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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Friends – You have fought for me and made me feel loved. Thank you.
- 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.
- Conceptually Social Catering – Thank you for your commitment to Downtown Phoenix and for allowing us to expedite our lunch much faster than food trucks!
- 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.