WordCamp Organizer Interview/Orientation Script

Interview Interview

When you’re interviewing a WordCamp organizer/organizing team, your approach should be friendly and welcoming. Your goal is to learn about the person/people who are interested in organizing a WordCamp in their local community, learn about the state of their local community, and explain our expectations for WordCamp organizers. Once you’re done listening and explaining, hopefully it will be clear whether or not the applicant will be happy organizing a WordCamp that meets expectations. 🙂

Before the Interview:

  • Pull up the organizer application in the WordCamp listing on WordCamp Central
  • Pull up the local meetup/user group site.
  • Review both to see if you can identify any major issues that might need to be discussed.

Things you want to know:

  1. Is this person involved in the community?
    1. If not very involved, recommend that they recruit more community members for the organizing team and then get back to you with that list before approval.
  2. Is the local community healthy?
    1. If they act like an “owner,” talk inclusion/delegation.
    2. If they act like a “leader,” continue. 😉

Questions to ask:

  1. Meetup Stuff
    1. What is the local community like?
    2. What’s your role with the meetup?
    3. What’s your meetup group like?
    4. How often do you meet?
    5. Where do you meet?
    6. What kind of people usually come to gatherings? (speakers and attendees)
    7. What does it mean to have membership in your group? Are there requirements?
    8. Do you ever do additional events like hackathons or trainings or socials?
    9. Tell us about your sponsorship page and what goes into that?
  2. Community Stuff
    1. How would you describe your role within the community?
    2. What’s your favorite thing about your community?
  3. Organizer Stuff
    1. What do you do with WordPress?
    2. Other members of the organizing team?
      1. Talk GPL expectations as applicable (if any members of the team sell/distribute WP themes/plugins/derivatives).
      2. http://plan.wordcamp.org/agreement-among-wordcamp-organizers-speakers-sponsors-and-volunteers/
    3. What else have you organized? (Remember that meetups count!)
      1. If not, have them find someone who does and add them to the team (local meetup organizer maybe) and get back to you.
      2. If yes, check and see what events and talk about how WordCamp might be different (especially if the previous experience is with organizing a trade show or marketing conference rather than a non-profit conference).
  4. Why a WordCamp specifically?
    1. What’s your goal for the event?
      1. Mention the goals of “connect, inspire, contribute” if possible
      2. Trademark violations?
    2. The thing about the WP Community is that you inherit a family and become part of the community. And we really hold WP organizers to a much higher standard than others.

 

Top ↑

Orientation Orientation

The purpose of a WordCamp organizer orientation is to give organizers reminders and updates around our expectations and tools.

BEFORE THE ORIENTATION:

  • review application and previous year’s application
  • review the debrief posted about last year’s event, if any, or recap on last year’s site, if any
  • review local meetup group site to check on frequency of events and diversity of speakers, if any

SCRIPT FOLLOWS:

The idea behind this orientation is to talk over WordCamp guidelines, tools, and recommended practices so that everyone understands the community expectations for WordCamps, which are official events for the WordPress open source project, and so that you know what tools are available to you.  Our tools and expectations change periodically, which is why repeat organizers are also asked to participate in an orientation every year.

My hope is that we’ll spend a little less than an hour running through everything — and I’ll be pausing periodically to take questions.

As you know, WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences focused on benefitting the local community as well as highlighting local experts to share their knowledge and perspective with the greater community.

WordCamp organizing is different from other event organizing, in that the purpose of organizing a WordCamp is to have a great event as well as to bring the community together.

So whereas when organizing any excellent event, you might limit the number of people on the team who will make decisions, and keep discussion private — with WordCamp organizing, we ask people to intentionally gather *more* volunteers than they might need, and keep discussion public and transparent, so that they involve as many community members as possible. It might seem inefficient to include more people than you might need, but this creates some redundancy — always nice when you’re dealing with volunteers — and helps train multiple people how to do organizing work, so that the community doesn’t depend on just one person or small group of people to have events.

So let’s talk about the process of organizing a WordCamp. At the end of this orientation, assuming you agree with the expectations I’m describing, you’ll be approved for pre-planning the local WordCamp.

Pre-planning includes

  • recruiting your full organizing team
  • finding a venue
  • setting a preliminary budget.

WordCamp organizing is challenging, and building a great team will make the best event possible. By involving more of the people from your local meetup/community, you

  • recruit lots of volunteers to help, in case some volunteers have to quit the team or have less time available than they thought
  • limit the amount of work you have to do – this can easily become a full time (volunteer) job, yikes!
  • include lots of different skill sets and experiences
  • as mentioned before, help unite your local community by working on a project together

It’s generally not good to give anyone more than one of the following jobs: sponsors, speakers, budget, or venue logistics.

Meet regularly with your team! Hangouts can be a great way to talk without driving somewhere, and also posting meeting notes on your WordCamp site is a great way to keep everyone informed and organized.

Lead organizers should start with your hands empty so you can pick things up as people get busy and/or drop out. 90% of the time, this happens in at least one major area. Be prepared!

Finding the right venue is the key to WordCamp bliss. Hotels and conference centers are your worst enemy; they are very expensive and lead to an event that cost a lot more than it needs to. Universities are great, but frequently cost the same as a conference center – the key to a university is to get a staff member, preferably someone in your meetup group or someone teaching or using WP, to sponsor the WordCamp by providing free space. Other good cheap or free venues are community centers, libraries, city halls, public high schools, corporate offices, non-profit offices, trade schools, and co-working spaces. Everyone on the organizing team and your whole meetup group should be roped in to helping look for the right venue. Find that cheap or free venue and then find the date that works for your community and doesn’t conflict with other important events in town. We ask everyone to avoid venues that are affiliated with religious or political groups, so that the local WordCamp is welcoming and open to everyone. Ask someone at WordCamp Central before you get too invested in a venue.

When you have identified a venue that you think will work for your purposes, then request an estimate for renting it and talk to your mentor about your budget.

In regards to budgeting: Your mentor (or someone at WordCamp Central) will review and discuss with you the budget tool. In that conversation, they will also discuss the global sponsorship grant available to you. [Non-US WordCamps use the Big Mac Index for cost of living comparison.] Once the budget has been agreed upon, you can go ahead and book your venue and publish your date, and your event will be added to the official schedule.

Budget & Fundraising

We ask everyone to publish a link to their event budget on their site (just the budget, not including any private information). We encourage a lean event budget. Staying financially lean means you don’t need to spend as much time fundraising and can concentrate on content, which is the primary benchmark of quality for every WordCamp. You’ll impress a lot more people with amazing sessions than you will with nice linens on your registration table.

When deciding on what to spend your money on, approach the question from the perspective of what will benefit the attendees the most. It’s always better to have a more modest event than no event at all, so don’t throw up your hands if you can’t find a 400 person venue with free parking and great wifi – go with the 250-person venue for this year and then invite attendees to suggest venues for next year.

Ticket prices are limited to $20 per person per day. Ideally, we’d like all WordCamps to be free, but then you’d run the risk of organizing a 500-person event and then have 50 people show up. The ticket income should cover lunch and a piece of swag for each attendee. Provide scholarships or student discounts, or give away free passes based on need or volunteering, to make the event accessible to as many people as possible. [The equivalent of that $20 USD is set outside the US based on the Big Mac Index.]

Global community sponsors are companies that decide they want to sponsor all WordCamps in a certain region for a certain amount of time. Those funds go through WordPress Community Support’s accounts and are distributed based on an event’s financial need.  If you’re running the money through the WordPress Community Support, we just credit you those funds, [and if you are a non-North American camp which is not using WPCS for its legal and financial entity, you invoice us for the grant]. All sponsors are now automatically added as draft posts on your WordCamp site, and you choose which to publish. Check the handbook to see who’s a global sponsor in your region.

Web Presence and Tools

We host and maintain all WordCamp websites on wordcamp.org. This makes sure we have archives from past events and also keeps old “proprietal” domains from becoming spam sites or link farms.

You have a selection of themes on WordCamp.org and can customize them with CSS to make your site unique. We don’t do child themes on wordcamp.org because the maintenance, with more than 80 events a year now and growing, would quickly become unsustainable. If there’s something you wish you could do and can’t – some plugin or widget that would make your life easier – let us know and Ian Dunn or Corey McKrill will review it for security. For security and maintainability, we can’t allow custom PHP or JavaScript code — we run on wordpress.org so security is a big deal for us.

You have a number of special WordCamp tools, including special custom post types for speakers, sponsors, organizers, and sessions, as well as a registration plugin called CampTix. We want you to use these tools, as they provide us with important data about the program that we can use to scale and project numbers from year to year.

The custom post types for speakers, sessions, and organizers are set up so that they get credit for their contribution on their WordPress.org profiles. Please use them! The Session post type has a way to enter the date and time of a session and then build a grid schedule using a shortcode, which is a huge time-saver, yay! You can display your speakers, sponsors, and organizers on pages using shortcodes as well, and via CampTix you can display who’s bought tickets with the [attendees] short code.

CampTix is the event ticketing program we wrote for WordCamps. If you find a bug or want to write a new feature, it’s on the repo so please feel free! [If you are organizing in a country that does not use Paypal much, you can write a plugin to create a payment gateway for your local payment processor – otherwise, it’s already set up to use Paypal.]

We have great documentation on CampTix on plan.wordcamp.org; check it out! CampTix also allows you to offer refunds and make reserved ticket blocks – you can turn on refunds to be available up until a certain date and then turn off. Refunds are self-serve; an attendee can go back to the “Edit Info” URL that they get in their purchase confirmation email and clicks the “request refund” link on that page. Something important to remember is that we can not refund ticket purchases that are more than 60 days old. Please note this on your registration page and include it in the ticket confirmation email.

Reservations is a handy tool for events that sell out but still need to register volunteers, speakers, or sponsors. You can create a “reserved” block of tickets that will not show up on the public ticket interface. When the reserved block is created, you’ll get a special URL that you can send to people who still need to register – if they get free tickets, you’ll also need to provide them a coupon code.

Your WordCamp website is created with a number of standard pages, pre-loaded with content. There are a few things you should edit and publish immediately upon publishing your date: the Code of Conduct page and your global sponsors. The contact form on the pre-created speakers page will auto-fill speakers and sessions into draft — very useful!

Please don’t export attendee data from the WordCamp site to a third party service (like MailChimp or InfusionSoft) unless you provide attendees an opt-out before exporting, because of WordPress.org’s privacy policy. It’s generally best to keep attendee contact data only on your WordCamp site. We never share attendee contact info with sponsors.

Another tool we’ve added is the Payments Plugin. You’ll find it under “Budget” on your WordCamp’s dashboard. There you can submit vendor payments or reimbursements. It allows WordCamp Central to get payments out more efficiently and keeps a record of all payments made.

Local Focus

All WordCamps are asked to strive for a roster of 80% local, 20% out-of-town speakers. WordCamp is your chance to celebrate all the amazing things people are doing with WordPress in your town, and focusing on locals is a great way to create a unique conference program that highlights the way WordPress is being used where you are. When you’re still in pre-planning, it’s great to open up a survey so that people can suggest potential speakers or just share about unique and interesting uses of WordPress in your area. As a community organizer, you probably already know about people who are pushing the envelope or doing cool stuff — it’s fine to directly reach out to these people and either encourage them to apply or invite them to speak. As long as your schedule is diverse and locally-focused, you can invite as many speakers as you want — though we encourage every camp to open a speaker application just for those people you don’t know about yet.

Going back to that community organizing vs event organizing paradigm, it’s a great benefit for your local community to identify local WordPress experts. These people will continue to be a resource to your community long after the event is over, whereas a “rockstar” from out of town won’t be available to advise local community members after WordCamp weekend. Also, seeing how your neighbors have been able to learn and use WordPress is much more inspiring than knowing a few “geniuses” out there in the wider community.

Local sponsors are also vital to your fundraising efforts. Identify the WordPress agencies in your town, as well as companies that have WordPress sites or coffee shops/locations where bloggers congregate, and ask them to support the local community with donations to WordCamp. Larger, international WordPress businesses get lots of sponsorship inquiries every month, whereas your local WordPress-related businesses are much less likely to have been solicited already by another WordCamp. Ask everyone in your local community to work on finding sponsors, and make a list of items that the WordCamp requires which could be donated, like coffee, lunch, or snacks, and share that with the community. Smaller sponsorship amounts make it easier for smaller companies to donate to your event without looking “cheap.”

Vetting

We ask everyone associated with a WordCamp in an official capacity — organizer, speaker, sponsor, volunteer — to uphold the principles of the WordPress open source project, including the GPL. This helps protect the user/attendee, who might not realize that by using a non-GPL plugin or theme, they are giving away the rights that WordPress provides them.

Many organizing teams ask people to agree to the WordCamp organizer, speaker, sponsor, or volunteer agreement as part of their application to organize, speak, sponsor, or volunteer. That said, due diligence is recommended. To find out a the last minute that one of your speakers or sponsors does not meet the expectations outlined in the agreement is a painful and unhappy thing; don’t risk having to change your schedule unexpectedly or give back some funding!

We also ask that each organizing team review WordCamp speaker’s slides a few weeks before the event. This helps avoid any inappropriate content in the presentations (WordCamps should be family-friendly, with no swearing or discriminatory jokes or comments), and also helps you catch any misspellings, fauxgos, or other problems in the slides.

Code of Conduct

The WordCamp code of conduct is not optional. It’s a community standard that all events post a code of conduct: We have a standard Code of Conduct in a page on your site; please update the contact info and publish it immediately upon your date being announced. If you want to change what it says, ask your mentor first so he/she can get approval. Train at least one person to take incident reports (link on Plan), and announce the code of conduct in opening remarks and identify where someone can go if there’s a problem. Also, announce when the after-party ENDS, so you can let people know when the organizers’ vigilance ends as well.

WordCamp swag

T-shirts are traditional, but your swag doesn’t need to be t-shirts. If you do t-shirts or other swag, be aware that the expectation is that we never put sponsor logos on WordCamp swag, as attendees universally don’t like it. It’s important to remember provide t-shirts in women’s and men’s styles.

Video

Every WordCamp is expected to video-record their sessions and post them to WordPress.tv. In the US, Canada, and Europe, we have camera kits we can ship to you, links on Plan.  If you don’t have someone who can help with the small amount of editing required to post the video to WordPress.tv, let us know and we’ll connect you with our team of volunteer editors. As part of the vetting process for speakers, show them the AV agreement and get their initial agreement.

Food & beverage

  • Think about vegetarian/vegans/gluten-free/kosher eaters, and ask people their preference. It also helps to ask if attendees have a life threatening allergy.
  • You must have COFFEE, or the regionally appropriate caffeinated beverage of your choice. People will forgive you almost anything as a WordCamp organizer, unless you let the coffee run out. Have coffee all day, seriously.
  • Breakfast is generally unnecessary.  Most people who eat breakfast will have eaten before they arrive. A protein-rich afternoon snack, however, is a great way to keep people happy and energized all the way to the end of the conference day.

Mentorship

Your Mentor will be assigned to you and will check in every 2 weeks and post about your check-in on make/community. It’s your mentor’s job to advise, remind you about things organizers frequently forget, keep you on track in planning, and also be your connection to WordCamp Central. Also, please subscribe to make/community. 🙂 If your mentor is not helping or doesn’t know an answer, please reach out by emailing support@wordcamp.org and we’ll address it. It’s cool for your mentor to meet bi-weekly with the whole team, or just the lead organizer.

Thanks for taking part in the magnificent community of WordPress community organizers! WordPress events allow our open source project to keep being the friendly little corner of the internet that it is today, and you’re helping make that happen by organizing a WordCamp in your town. You’re the best!

Next steps:

  • Sign the organizer agreement via HelloSign.
  • Tell us what email should the official email address go to.
  • Your budget is available in your site’s dashboard; feel free to share it with your team.
  • We’ll send an email intro to connect you with your mentor. Set up a biweekly meeting time.
  • We’ll set up your site and give you access to it; add other organizers as you wish.