I was one of the proud organizers of WordCamp Nashik 2016 (link) happened on 16’th October this year. This was my first WordCamp as an organizer and it was also the inaugural WordCamp for the Wine Capital of India i.e. Nashik. It took more than a year (yes, you read it correct) to plan and execute this event as I still remember our first meeting to discuss about the same. This complete year was full of learnings, meeting new people and making new friends.
This blog post doesn’t reflect about our mistakes or things that we missed while organizing WordCamp Nashik 2016. It is a general article to help anyone organize a better WordCamp by taking a note from an organizer who, along with an awesome organizing team and volunteers, executed a successful WordCamp.
In the process of building a WordPress community in a Tier-III city of India and executing one of the best WordCamps in India so far (as many attendees are saying so), here are few things I learnt. With this list, I just want to help people who are willing to organize a WordCamp in their city, so that they can execute the event as smoothly as possible.
Important Things I Learnt as an Organizer of WordCamp Nashik 2016
Here are few important learning and highlights from my experience from organizing one of the best WordCamp in India till date.
- Focus on building a WordPress Community at Local level rather than just preparing for an event. Community of enthusiasts can execute the event, but event can not build the community.
- Have at least 1 meetup every month and every meetup should have at least 1 session of 15 – 20 minutes on anything related to WordPress. Encourage local speakers at meetups
- Choose lead organizer wisely (the most important thing for any event). It is the responsibility of the meetup group to choose their lead organizer for that particular year. Here are few qualities the community should look at while deciding their lead organizer
- One who understands the meaning of a Community and specially WordPress Community.
- One who knows the purpose of a WordCamp and that purpose should match with the explained details on WordCamp Central website
- One who understands the meaning of GPL, Open Source
- One who knows how to get things done from other members
- One who is having respect in the community as far as WordPress is concerned
- One who is open for discussion and have patience to listen to others
- One who can handle pressure without losing cool (very important) as he is going to face lot many challenges where his strength will be checked
- One who understands the meaning of privacy and importance of time
- One who knows the meaning of keeping people together at any cost
- One who has attended at least one WordCamp
- One who communicates well and knows the importance of organizing team and mentors
- At the start of your planning, note down the goals that you like to achieve by hosting this event. That note or sheet will help you keep motivated throughout the phase
- Read as much as possible about WordCamps happening in other parts of India and World. Try to learn and implement good things from there. (Forking)
- Set the number of expected attendees at the start of your event and don’t change that in any circumstances. Plan everything for that number only and just execute it without changing or modifying that number
- Once the budget is decided from Central, don’t expect extra money from there. It doesn’t look good. Try to raise money from sponsors and get things done
- Arrange a meeting to discuss things related to sponsor management. Discuss and decide about refund process, sponsor area layout etc. before opening the Call for Sponsor
- Social Media is your best friend when you execute such event in a Tier II, III or IV city. Nowadays it doesn’t matter where the event is, what matters is whether you are creating a buzz or not. And keep a note of what you are promising so that one should not feel cheated. One of the organizer should focus on Social Media e.g. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook management and keep posting engaging updates with a vision. Decide the #hashtag for the event at start and use that only in your tweets and updates. Thanks Rahul for suggesting a small #WCNashik hashtag for WordCamp Nashik.
- Have at least one person in your organizing team who has sponsored any previous WordCamp or any other event. Take feedback and inputs from him/her to make things better for sponsors
- Invest good amount of time in selecting speakers and panelists. Try to showcase new and experienced speakers in the ratio of 60:40 respectively but don’t just pick any. Schedule an interview with all applicants and communicate the results as soon as possible.
- Ask speakers to send their presentations at least a week before the event. Club all presentations in a single Keynote and share that with speakers. Get confirmation and approval from their side. If any changes required from particular speaker, update the slides and get the approval.
- Don’t try to volunteer for the catering, give that to a good vendor
- Venue – It is not compulsory to have a professional venue, you can also pick a college or a community hall with auditorium. There are few things to look at that place. It should have following properties,
- Auditorium with projector should accommodate 65% of the total number of attendees. Don’t go for bigger auditorium. Pick one with maximum strength of 80% of your total number of expected attendees
- It should have a large hall or open area to put sponsor’s stalls and networking area. That will be your Hallway. Don’t forget to put table/chair for networking, it doesn’t cost much but gives comfort for networking
- Try to arrange food court between the Hallway and Auditorium, avoid having it on a separate floor. People should always remain near to the Auditorium and Hallway
- If planning for Multi-track event, utilize smaller rooms with 2 door entry/exit for the convenience of attendees
- Even if multiple entry points available at the venue, keep only one open and close the others. This will help you avoid any confusion
- Put some tables and chairs near the charging points to help people charge their devices (doesn’t cost much, but very helpful)
- Put the Registration counter outside the Hallway to avoid any rush
- Good Parking Space and dedicated Smoking Zone. Use signage to direct attendees to different places
- Start the Registration process at least 1 hr. before the opening keynote
- Providing Wi-Fi facility per 100 attendees doesn’t cost more than Rs. 4,000/- so arrange a good one. Don’t go for free service provider on barter system, go for paid ones
- Volunteer the still photography part but try to get a professional for Video Recordings, it will not cost more than Rs. 5,000/- for the complete day. Professional videos can be uploaded on WordPress.tv to help others watch the session online sometime
- Swag from Organizers – A very difficult part to decide between the organizers. Don’t go for electronic items as that will not help in spreading the message about WordPress or the community. I feel T-Shirt, or Cap or Bag should be a standard and then you can get stickers (good quality) of your WordCamp Logo. Nothing else.
- Don’t put effort in getting deals from Hotels. Focus on sharing as much information as possible about the lodging options available nearby the venue. Putting a map may help people decide in picking the best suitable option for themselves .
- Write content about what to do on other days if someone reaches your city a day before and stays for couple of days after the event. Clearly mention if there is any before-event or eve party of meetup possible from organizers
- Set a clear rule for free tickets, after party entry etc. You can distribute extra passes at the end if you have few left, but assign only one person to manage these tickets and passes
- Have weekly meeting to discuss the budget and expenses. A very important thing for a successful event.
- To manage and get things done from Volunteers, follow these things
- Have at least 2 briefings before the event. 1’st at any place but another briefing at the venue
- Show and explain them the areas available for the event e.g. Food Court, Community Bar, Happiness Bar, Hallway, Auditorium
- Ask them to remember the schedule of sessions
- Explain them about the Sponsor Areas like Gold, Silver area etc.
- Ask them to escalate things if required and assign an organizer to each volunteer
- Keep at least 2 volunteers in the auditorium to pass the mic
- Ask them to be polite with attendees and if required, direct the attendees to nearest organizer available
- Clearly mention in the brief whether they will be allowed to attend After-party
- Banner and Standee Printing. You need to trust one organizer for the print designs. Pick one organizer who understands the design part better. Ask the vendor to get approval from that person before printing. Lead Organizer should not invest much time in tracking Print work and Food vendors
- Get Swags with Prints and Mementos (if any) at least 7 Days before the event to avoid any problem in the 11’th hour.
WordCamp Nashik 2016 was a little different from other WordCamps in terms of sponsor area and other arrangements. Some of you may think that we could have saved some money and gave it back to the Central or keep that as buffer. I totally agree on that and currently our finance team is working on the transparency report, so fingers crossed for the sending money to Central part. Believe me, if it was not Nashik, it could have been any other city to showcase WordCamp this way. There were so many areas to improve the standard of a WordCamp in India, that with small effort, Nashik received a lot of praise. Read the following blog posts where attendees, sponsors, speakers share their thoughts about #WCNashik.
As you have raised money from sponsors, there should not be any issue in using just 20% of the raised money back to their facilities and stalls. If a Tier II or III cities are charging X amount to the sponsor, a Tier I city will charge at least 1.5X for the same slot. That should solve the problem of inflation and extras.
I would suggest to put the creative part of your brain active and think about some unique things which will help the community. For example, I am so proud of this QR code design of the Community Bar which costs less than Rs. 1,000/- but received so many positive feedback.
— Rahul Bansal (@rahul286) October 16, 2016
I am open to all the discussions about the event (created a thread on WordPress India group on Facebook too) and can share my experiences on personal level as well. The intention of WordCamp Nashik 2016 organizing team was to provide a satisfactory experience to everyone including attendees, speakers, sponsors and I think we achieved that part a little. The feedback received from attendees will help us in arranging even better WordCamp net year and we all are ready for that.
WordCamp Nashik Raised the Bar for WordCamps in India?
All the cities are different and so will be their WordCamps. I like meeting new people, making new friends and sharing ideas with others and that will always be there in all WordCamps. Every WordCamp is unique and you will always find something interesting in all such events. WordCamp Nashik was not about raising the bar or setting a benchmark, the only thing is we did few things right and so did many other WordCamps. For example, the content marketing was way better in WordCamp Pune 2015 and so was the sponsor logo placement on the site. Mumbai WordCamp 2016 was full of amazing sessions and discussions and so was their website in terms of design and responsiveness. There was so much diversity in terms of content in the sessions of #WCMumbai.
All WordCamp organizers try their best to do something new and good, and that’s what we also did at #WCNashik. We all should learn from each other and try to make our WordCamp good rather than thinking about setting a benchmark.
WordCamp Nashik 2016 was a good experience to attendees/sponsors/speakers and that will be remembered for the experience. I wish all the best to the organizers of upcoming WordCamps and hope that these points will help you make your WordCamp amazing. Ping me if you like to discuss anything on the preparation and execution part.
Watch this video to get a feel of WordCamp Nashik 2016. Thanks for reading such a long article, post your feedback via comment.