WordCamp Phoenix Reunion

WordCamp Phoenix Reunion

The inaugural DotOrganize.

WordCamp Phoenix turned 10 and we went big with a reunion celebration!

At our WCPHX organizer kick-off dinner last August, I mustered up the courage to share my vision for our 10 year anniversary. This was to be my last year as lead org and I wanted it to be grand but I knew my vision was a bit campy (you’re not surprised if you know me). My vision was High School Reunion and, thankfully, it was met with acceptance for the most part. Storytelling is huge and it’s a big goal of mine to make sure that attendees, speakers, sponsors, et. al. know and feel the story we’re conveying. So when the team was on board, I was stoked and the planning began!

Patrick & Shayda

My team is awesome! No, like, ridiculous! High performers. Highly intelligent peeps who LOVE our community! And, it shows! From design, to sponsor wrangling, to marketing; they’re so good! I could not breathe without them. We do not call it in. We do not half-arse anything. We pour our hearts and effort into planning WordCamp Phoenix with the goal that attendees find extreme value & community and that sponsors are greatly appreciated and cared for as WordCamps could not happen without them.

So let me tell you what we did…

First things, first. Amirite? After just a couple of tweaks, we settled on our maroon&gold/academic/Hogwarts (😉) theme. We really felt this conveyed our reunion story best as the colors are that of our hometown university, Arizona State, and it had a bit more of a mature look. Almost collegiate, but not quite.
And did you see our Wapuu?? He plays football and is in the marching band! His hat even has a shako plume on it! I LOVE our Wapuues this year!

The WPMU Dev crew.

We had to raise a lot of money. Almost double of what we were asked to raise last year. And we did. In fact, we raised $5,000 more than our goal. How? Because of the smart efforts of Betsy, Kathy, and a really the whole team as we all helped to a level. Also, because I believe sponsors find value in our community and camp. But this is always a delicate balance when it comes to raising money for WordCamps because so much expectation is on our sponsors. Their ROI is extremely important to me. Of course, measuring their ROI is debatable, but our team will do what it takes for our sponsors to find more and more value. We get creative and think of new ways to help this. We keep open lines of communication and make them feel as appreciated as possible. Truly, nothing but love and thanks do I have for them. We could not have a conference without our sponsors!

We took the conference to the Phoenix Convention Center this year planning for 600+ attendees. The location is amazing and the building is nice, but I’m not sure we’ll ever go back. They’re pretty antiquated in their processes and we were met with headache after headache. More so during the actual event than leading up to it. I mean, we don’t regret using them but we’re not planning on returning for anymore local-based WordCamps.

Josh Strebel – Keynote

We had a ton to comb through before narrowing it down to 54 speakers. Our first round was to solicit help from the community for a blind review. Then the orgs go in finalize.
I was giddy with our speakers this year! We had some WCPHX alumn, as well as some newbs, speak. But all eyes were on our keynote speaker Josh Strebel, founder of Pagely. This well-known figure in the global WordPress community calls Arizona home and was one of the founding peeps of, not only our WP Phoenix community but the entire Phoenix startup/tech community. His talk had everyone engaged and locked in.

We straight shut a city street down in order to accommodate using our own catering company! Dennis and I had a meeting with the City of Phoenix, booked a barricade company, ordered trash receptacle, tables & chairs, signed on the dotted line and-voila!-Lunch logistics done!
Like last year, we were going to avoid food trucks (as they take too bloody long) so we used Conceptually Social again. Boy, they shot it out of the park! They built an outdoor kitchen and served amazing food, I mean, frybread?? Have you ever been to a WordCamp and received frybread for lunch?? Here’s a secret: it was gluten-free frybread. We only told those who desired a gluten-free meal. 😜
Snacks and coffee did not go so well. It sucked not being able to provide the usual snacks all day long as the convention center won’t allow outside food and would require an amount equivalent to a house downpayment to purchase snacks from their exclusive F&B vendor. We had to bite the bullet and pay for coffee and water. Next time you run into me, ask me about the coffee and water bill.

Everyone got P.E. shirts & drawstring backpacks! Anthony killed it on the design for those! And speakers got lettermen hoodies complete with varsity “W” letters! All were met with great feedback!

So we had a Homecoming dance. Srsly. Along with eats, a game-truck, and drinks, we hired a professional to come out and teach us bachata! About half the team was with me on this. One of my favorite parts about WordCamp Europe is their epic after-parties. I love it. I wanted to share some of that experience with our local camp if we could. It was a gamble. I thought, “Could we really get a group of techies and keyboard warriors to dance?” Yes! The answer was, “Yes!” I was blown away by the crowd that came out specifically for the lesson. It was so sweet. It was truly a special event. Something for everyone. Don’t worry. We still had quieter spaces for those who like to just talk.

I truly love organizing WordCamp Phoenix. It brings me incredible joy. I love events because they bring communities together AND further cultivate them. From Meetups to networking events, to conferences; my cup runneth over. But this is not a one-human job. It takes many humans. Shout out to all of our event volunteers! Your graciousness to our community does not go unnoticed. But my eternal love goes to my organizing team. Every year there seems to be some negative reoccurrence. Last year it was several speaker drops. This year it was organizer family tragedies. I have to say, I prefer the former. 😢 Several of our organizers really went through some hard times but found it in their kind hearts to continue helping. They are my favorites. Let me count the ways:

Anthony – Your design is incredible and your personality matches! Thank you for coming in blind and serving this community!
Betsy – You are a high performer and extremely intelligent. You are such an asset. I’ve loved getting to know you over the past few years!
Carol – Um, where do I begin? To say I couldn’t breathe without you is an understatement. You are such a rock for the team and for the community. And you slay wrangling sponsors! I love you and being able to serve this community alongside you!
Clancy – I’m so glad you stepped up to become an organizer (and now LEAD!). You killed it wrangling our volunteers this year even with all the difficulties we had there. You’re topnotch talent and someone I’m glad to share adventures with!
Cory – I LOVE HAVING YOU ON OUR TEAM!! Your role is so important and you’ve been a big help there! Your personality and kindness make my heart swell. I’m glad you joined our team!
David – Oh my gosh, I could not breathe without you!! Your abilities with PR and marketing are amazing! A true wordsmith. Not to mention how much you help in sooooo many other areas of planning WCPHX. You’re truly an asset. And I’m sorry Paul Blart tried to tackle you. 😜
Dennis – Dude, I’m grateful you joined the team this year! I really needed help with all things AV and you stepped up like a champ! As well, you helped me with other areas outside of AV and I’m forever grateful!
Jenn – Holy crap, girl! With no experience, you came in and contributed in such a great way! I’m so glad you did and can only hope that it set a spark in you to want more! Thank you and forgive me for throwing you in the deep end! 😅
Justin – Haha! I still think of being at George & Dragon’s talking to other confirmed orgs and then turning to you and asking, “You in?” 😳 And you were in. You wrangled that website like a beast. I’m glad you joined this team, Justin. Thank you.
Kathy – I’m so glad you blind emailed us last summer asking to get involved! You are exactly the person fit for this level of event planning! You go above and beyond and are a Wonder Woman in my eyes! Thank you for joining this team as you did and I hope it was as rewarding to you as it was to me!
Nathan – You’ve been so huge in wrangling our budget! I’m so glad this was off my plate! And I just admire the way you pursued getting involved at this level. You’re so intelligent and a true asset. Thank you, thank you!

Did I mention I was fighting the sick the whole time? Rarely do I even get sick but it got me. My voice was sooo bad! But I am a fighter and pushed through. Thursday through Sunday, I made it. And then was bedridden the following three days. 😷😅

This was my last year in the lead role for a while. I’ll still be on the team but this is good. Organizing WordCamp Phoenix for the past four years has been truly special. I learned a ton. I experienced a ton. I grew in so much knowledge. It even directly led me to my next career move! This is the magic of our community. I hope you join us and experience it for yourself.

We busted through some parchment paper!

WordCamp Phoenix 2018

WordCamp Phoenix 2018

I wore the Lead Organizer hat for WordCamp Phoenix 2018 and suffered through excruciating life happenings simultaneously.

But we’ll get to that later…

Last weekend WCPHX successfully completed. It was riddled with conflict. There was a point that I thought it might not happen. I lost sight for a moment.

Let’s back up.

We’re going big WCPHX!

Late Spring last year, my WordCamp Husband” Justin (who was the WC lead atm) brought to the team the crazy idea of planning a smaller single-track WCPHX in the Fall and a bigger 3-track WCPHX in Q1 2018. Why? Do you remember older WCPHXes? Always Q1. Always huge with ~ 750 attendees. We wanted to bring that back. So, being the ambitious and tenacious soul that I am, I was all in.

Fall came and went and was hugely successful. Almost too successful. We capped the attendees at 300 and sold out early on. The feedback that we got from our Fall event was over-the-top! I mean, talk about the feels! Did you see our video?

Yep, planning for the 2018 event overlapped with the Fall event (in fact, I was even planning for WCUS too 😅)! But everything was going according to plan. We knew our theme, the team was set with myself in the lead seat for the first time. The wheels were moving!

The challenges.

We had a late start on our ticket sales because we were waiting for our site design (which turned out amaze). By the time we started selling, ticket sales were crawling. I was scared. Because of our quick turnaround, we retained most of the team in their same role which meant I still headed up Sponsor Wrangling. Having wrangled sponsors for the previous two WordCamps, I know the weight of caring for them. Their ROI is super important to me. I was in plenty of conversations with potential sponsors promising a big event. “Five hundred to six hundred attendees.” I kept saying. Thankfully we sold over 520 tickets! 😅

For the life of us, we couldn’t get enough volunteers. I think there might’ve been some community fatigue. Understood. We were even asking, nay, begging our headquartered sponsors (Phoenix is spoiled with SiteLock, GoDaddy, Bluehost, & Pagely sharing a home with us) to ask their employees to volunteer. When we did get just enough volunteers, several of them dropped like flies right before the event. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Thankfully our Volunteer Wrangler Andrea handled the entire sitch most gracefully as we did not go without.

We just submitted the application to host WCUS 2019/20!

The application to host WordCamp US 2019/20 was due February 2nd! Like, are you kidding me? Right in the middle of planning our event?? 😅 Oh man, we were so pumped though. Carol, Justin, and I poured blood, sweat, and tears into this application even though we were already pouring blood, sweat, and tears into WCPHX planning! It was a wild ride and a challenge indeed but we did it! A big shout out to our WPAZ community that made short video clips campaigning for Phoenix to win the bid! Watch!

Speakers were backing out. I mean, we all know this happens. Life happens. In fact, we should expect it. But this was more than usual. We dipped into all our backups & even had to reach out to a community member who didn’t even apply. Thankfully the team was prepared for the loss of speakers and everything worked out. Major credit to our Speaker Wrangler Carol who is a beast! Like, totes ridic. I could not have taken breaths of oxygen without her.

grassroots son

Passing out wcphx flyers!

We lost our keynote. I know. Some of you are thinking, “And? Big deal. WordCamps don’t necessarily need a keynote.” And I would agree with you. Only we put too many eggs in the keynote-basket this time. Our fault. We centered our Camp around this person. Why? This person is a legit amazing human that gets community and changing the world and they spoke at WCPHX before receiving high praise. So yes, marketing was heavily pushing them. The team passed out flyers with their face on it all around DTPHX during First Friday as we were trying to sell tickets. Our schedule was stopping Camp for the Keynote, streaming it to our other rooms to make sure all could watch. And 10 days out from camp, life happened, and we were without that which we invested so much into.

Cautious Raquel

Me wondering, “What next?”

We were devastated. Then we scrambled. Like chickens with our heads cut off, we went to town attempting to find a replacement. One by one our efforts were met with dead ends. I was exhausted. Then we redirected our efforts. Maybe a panel? In lieu of a high caliber keynote speaker a high caliber panel of individuals who found significant success via the WordPress platform. Good! So whom? 🤔 Thankfully one was already speaking at our WordCamp. They were in! Who else? Seriously emotionally drained and fatigued, I went to our WPAZ Tempe Meetup because I’m an assistant organizer and the show must go on. There I was met with an incredible act of community. Upon hearing the news, Devin Sears went above and beyond to help us. He quickly reached out to his team to help us find a solution. And when a dead end came up, he did not stop. He kept going until finally, someone was in! I felt like he lifted up a lot of the weight I was carrying, placed some of it on his shoulders, and then pressed on towards the goal while giving me the strength to do the same. When I expressed my gratefulness, he would just state over and over that, “We’re all in this together.” 😍😢😊😭❤ And this is why I love our community…
Thankfully I have a relationship with the final panelist and after a pathetically endearing email of begging, they were in too! And the rest is history…

Except for life.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, life hit me hard right in the middle of planning WordCamp and it hasn’t stopped. Unfortunately, due to its current nature, I cannot go into details. But I’m a firm believer in vulnerability and honesty. I believe this it was makes a community a community and what makes it last. So I tell you this to reveal that I’m not perfect. I tell you so you can see an example of how success can be found through hard times if one keeps pressing forward and surrounds themselves with a supportive team. I tell you life is devastating right now so that maybe IRL, we might connect. I tell you so that you might think of me and/or pray for me. I need it.

Moving forward.

While life is excruciating right now, I cannot ignore all the many blessings that occurred during the planning of WCPHX so let me count them.

Shayda & Leslie got my back!

    1. My organizing team – They’re elite. Top notch! And my, do they support me. I wouldn’t have made it without them. Thank you, Justin, Carol, Dave, Betsy, Andrea, Clancy, Cory, and Leslie! Your support means the world to me.
    2. Our WordPress Community – I’m still in awe… Often I tell outsiders that much like WordPress is an open source software made better by volunteers, our community works the same way. Know what I mean? And the friends I’ve made… True brothers and sisters who I know have my back.
    3. Friends – You have fought for me and made me feel loved. Thank you.

      Devin & C-Tutt.

    4. Galvanize – You’ve been a comfort to office out of and an incredible venue to have our WordCamp! Plus your events team is elite and made our planning lightened.
    5. Conceptually Social Catering – Thank you for your commitment to Downtown Phoenix and for allowing us to expedite our lunch much faster than food trucks!
    6. Selling over 520 tickets – I look back and think, “Seriously? We just had a WordCamp four months ago. I can’t believe we went bigger and succeeded!” Credit to our legit community and to my amazing team! I am humbled that you still want to come out and play. I did not deserve for this to happen. I wanted our sponsors to be fulfilled. I pray they were. Thank you, God, for this undeserved blessing.

So with that, be on the lookout for WordCamp 2019 in early Q1. It’ll be our 10 year anniversary! You don’t want to miss it. And I don’t want to miss you.