The first time I attended a WordCamp was in 2015. I never had thought it would change my life, but at that moment I felt alone: I just knew nobody. Many of the attendees appeared to know each other and greeted each other as if they had not seen each other for a long time. So, there I was. I walked around all by myself and had no one to talk to.
Many first-time WordCamp attendees will definitely recognize it and to them, it looks like a WordCamp is just one big reunion. And that is truly one of the strong aspects of a WordCamp: bringing together so many WordPress people from all over the world. Many attendees make appointments with WordPress friends to attend a WordCamp together. They have been seeing each other on Slack so often, that new friendships arise.
The people from the WordPress community agree to have dinner somewhere or do something extracurricular, something not related to WordPress. And they do these community meetings because they want to and like to. What if these community meetings would be stimulated from within the WordPress community itself, not as part of the WordCamp, but just as an extra, socializing event?
On October 28th 2018 WordCamp Utrecht had its first Community Day. It started as an idea based on similar activities incidentally seen around the globe. The adage intended: Screen off, fun mode on! We had an idea, but it was difficult to explain and even sell the idea. At first, attendees were not too keen on purchasing tickets for the event and that made sense because we had not published any details regarding the activities yet. The hesitance of the attendees itself made it again difficult to book an activity. We had a couple of ideas but the organizing companies were hesitant because we could not give the exact number of participants and they wanted to be paid in advance. On the other hand, we did not want to carry the financial risk of fewer people showing up for the Community Day event. So we finally ended up with a Dutch game called “Vossenjacht“, a kind of a scavenger hunt, but we called it: Spot the Sponsor. The sponsors were instructed to hide in plain sight within a certain part of the city centre of Utrecht. The attendees were divided into smaller groups of four persons each and had to find the sponsors. When a sponsor was found, the chasing team had to make a selfie together with the sponsors and post it on the Facebook page of WordCamp Utrecht. The time frame for the game was 120 minutes. Prizes were awarded to the teams who were the fastest in spotting the sponsors.
There was plenty of time for chitchatting, laughter and fun during the game. The competition element of the game gave it an extra dimension. For the sponsors, it also meant some extra attention from the attendees or players. The Community Day started with a quick brunch together and ended with a couple of drinks. During these moments there was plenty of time to get to know each other better and to make further appointments after the game.
What can be learned from the WordCamp Utrecht Community Day?
- It satisfies a certain need for doing something else together
- It should not cost too much extra, at least no more than the day price of a regular WordCamp ticket (€20 per day)
- There has to be a real commitment to attend the event, so payment should be made in advance (unfortunately tickets for these events are not allowed to be sold through the regular WordCamp sales procedure)
- There should be plenty of time for socializing with other WordCamp attendees
- The group of attendees should not be too large, 50 people max
- Have some sort of competition between players or teams
- Create random teams
- Have fun
- Share on social media
- Involve sponsors!
Would I organize a Community Day again next year?