Organizer Best Practices: How to address panic

Organizing community events is fun, but not always relaxing. Every 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. organizer has experienced the atmospheric shift on their team, from casual and breezy at the beginning… to focused and pressured as the event date approaches. When mentoring organizers, I find myself frequently sharing techniques that can help lead a team through the “storm” of those last few months of WordCamp organizing (or really, any storm at all) — so I thought it might be helpful to document that information in our team blog. Here we go!

Recognize “stressed” behaviors

Many of the people on your team will respond to “the event is just around the corner!” stress with a tendency toward one of the following:

  1. Panic
  2. Withdraw/go silent
  3. Lose flexibility/get combative

In this month’s edition of the Organizer Best Practices series, we’ll talk about that first stress response: panic. Next month, I’ll share some ways to reactivate organizers who have withdrawn or stopped communicating; and then in October, we’ll talk through what to do when a previously relaxed or easy-going person suddenly becomes argumentative or inflexible. 

Addressing panic

WordCamp organizers generally dream big and take risks, which is how our events stay fresh and keep innovating. Yay! Combining those behaviors with hard deadlines and actual money… can lead to some scary moments, though! If you see someone (or your whole team — it’s contagious) start to panic, you’re not lost, but you need to act fast.

  1. Stay calm. You can’t help the team make rational decisions if you’re also panicking. Your job as a leader is to keep your cool so that other people can, too. It’s totally OK to say, “OK, I don’t want to panic right now, so I’m going to ask some questions/think this through/ask someone for help.”
  2. Analyze the risks. What are we afraid might happen? How likely is that outcome? What is the worst that could happen, and what’s the best that could happen? This activity also allows you to contextualize the situation. Very few conference organizing “disasters” end in physical harm, loss of life, or even long-term consequences.
  3. Gather data. You make your best decisions when you have all the facts. When you come to the end of the risk analysis process, you will probably have collected at least one or two “I don’t know”s. Get as much information as you can, before the team has to act. If it takes a while to get the information you need, and you don’t have to make a decision right away, that’s a feature — not a bug. Slowing down will usually result in calming down.
  4. Identify your options. This is best done after you’ve gathered all the data, but you can identify some “if… then” options while you’re waiting for answers to questions. Rarely are you restricted to one possible option — even if your list of options includes things you absolutely don’t want to do, include those “definite no”s in your list. Knowing what you have the power to do (cancel the event), even if you choose not to (please don’t, I bet we can find a solution), is empowering and will bring people out of their fearful mindset. 

Help your team build their skills

In your work as a leader, try not to swoop in and solve people’s panic for them. Once you think you’ve got a handle on this process, try to bring your team with you through the steps as well, so this can start to come more easily to everyone. That way, if you’re not around for some reason, another organizer can spot the signs of panic in other people and help!

Connect with the Global Community Team

Remember that this team has a huge group of experienced community leaders and event organizers. It is very rare for a WordCamp team to run into a situation that no other WordCamp organizer has faced in the past, so don’t be ashamed or shy — ask for advice or help!

There are office hours in the #community-events channel in the WordPress.org Slack 4 days a week, but lots of organizers hang out in that channel ready to help (we really love to help). You can also reach out via this contact form, or ask your mentor for help. 

Ideas

Do you have any tips for addressing panic or keeping calm in an emergency? Share them in a comment on this post! 

#organizer-best-practices

Organizer Best Practices: Photographing your event!

As community organizers and leaders, one of the few things we sometimes overlook is using photography to promote our meetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area. groups.

A group photo of the meetup is often one of the best ways to personalize your WordPress meetup.com group page. It is also a great way to drive interaction on social media channels towards making  more people aware of your meetup group.

Here are ten things to keep in mind to get photos of your local WordPress meetup in a safe, friendly and welcoming manner.

  1. You don’t need fancy equipment – using a cell phone camera works great for taking photos of your events.
  2. Make a mental list of the photos you want to take before hand.
    For example:
    – photo of the speaker against the slides
    – photos of volunteers and regular attendees
    – a group photo of all the attendees
    – a photo of a sponsor eg: venue owner / manager, etc.
  3. Be early to the event so you can get a good idea of where the best lighting is so to that you can set up any camera equipment (if you have it). Even if you are using a phone to take photos, it’s great to arrive early and find a good seat or vantage point.
  4. Once you are early, try to take some practice photos to assess how bright it is and how well the photos are coming out.
  5. Use the flash (this is true for rooms which might not have great lighting), although many of the newer camera phone models work quite well without flash.
  6. At the same time, don’t overuse the flash! The event is about WordPress users and a speaker and photography activity shouldn’t be a distraction.
  7. Don’t take close up photos unless people are okay with it. Remind them if you do take photos that they will be shared publicly.
  8. Never take photos of people while they are eating food.
  9. Show photos to people before you publish them as a basic courtesy.
  10. Always announce where you will upload these photos – ideally this should be on your meetup.com group photo albums. For example: https://www.meetup.com/WordPress-Madrid/photos/
    it’d be a recommendation to create one folder per event.

Sharing photos of your event

Invest time in sharing a couple of photos of your meetup events on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,… and any other social media. It is a great resource for reaching out to new people who might be using WordPress, but who might not know about meetups in their local neighborhood.

Sharing photos gives insight into how the group functions and what the venue looks like, which is very helpful for any potential attendees for the next event.

Photography also allows your event to be transparent about attendance, the venue and people who are participating. At the very least, a potential visitor knows that the event actually takes place and a sense for the atmosphere.

A consistent habit of capturing your meetup with photos helps your local community become more visible to the larger community and this helps when you apply for a 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.. Photos from your event can also be used as a good way to encourage sponsorship of your events from potential sponsors.

Please share your tips!

#organizer-best-practices #event-photography

Organizer Best Practices: Make the most of your feedback!

As community builders and leaders one of the most important things we can do is put feedback to work for us. But since doing nothing is often easier in the moment for various reasons than doing anything is, we often receive feedback and never act on it or put it off until it’s no longer timely. To put receiving, giving, and using feedback to its best use here are some handy suggestions this month on making the most of your feedback.

Where does feedback come from?

Feedback can come from so many sources that sometimes we don’t realize we’re receiving it, let alone putting it to good use. Feedback  can be active or passive and is defined most simply as the return of information. Feedback is data. Sometimes it’s hard to quantify that data, but if we find a way, we can put it to great use! So let’s talk about some of the most commonly available forms of feedback for organizers in our community.

Indirect Feedback

Attendance – Attendance, or lack thereof, of a meetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area. event is feedback in and of itself.

Participation  – Pay attention to how the audience or guests interact with presenters or projects. Are they engaged and enthusiastic?

Discussion boards – What are people asking about on the meetup group discussion boards? If there are topics you’re not covering at your event, consider including  them in the future.

Conversation  Whether conversations take place in person or on social media, listening to what attendees and participants have to say is a valuable exercise.  Organizers can put that knowledge to use by making adjustments, additions, refinements or even repeating topics.

Direct Feedback

RSVPs/ Ticket Sales –  Even though we can expect a certain amount of attrition with any event (lower for formal or paid events, higher for more casual and free events) whether or not people are RSVPing for certain topics or at certain days and times or purchasing tickets can tell you a lot.

Survey results – For Meetups in the chapter program we send out a yearly survey. Individual results for each meetup group are sent to the organizing team through meetup.com and general results can be found here: https://make.wordpress.org/community/2019/04/18/2018-meetup-survey/ We’re working to significantly improve this survey moving forward in case you wanted to share some feedback with us about that (hint hint.)

For WordCamps there is a standard survey available for all attendees to answer after 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. is completed. They’re collected by the 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. account and shared to the organizing team. Organizers can  also create their own custom attendee survey if they want to get more in-depth information or ask about a specific feature of the event.

Meetup automated debrief questions – After every Meetup.com meetup an automated debrief is sent to those who registered to attend. It’s not customizable, but it’s still great information to have. Encourage your attendees to fill it out, and review the results regularly!

How to get better feedback

Create a safe space for feedback –  Many folks feel anxious about sharing and receiving feedback and don’t want to be seen as critical or complaining. This often leads to organizers and leaders hearing from a vocal few who might not represent the majority. Make it clear that feedback is welcome and important for the growth of your community, and that you are committed to improving events in response to community feedback. Provide multiple ways for your community to provide feedback such as in person, a voice call, email, 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/.. Not everyone is comfortable with the same communication style, and you’ll get the best information if you collect feedback from people in the way they’re most comfortable.

Ask specific questions – If you want to know something specific, just come out and ask. Unless your community includes some mind-readers, people won’t know that you’re open to feedback unless you tell them.

Ask what you’re not asking – Leave room for attendees to fill in the blank. Specifically, call out that you want diverse ideas and opinions, and you’d like to know what the leadership team isn’t thinking to ask.

Make it actionable – Don’t ask for feedback just for the sake of having it. Example: If you’re asking people if they have a dietary preference or restriction but you’re meeting in an office and no food will be provided, there’s no reason to collect the information. But if you have a speaker who is an expert in three different topics and you want to know if your community would benefit more from learning about Contribution, SEO, or Content Management — then ask the community what they’d like to hear about.

Make it shareable – Either collect or collate feedback in a way that makes it shareable with the entire leadership of your group, or whenever possible, your entire community.

Recruitment – New incoming community members, speakers, sponsors, and leaders will always bring with them fresh ideas and a new perspective to share.

What to do with feedback once you have it

Share what you’ve learned – With the exception of private information and personally identifying information, it’s important to share what we’ve learned.

Don’t make change for the sake of change – If everything is working, and that’s the feedback you’re getting, don’t change things on a whim. If you want to test out new formats, content, or dates, then try to offer them as an alternative and then collect feedback on the experiments.

Recruit – Some WordPress community organizers like to say, “You’ve got an idea? You’ve got a job!” because feedback and suggestions can so often be used as a recruitment tool. The people who care enough to suggest a new topic or event series for the meetup, or a new registration system or caterer for WordCamp, are much more likely to care enough to get more involved in the community. If people come to you with a good idea that you think will work, invite them to take another step along the path to leadership by taking responsibility for making that good idea become a reality. If someone has an idea that you think won’t work, then you can still explain the reasons you do things the way you do, and invite them to help come up with another way to solve the problem they’ve identified! Often people don’t realize how easy it can be to get more involved in the local community.  

Please leave feedback on this article about feedback

How do you collect and respond to feedback in your local WordPress community? Have you ever given feedback and been surprised by the results? Do you have some other suggestions for ways to improve the quality of feedback, or respond to it? Leave a comment on this post with your thoughts!

#feedback, #organizer-best-practices

Organizer best practices: paths to leadership, or 11 ways to help your local meetup

As you all probably know, the global community team recommends a flat organizational structure for local WordPress community groups. Because open sourceOpen Source Open Source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Open Source **must be** delivered via a licensing model, see GPL. projects depend on a large, diverse group of contributors to collaborate and iterate quickly, we encourage that community organizers “always be recruiting” (and welcoming, and training) new leaders.

When there are lots of people with leadership experience in a community, local organizers can take more breaks and avoid burnout. As new leaders join the community, they bring new ideas, perspectives, and methods. Because organizers tend to organize for people like themselves, recruiting a diverse group of leaders is especially important — so that the community can take into account a broader spectrum of backgrounds, needs, interests, and lived experience.

OK sure but how?

Most people are on board with the *idea* of a large, diverse leadership team but struggle with recruiting. And that’s not really a surprise! Not all organizations are as open to new leaders as ours, so even constant repetition that “we’re always looking for more organizers” at every meetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area. event might not result in people stepping forward.

One way to make the recruitment process more gentle and perhaps less intimidating is to offer a gradual path to leadership. Many groups have found success with inviting people to help out with smaller, accessible tasks at first. Small contributions can lead to more complex jobs as the volunteer’s confidence and understanding of the group continues to grow.

Here are 11 ways to contribute to your local WordPress meetup, which can also serve as a graceful path to community leadership:

  1. spread the word about the meetup (sharing photos on social media, word of mouth, flyers, blog posts, etc)
  2. greet & welcome new attendees
  3. take attendance (if your group keeps a record of who actually attended the event)
  4. deliver opening or closing remarks (easier if the points to cover are written down)
  5. facilitate a round-table discussion
  6. give a presentation
  7. help find a free venue
  8. record & post a presentation to WordPress.tv
  9. organize refreshments
  10. suggest or recruit speakers
  11. organize an event series

Add to the list

Community organizers, speak out! What can meetup members do to help your group thrive, which aren’t listed above? What does the path to leadership look like in your home community?

Once we collect as many examples as possible, we can create a new Meetup Organizer Handbook page to share these suggestions with current and new Meetup organizers. Please share your ideas and experiences in a comment on this post!

#leadership, #meetups-2, #organizer-best-practices