Local WordCamps in The Netherlands – Our experiences

In recent conversations with Hugh Lashbrooke, WordCamp organizers Remkus de Vries, Taco Verdonschot, Sjoerd Blom and Marcel Bootsman from The Netherlands shared their experiences. This is a summary of these experiences.

History

The first WordCamp in The Netherlands was in 2009. After that, five more WordCamps were organised, skipping 2011 and 2013 (because of the first WordCamp Europe in Leiden). During the last editions there was a discussion with WordCamp Central, now Called WordPress Community Support, about organizing local, city-based WordCamps in The Netherlands in favor of just one WordCamp The Netherlands.

Having organized six local WordCamps in The Netherlands, we were not sure if multiple WordCamps in The Netherlands was a good plan, also from a continuity point of view. In this post we share our experiences.

Local WordCamps

We’ve managed to organize a total of 4 local, city based WordCamps in the Netherlands so far. In 2017, two local WordCamps were organized, Nijmegen and Utrecht, followed by Noord-Nederland and Rotterdam in 2018. Currently Nijmegen and Utrecht are planned for 2018. Rotterdam and Noord-Nederland are in early planning phase for repeats.

WordCamp The Netherlands

The last WordCamp The Netherlands was in 2016. With a large increase of attendees (from 240 in 2015 to 407 in 2016) we managed to organize the largest WordCamp in The Netherlands ever, and bring the community together on a three-day event.

Difficulties with local WordCamps

With WordCamp The Netherlands, we offered the community a clear schedule, every year the community comes together on this nationwide event. Attendees, sponsors, speakers and volunteers could plan ahead for this one WordPress event in The Netherlands.

With the local WordCamps we are experiencing the following challenges:

  • Difficulties finding sponsors
    Sponsors were used to reserve a budget that they could use for one event, WCNL. In the current situation the sponsors need to divide that budget between four WordCamps, and also have the disadvantage of a smaller number of attendees, further lowering the ROI.
  • Attendees find it difficult to choose
    With the increased amount of WordCamps in The Netherlands, and in surrounding countries, we have heard from attendees that they find it hard to make a choice how to fit the WordCamps in their schedule, as there are quite some WordCamps in the area nearby (including Belgium and Germany). This puts pressure on the amount of people who can attend, which in its turn affects the willingness to sponsor these WordCamps.
  • Speakers have to choose
    Getting speakers to apply to speak at a WordCamp is a challenge in itself. When there are multiple WordCamps in the same small geographical region, this limits the possibilities for speakers to find a good fit in their calendar.
  • Volunteers
    A WordCamp relies on volunteers to run smoothly. When these volunteers need to make a decision on which WordCamp in The Netherlands they will attend, we expect to have trouble finding enough volunteers. Onboarding new volunteers is something that has high priority.
  • Financials under pressure
    Looking at the budgets and financial results of the four local WordCamps, we have to conclude that these are under pressure as well. A big loss for Rotterdam and small profits for the other WordCamps show us that for the next editions it could become more and more difficult to get a healthy financial result for all of them.
  • Target audiences
    With having multiple WordCamps in The Netherlands, we have a challenge to not make these WordCamps copies of each other. They need to be unique and have an overlap in target audiences. Only then will it be possible to have continuity with Dutch WordCamps on a regular, yearly basis.
  • Conclusion

    Given the experience we’ve gathered over the last 9 years, we think there is still a need for a nationwide WordCamp in The Netherlands. However, it has to offer the target audience something that local WordCamps do not offer, and it has to fit in the already busy WordCamp schedule in and around The Netherlands. Again, we’re a geographically small country (see map here). Additionally, to make a WordCamp The Netherlands interesting for sponsors, the number of attendees should be interesting enough to offer these sponsors a better ROI.

    Regarding the local WordCamps, we have seen quite a large number of people attend a local WordCamp for the first time.

    Credits

    This post is written by Marcel Bootsman (@mbootsman), and is based on input/feedback from Remkus de Vries (@defries), Taco Verdonschot (@tacoverdo) and Sjoerd Blom (@vertizio). Other members from the Dutch (and Belgian) WordPress community also gave their opinion about the current WordCamp setup: Monique Dubbelman (@boemedia), Benoit Gütz (@buxert), Bas Brader (@basbrader), Ruben Zwiers (@rubsel), Jeroen Rotty (@jeroenrotty), Wendy Weel (@wendyweel), Taeke Reijenga (@taeke), Simon van der Steen (@simonvdsteen), Luc Princen (@lucp). Thanks all!