Tuesday Trainings: Thoughts on WordCamp Mentorship

The WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. Mentorship program is invaluable; the WordCamp gets the experience and thoughts of an experienced WordCamp Organizer and the MentorEvent Supporter Event Supporter (formerly Mentor) is someone who has already organised a WordCamp and has time to meet with their assigned mentee every 2 weeks, they talk over where they should be in their timeline, help them to identify their issues, and also identify solutions for their issues. always learns something from each WordCamp they work with. The mentoring program can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have contributing to the Community Team. 

Why do WordCamps Need MentorsEvent Supporter Event Supporter (formerly Mentor) is someone who has already organised a WordCamp and has time to meet with their assigned mentee every 2 weeks, they talk over where they should be in their timeline, help them to identify their issues, and also identify solutions for their issues.?

The WordCamp program changes all the time. Not just in these unprecedented Pandemic Times, but even in ‘normal’ times the program is ever-changing and evolving. WordCamps can benefit from a mentor so they can understand and learn about the latest changes to the program and any exciting new addons that we have added.

WordCamp Mentors are a great sounding board for new ideas. Have a great idea you have never seen at a WordCamp? Run it by your Mentor. Talking (or slackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/. chatting an idea) will help define it and make it happen.

With a mentor you will have a person to reach out to and help you through the rough times. It’s crunch time and you need an answer right now! Don’t panic – that email you sent to support@wordcamp.org is not being ignored, that slack pingPing The act of sending a very small amount of data to an end point. Ping is used in computer science to illicit a response from a target server to test it’s connection. Ping is also a term used by Slack users to @ someone or send them a direct message (DM). Users might say something along the lines of “Ping me when the meeting starts.” you dropped into #community-events isn’t being ignored either.  It’s just that those are monitored by volunteers who are focused on everything instead of a single thing. Your WordCamp. Your mentor is your connection to WordCamp CentralWordCamp Central Website for all WordCamp activities globally. https://central.wordcamp.org includes a list of upcoming and past camp with links to each., they’re there to answer your questions and keep you on track in planning.

What should a mentor do?

A mentor acts as your guide to a successful WordCamp. “Guide” is the key word. A good mentor will create a safe space for your team to explore ideas, keep on track in planning, and become innovative without the fear of innovating yourself outside of the expectations for WordCamps. It’s also the mentors job to ensure that the event follows program guidelines, and expectations.

Perhaps most important of all, a mentor listens. Even when you have an idea that seems crazy or out of the box. Even when you want to try something no other WordCamp has tried before.  They listen, talk the idea through, and see what it will take to make it happen. You could be surprised what we can work out when we work together.

If a WordCamp starts having worries about money, the mentor is the first person they’ll go to.  The goal is not to say no, nor to cut expenses, but to be a helpful reviewer of what needs to be done.  Money issues can be solved. The purpose of a WordCamp is to engage people in the WordPress project, provide valuable content to the attendees, and to grow the WP community.   When deciding budgetary issues these are the primary things that should be kept in mind. A mentor can help you do that.  

Mentors never forget that the WoprdCamp Organizers are volunteers and their time is valuable, because mentors are volunteers too. WordCamps don’t pay organizers, volunteers, or speakers. When you look at a budget there’s no labor cost, no speaker fees, no payments to anyone other than vendors. Mentors know this and keep this in mind when tasking their Organizers with additional work to be done. The time an Organizer spends has a cost, even if it does not show up on the budget.

While being available when organizers have urgent questions is a nice benefit of the WordCamp Mentorship relationship, that’s not the important part of how mentorship works. Ideally there aren’t urgent questions because Mentors and Organizers work closely together from the beginning of pre-planning through the execution of the WordCamp. Mentors should schedule regular meetings; regular enough so that there is a comfortable cadence to them, but not so frequently that it feels overbearing or takes up more time than is required. Typically  we recommend meeting every two weeks, but it’s a balancing act.  Be sure to have meetings around key dates:

  • Announcing calls for speakers, sponsors, and volunteers
  • Call for speakers ending
  • Checking during speaker selection process
    • Mentors should keep their thoughts on selection to themselves unless they see a speaker that does not meet the expectations for participation 
  • If an it’s an in-person even offer to let the Organizers talk through their menu with them to ensure dietary requirements are being met   
  • Be available the last two weeks for quick slack chats to help Organizers through the last minute hurdles

What shouldn’t WordCamp Mentors do?

This is not the mentors event. That’s the key thing a mentor should remember at all times. If you would do a task differently, that does not make the way this WordCamp is doing it wrong – it makes it different. Let Organizers do it their own way.

A mentor is not on the Organizing team. Mentors do not decide, they guide.

A mentor does not tell a WordCamp what to do. Mentors will advise a Camp is something they are doing is not allowed (perhaps they are planning T-shirts and want to put sponsor logos on the back and offer only Unisex sizing) by explaining why we have these guidelines. But they don’t tell a WordCamp not to have t-shirts just because they prefer non-sized swag.

A mentor does not do the organizing work. They don’t take on your work or the work of a team member. They’re there in an advisory capacity to help keep you on track in planning and give you a sounding board. Don’t assign them tasks.

Moving Mentorship Forward

As the WordCamp program evolves and changes the need for WordCamp mentors becomes more and more significant. And the need to ensure these mentors are ready and able to handle these changes as they come up is critical. To this end we’re working to update the Mentor Handbook and create a monthly meeting to mentor the mentors. 

If you’re a former WordCamp lead organizer and working on the existing documentation or becoming a mentor for WordCamps is something you’re interested in, let us know how you’d like to be involved in the comments.

Looking for more great training content? 

Check these out!

The WordPress Diverse Speaker Training group (#WPDiversity) has several workshops coming up to help you in your journey to public speaking at online WordPress events, or for WordPress event organizers to support more diverse speakers at the events you are holding:

Saturday, July 11, 1-5pm in Costa Rica time: Empower Women Speakers For your WordPress Events in Latin America
Saturday, July 18, 5-7pm UTC: WordPress MeetupsMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook.: Hold Your Own Diverse Speaker Workshop
Tuesday, July 28: Who am I to be speaking? & Finding a topic that people would love to hear
Wednesday, July 29: Creating a great pitch
Thursday, July 30: (new!) What if someone asks me a difficult question?

#mentorship, #tuesdaytrainings