Planning WordCamp Dayton: a first-time organizer’s journey

The background

I’ve been to several WordCamps and had always thought it would be great to have one in Dayton. I had no real intent on organizing one; but when so many people ask for a WordCamp, you start thinking about how you can help make it happen.

In October 2012, Nowell VanHoesen and I started a Dayton WordPress MeetUp group. WordPress interest was there, but was there enough of a community established to organize a WordCamp? We put the feelers out in our regoin: there were people from Southern Ohio who weren’t able to make the meetups but said they’d attend a WordCamp closer to home. So we applied to organize WordCamp Dayton 2014, talked to WordCamp Central, got approved for pre-planning, and got started on our adventure.

So it begins

One of the big hurdles for holding a WordCamp is that, like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. We got a lot of help from the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an organization that not only helps small and growing businesses but also promotes WordPress. The SBDC operates out of Wright State University (WSU), which donated their facilities for the event.

The teams

The importance of recruiting enough volunteers to help putting this event together cannot be over emphasized. We had some people who were great at getting sponsorships, while others coordinated with the venue. I would definitely advise ensuring each member of the organizing team is assigned not only a specific group but also has hard-set goals/objectives with dates.

The big day

A word of wisdom: get plenty of rest before WordCamp. That being said, if you are able to set-up the night before, you’ll be happy you did. Since WordCamp Dayton was held in a college, the possibility of having our tables moved around by students had us setting up at 6:30 in the morning for an 8:00am registration.

Once you’re set-up and the registration volunteers are checking in attendees, it’s all about ensuring everything is running smoothly. Fresh coffee, plenty of napkins, snacks, drinks, lunch — the works. Prepare yourself for a lot of running around, double-, triple-, and quadruple-checking. The last thing you want to hear in the afternoon is that the battery for a video camera is dead or that a presenter can’t connect their laptop to the overhead projector. Trust me, these things WILL come up.

That’s a wrap

After the wrap-up, it’s important to have a team of individuals to help with cleanup. Remember that 90 minute set-up at 6:30am? Well, now it’s time to break it all down! There’s nothing worse than having to cart around two dozen tables after you’ve been running around for the past 8 hours.

Remember how I recommended getting plenty of rest beforehand? This is where your second wind will hopefully be kicking in.

In the end

Once the smoke cleared and I looked back over the WordCamp weekend, I told myself I’d never do this again. Then I remembered the people who told me how much they learned and thought back to the new connections I saw being made. I was able to see firsthand how the WordPress community actually grows, and I realized I contributed to WordPress by helping organize this WordCamp. It was at that moment that I smiled and realized that we should start talking about 2015.

Huge props and special thank yous to Brian Retterer, Heather Powell, Chris Celek, Earl Gregorich, Josh Hatfield, Nowell VaneHoesen, Christa VaneHoesen, Zach VaneHoesen, Max Spang, Josh Boone, and the many others who worked make this WordCamp happen.

If you’re in or around Dayton, you’re invited to our monthly WordPress meetup group to talk WordPress and connect with other Dayton-area WordPress enthusiasts. Meetups are free and really fun.

7 Replies to Planning WordCamp Dayton: a first-time organizer’s journey

  1. Joe Rozsa says:

    It was great to attend WordCamp Dayton for a few reasons. One. I love to present at them (thanks for having me Nate). Two. I love to attend WordCamps in general. Three. I was in Nate’s shoes last year when I organized WordCamp North Canton. Our day started out with our venue doors being locked. Uh… now what? Nate to the rescue! He found an open door somewhere else on campus and found his way back to us on the outside and opened the door so we could come inside. Ooops! We set off the alarm too. I told my fellow organizers and friends that putting a WordCamp together is like putting a wedding together. You need a place. You need food. You need people. Organization… all of it. I, like Nate planned our WordCamp after attending and presenting at previous events. My friends from WordCamp Toronto “urged” me to organize one. “It’s not that hard.” Oh man. Seeing Nate throughout the day, reminded me of how I must have looked. I too swore that I wouldn’t do it again. But as people began to talk and feedback came in… it really wasn’t the disaster I visioned in my head. Now we’re just around the corner from WordCamp 2014 on May 2 and 3 and I couldn’t be more excited. Organizing a WordCamp is a lot of work for sure, but if you have a strong planning committee to help, it’s really a lot of fun. WordCamp Dayton was incredible, I enjoyed every minute. Nate and his entire crew did an amazing job.

  2. Cory Miller says:

    Nathan, huge thanks to you and the organizing / volunteer group for a spectacular WordCamp. I’ve been to a share in my day but you guys cared and it showed.

    For anyone willing to stick their necks out and do the work – I say THANKS! It’s people like you caring that make WordCamps so great.

  3. Kim Parsell says:

    Nathan, I want you to know how much all of us appreciate all of the hard work that you and the rest of the team put in to making the first WordCamp Dayton an awesome success! :)

    Take a break, get caught up on your rest, then you can start thinking about WordCamp Dayton 2015.

    And yes, I’ll be at that one too. ;)

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