The Wild Winding Road to WordCamp

Earlier this year I’d made a goal to get more involved in the WordPress community. I wanted to speak at a WordCamp. I’m the type of person that will put something off unless I have a fire under me, so the only way I knew I’d do it is if I signed up right away. I locked myself in to speaking at WordCamp Buffalo, so there was no backing out, this was happening. Now it’s the end of 2013 and I’ve been able to speak at 3 WordCamps and WordSesh 2, so I can happily say I reached that goal. I want to share a little bit about my experience speaking at a WordCamp for the first time though. It made some amazing memories and relationships, and hopefully a decent story too.

Staring at WordCamp Central, I took a look at the list of upcoming WordCamps and Buffalo was one of the first and only an 8 hour train ride away. I contacted one of the organizers, the awesome Andy Staple, on Twitter to get an idea of if I should gear my proposal toward devs or users based on the makeup of attendees.

I wrote out my proposal, pasted it in the form on their site and waited…and waited. Over the next few weeks I checked back frequently as they started to fill in the speaker info with names/pics/bios. I hit the refresh button a few hundred times, hoping my face would pop up on the next reload. It didn’t happen. In a quick tweet a week or so later to Andy, I asked if the list was finalized yet. He said it was pretty much finalized but he’d left a spot open as he was waiting for my submission. It never went through! That Andy had left a spot open for me was such a kind gesture, and extremely fortunate for me. I emailed him the proposal (which I’d luckily saved in a doc), and a picture of my big head popped up on the speakers list 5 minutes later.¬†The journey begins!

Chris Van Patten, one of the other speakers, ¬†happened to be coming up from NYC as well. We exchanged a few tweets and booked train tickets up together. I pulled an all-nighter so that I’d make my train in the morning. The train ride was great, Amtrak kind of has wireless, so you can theoretically be productive on the 8 hour trip. The ‘kind of’ wireless is ‘kind of’ not great, and on top of that, the wireless on my Macbook was kind of broken. Chris got most of his presentation slides completed during the trip, I did not.

That evening was the speaker dinner. I went to my hotel after we arrived, laid down to take a nap for a couple of hours before the dinner, couldn’t fall asleep. I got out of bed, got ready and did a little bit of work, then headed over to the dinner. The WordCamp Buffalo organizers planned the dinner at a really neat pub type place with lots of micro-brews on tap. The food was great, getting to spend a few hours with the best WordPress peeps in town, amazing!

Still on no sleep, I was off to create my presentation, I was speaking at 10:30AM the next morning. I started making my presentation at 3AM, finally took a nap from 5-7 and headed over to the venue. I worked on making my slides until 10AM. With 30 minutes to go, I downed a coffee and psyched myself up. Remember that wireless internet issue I mentioned? If I touch the computer the wrong way, the internet goes out and the only way to get it back is by restarting the computer. Typically, it goes out every 30 minutes. My presentation was about sliders, so I had about 30 browser tabs open with examples and such. By some miracle, the wireless stayed on as I walked to the room I was speaking in, and it stayed on for the whole presentation. Once again, I got really lucky.

My room was pretty full, a great group with great questions. Having a handful of other speakers in the room made me feel at ease as they were familiar faces in the crowd. I got the room to laugh early in the presentation, which set the mood for the rest of the talk. It was a fantastic experience, and getting to spend two days hanging out with all of the speakers and interacting with all of the attendees was a complete blast. If you have something to share, don’t hold it in, go speak at a WordCamp!