I’ve always been of the opinion that WordCamp is about everything that happens outside of the presentations. Whilst that is still the most important to me, I do find myself occasionally looking at the presentation schedule and not feeling particular excited for a number of sessions. Why is that?
I’ve pondered over this question during the past few events and have come to the conclusion that sessions which focus on general knowledge as opposed to specific experiences simply interest me less (full disclaimer: I’ve been guilty of incorporating some of those elements in my presentations too).
Characteristics of such “general knowledge” presentations could be summarized as such:
- Regurgitating Tutorials / Codex
- List-based Presentations
- Product explanations
Said differently, if a few simple searches on Google cover 90% of the talking points, there’s little value (regardless if you’re a beginner or an advanced user). There are so many resources online covering the area of WordPress “general knowledge” that a person can effectively find pages that match their skill level within minutes.
Let’s look at a few presentation topics that keep popping up at WordCamps and see how they could potentially become more interesting:
- Introduction to Custom Post Types or How we used Custom Post Types & Google Maps to create a University Campus Map
- WordPress and SEO or WordPress, SEO and how we boosted Donations for our Charity by 361%
- Introducing SuperEpicPress or Everything that went wrong releasing our Premium Plugin
The fundamental difference here, is that domain expertise by itself doesn’t pique my interest, much less get me excited about an idea. Domain expertise mixed with successes, failures, lessons learned and real experiences however does. It can transform a bland presentation into something that inspires, motivates and further ignites lengthy discussions. More than anything though, these sort of case study presentations add real value and depth to the WordPress ecosystem, especially when we’re already all sitting in the same room.
To further help describe the idea, here are some talks I thought fit this concept of a Case Studies or Lessons Learned track particularly well:
- The Business of Code by Adii Pienaar, SF’12
- WordPress for a family history project by John Adams, UK’12
- Our Greatest Mistakes by David Coveney, UK’11
In a nutshell, if your WordCamp is a multi-track event, I propose cutting out the linear or general knowledge presentations and add a “Case Studies” or “Lessons Learned” track. Here are some ideas to get the process moving:
- Before WordCamp, ask attendees to reflect on the past year and to seek out their greatest successes, failures or lessons learned using WordPress.
- Shoot for 20-30 minutes talking with 5-10 minutes for questions (though insightful presentations always prompt more questions).
- Smart Snippets: Talk holistically about specific code, but include links to full code Gists within the relevant slides. This way both beginners and advanced users are satisfied.
Do you agree with the overall idea or have a completely different opinion? Any takers? Vote and discuss.