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!
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!
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.
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.