10 things we learned from our very first wordcamp (from a marketer’s and designer’s perspective)

Wow, what a weekend! The Speedyrails team came back from attending our very first WordCamp in Montréal, which took place August 11–12, 2018, feeling more inspired and connected than ever. For those who don’t know, WordCamps are community-organized events that focus on everything WordPress. Anyone can attend a WordCamp—so don’t worry if you’re not an expert WordPress developer. People from all fields, backgrounds, and experience levels are welcome to participate, share ideas, and get to know each other. The community is what makes these events what they are, and we were so happy to be able to experience it for ourselves.

We enjoyed a variety of sessions in both French and English–there was always a talk or two we wanted to attend during each time-slot. The cost of a ticket included talks, breakfast, beverages (including fruit-infused water!) as well as two delicious lunches and an afterparty. It’s a very accessible event if you’re interested in learning more about WordPress or sharing your expertise with the community. You can check if there’s an upcoming WordCamp in your area here.

So without further adieu, here are Leanne and Sarah’s key takeaways and reflections from WordCamp Montréal 2018!

From Leanne (Marketing)

1) Community is paramount.

WordPress enthusiasts bring WordCamps to life–literally. Without volunteer organizers, knowledgeable speakers, and passionate attendees, WordCamps wouldn’t exist. The more events I attend, the more I realize how vital community is. It’s where people can meet and make connections, learn more about topics they’re actually interested in, and feel like they’re a part of something bigger. If there’s something you’re passionate about or want to learn more about, join some meetup groups! Attend some events! Get involved! You never know where it will lead you. 

2) There’s room for everyone at the table. Even competitors.

Although we didn’t have a booth at the event, we met plenty of WordPress enthusiasts–including some of our own competitors. But that’s part of what makes WordPress so great: everyone is welcome–even multiple WordPress hosting companies. Some even led a few of the talks and shared their expertise with everyone. At the end of the day, all attendees and sponsors are there because they share a common interest–WordPress. And that’s the beauty of attending WordCamp.

3) SEO practices from a technical perspective.

As a marketer, you hear a lot about SEO. Most of the time (or at least in my experience), SEO is talked about in relation to writing web content. There was a great talk from Myriam Jessier at WordCamp Montréal about implementing SEO practices from a technical perspective. These tips ranged from how to optimize images and videos on your site, to adding “breadcrumbs” within your site, to creating an ideal website architecture. It was super helpful for a marketer with no technical background!

4) CSS isn’t as scary as it seems.

As a marketer/communicator who knows very little (read: nothing) about coding, the topic can be a little daunting to me! Our public site runs on WordPress, and there are often times that we have to add custom CSS to make our WordPress theme do what we want it to do. I would love to learn how to do these customizations myself, and a talk by Kathryn Presner has motivated me to start learning! And if anything, I’ll always have Google.

5) Technical and non-technical colleagues should meet in the middle.

There’s often a divide between technical and non-technical workers in an organization. Not because these workers don’t like each other on a personal level—it’s because they don’t fully understand how the “other side” works. By coming together from a place of empathy and understanding, it is possible to work effectively together. If you do design or marketing, learn a little code. Learn what the different application frameworks are. Learn about agile methodology. And most importantly, make an effort to communicate with each other. Both parties will benefit, I promise.

From Sarah (Design)

6) Bilingual design & marketing is easier than you think (if you plan for it).

Bilingual marketing has its challenges, but if you know what they are ahead of time, you can better prepare for them in your marketing plan. Brand identity, content production and rollout, reaching audiences, audience fragmentation, cultural nuances, hiring talent, and budget are just a few challenges mentioned by Dana Dragomir in her talk. Luckily for us, she covered some great strategies to use when dealing with these roadblocks. A good example is that audience size should direct some of your social media choices regarding bilingualism. If you have a large enough audience, you can create separate Facebook pages based on language, but this strategy won’t be as effective with smaller audiences.

7) You can play games right in Mac’s Terminal!

The graphics leave a little to be desired, but I think we can all get past that because of how neat this feature is!

Open your Mac’s Terminal, then type:


and hit “enter” on your keyboard. Press the “fn” and “F10” keys at the same time (if you’re on a macbook), then press the “t” key, and finally the “g” key. Now you should see a list navigable by using your arrow keys, and you can find my personal favourite, Tetris! Go here in your browser for some awesome tunes before pressing “enter” on that classic in the Terminal.

As a designer who codes HTML, CSS, and only a tiny bit of javascript, the terminal honestly scares me a little, so I love finding ways to make something intimidating more approachable!

8) Your hosting provider can play a huge part in your maintenance plan.

When creating a maintenance plan for your WordPress site (an important thing to do so you spend less time fixing things when they inevitably break), determine how much time and resources you have while remembering: time is money. Checking theme and plugin updates can be time consuming, so schedule your updates and plan for them so they actually get done. This isn’t just about your website staying online–it can be the difference between whether or not your website is secure. See if your hosting provider can offer any maintenance assistance. Despite the cost, you’ll be thankful for the peace of mind you get from knowing your site is always in tip-top shape.

9) Use words that mean something.

It’s very tempting when writing for web and social to use words that are strong and impactful. Unfortunately, these words often come up short because they’re unquantifiable. Words like “powerful” are more difficult for your audience to connect with because their value isn’t quantifiable (i.e. it can’t be measured). This is one of the reasons why writing for marketing can be difficult. But when pairing it with takeaway #10—also from presenter Sheridan Scott—you can begin to see the right way to start drafting your next writing project.

10) Benefits are more important than features.

When you spend so much of your time dedicated to developing and polishing the features of your product, business, or website, it’s understandable that you want your audience to know all about those wonderful features. After all, you know how much those features can improve their lives… but the issue is that your audience may not see those benefits. So, instead of writing about the features, try framing your writing around the benefits your audience will experience instead. 

Keep an eye out for Speedyrails at future WordCamps! We’ll see you there,

—Leanne and Sarah

P.S. We have an exclusive deal for WordCamp Montréal attendees and blog readers: get 50% off your first year of Managed WordPress Hosting here!

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