As the WordPress community continues to grow and evolve, so too must our approach to organizing WordCamp 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. events. A key concern involves the timing of speaker and volunteer selections, along with the challenges faced in obtaining visas for international participation. We see so many visa rejections among speakers and volunteers for WCEU2023, it’s very sad!
In this post, I’ll outline why I think addressing these issues is crucial for our community.
1. The case for early speaker and volunteer Selection
- Travel and Accommodation: Booking travel and accommodation is more economical and less stressful when done earlier. Early selection enables speakers and volunteers to plan accordingly. Some people will attend only if they are selected as a speaker or volunteer.
- Visa Applications: For speakers and volunteers traveling internationally, getting a visa can be a lengthy process. Early selection gives them enough time to apply for visas, deal with any potential issues or delays, and, if necessary, appeal against visa rejections. See point 2 below.
- Work Commitments: Early selection allows professionals to manage their work schedules, take necessary time off, and avoid overcommitments.
- Personal Planning: Beyond logistical and professional considerations, early selection facilitates personal planning, including arranging childcare or coordinating with family schedules.
- Sufficient Preparation Time: Speakers require ample time to prepare quality presentations. Earlier approval would also give unexperienced speakers more time to prepare their presentation. Similarly, volunteers need to understand their responsibilities well in advance.
- Event Promotion: Announcing speakers and volunteers early can drive ticket sales and enhance overall event promotion.
2. Addressing visa challenges for WordCamp Europe and local WordCamps in Europe
- Establishing an Official Address in Europe: To facilitate visa application process for speakers, volunteers, and attendees coming from outside of Europe, WordPress Community Support WordPress Community Support PBC is a subsidiary of WordPress Foundation. It is created specifically to be the financial and legal support for WordCamps, WordPress Meetup groups, and any additional “official” events organized within the WordPress Community Events program. should establish an official address within the European Union or the Schengen area. This could be done through establishing a non-profit organization or a for-profit subsidiary of the US entity or partnering with an existing entity that can provide this support. This could significantly streamline the visa application process.
- Visa Applications Processing: Visa applications should ideally be processed in the country where the WordCamp is taking place or the country where “WordPress Community Support, Europe” has an official address (see above). This can potentially increase the chances of approval.
- Visa Support and Guidance: Speakers and volunteers should be provided with comprehensive support during their visa application process, including a very detailed file of invitation and assistance with necessary documentation.
- Don’t forget that to apply for a visa, people usually need to buy a plane ticket and those tickets are often non-refundable, so we must do everything in our power to ensure that they are approved.
- Contingency Planning for Visa Rejections: In case of visa rejections, a contingency plan should be in place. This might involve aiding in the appeal process or arranging for remote participation.
3. The Importance of longer lead times for local WordCamps
Even for local WordCamps focusing on local audiences, early speaker and volunteer selection is beneficial. This allows individuals to manage their other commitments and ensures better event promotion, thereby boosting local community engagement. It is not sustainable for speakers to be selected only in the weeks before the event, and for them to be announced only in the weeks or even days leading up to the event.
By addressing these points, we aim to make WordCamp events more accessible, enjoyable, and rewarding for everyone involved. We believe these changes will result in smoother event planning, better-prepared speakers and volunteers, successful visa applications, and improved attendee experiences. Let’s continue this conversation and make the necessary changes to enhance our WordCamp experiences for our growing WordPress community.
- Please let’s brainstorm our ideas in this shared document
- List potential partners who could be an official entity in the European Union or the Schengen area to act as the official european address for WordPress Community Support.