it at WCEU (oh, and if you want to be part of the WCEU 2023 team, the call for organizers is open and I highly recommended it).

#3 WordPress is still much more than a CMS

Photo from official WordCamp Europe Flickr

If you haven’t been to a WordCamp, you probably won’t understand this (so find one near you and attend!), but the reality is that WordPress is not just a great content management system. It’s not just a tool. It’s not just an open-source project. It’s a philosophy of life, a community of friends, and an excuse to do our bit to make the world a little better.

Talks and workshops by extraordinary speakers (which you can watch on WordPress.tv), sponsors who support that we can do all this and who were receiving visits to their booths during the whole time, and, above all, people who understand that we all have to support the project to be able to continue living from it and with it. Our contributions will determine whether WordPress will continue to be useful, viable, and sustainable in the medium and long term.

I have been to other events where everything seemed to focus on others selling you their products or services. I’ve been to events where there was no communion between developers, users, and companies in the sector. This is totally different. And that’s why we must keep striving to keep it that way.

Long live WordCamps! Will we see you in Athens in 2023? I hope so!

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