Getting the most out of WordCamp

After roughly 3 months of planning, WordCamp Las Vegas is happening tomorrow. I'm currently filled with mixed emotions. I'm very excited for tomorrow, it's going to be a lot of fun. But, Sunday morning I'll wake up and it will all be over for another year. Wait a sec, that sounds pretty awesome, too! 🙂

One of the things that I spend a fair amount of timing doing is answering emails from people who are planning on attending. While some of the questions are unique to our event tomorrow (i.e. where's the best place to park), many of the questions are universal to WordCamps and most any tech conference. So I thought it might be useful to share some of those questions and answers with you.

What should I bring with me to WordCamp?
Grand Canyon backpack
For starters, if you look like this guy, you are doing it wrong! I've been to a few dozen conferences over the past two years and on a few occassions I have tried to pack my laptop, SLR camera and lenses and a jacket. The best advice I can give you is to pack as light as you can. Bring something to take notes and maybe a sweatshirt (conference halls have a way of getting chilly) that you can tie around your waist, and leave the rest back at the hotel. Last weekend I went to BlogWorld and carried only my iPad and it was one of the best conference experiences I've had in a while.

There are multiple sessions going on at the same time I want to see, which should I go to?
Major rule coming up… DO NOT STRESS OUT! Most WordCamp events are recorded, so even if two speakers you want to see are going on at the same time, you'll likely be able to catch the other a short time later online.

Sticking with the no stress rule, when you are in a session, don't spend the entire time with your head down frantically trying to dictate every word or slide. Most speakers will make their presentation materials available almost immediately following the event. Instead, pay attention and jot down short notes about items you want to research further when you get back home. You aren't going to learn everything about a topic from a 45 minute presentation anyway.

I'd really like to meet (speaker), will they be available to talk to?
One of the biggest values of a WordCamp (or any conference, for that matter) is the networking. Not just for the attendees, but for the speakers, too. I know when I'm speaking at a conference, I spend as much time as I can chatting with people between sessions, at lunch and at the after parties. On very rare occassions a speaker may have other commitments and won't be able to stick around. But that's the exception, not the rule. So don't be shy, step up and say hello!

In closing, the 3 most important rules are:
– Keep stress low
– Meet as many new people as you can

(photo by pagedooley, used via Creative Commons)