Welcome to the virtual wild west, or as we like to call it WordCamp ATX. This year marks the first WordCamp ATX event to be hosted in the capital of Texas since 2017 and the organizers worked diligently to curate a truly unique virtual event that celebrates the city of Austin and WordPress. Hundreds of attendees from all over the world gathered together online to network, meet sponsors, and engage with a wonderful series of WordCamp talks streamed via YouTube live. WordCamp ATX 2020 was led by Bluehost Sr.Field Marketer Devin Sears and Sr. Event Manager Breann Mcdede who collaborated with an amazing organizing team that recreated the magic of WordCamps with an online experience attendees wouldn’t forget.
Planning a Virtual WordCamp
With everything that has transpired this year, the organizing team was determined to lean into the challenge of hosting an online event. The heralding call from the beginning was “let’s embrace the online medium.” The WCATX org team wanted to avoid virtual burnout and put together a day of programming that offered new and exciting ways of learning while providing the space for attendees to network with friends and peers.
The team utilized Slack for communication and had channels for each of the headlining sponsors as well as a ‘digital job board’ where people could post the open positions in their company or post their resume. There was also a general discussion channel where speakers could post their slides and relevant links. This was a great solution for introverts in addition to new users who might want to hear questions and observe the conversations, but engage at their own pace.
In order to virtually replicate the traditional WordCamp atmosphere, the team leveraged a virtual hallway track that simulated an in-person gathering versus a panel of faces on a virtual call. Attendees could meet their friends in the hallway and watch the speakers/musicians while conversing with those around them. Although attendees may have been keeping a physical distance it was refreshing to be digitally surrounded by friends across the globe, gathered in a single space to learn WordPress and encourage others to build their dreams online.
Launching WordCamp ATX
WordCamp sessions were streamed in two rooms that allowed them to network and engage with the speaker session via a live YouTube chat with the help of Blaze, a production agency. Over the course of the day attendees were able to listen to speaker sessions that covered topics like updates to the WordPress platform, accessibility, diversity, and improving their eCommerce experience.
One of the highlights of the event was live musical performances between speaker sessions that showcased an array of talent from all over the world. The organizing team wanted the focus to be on the diverse talent pool in the WordPress community and were excited to have received a multitude of submissions to select from for the event. Austin is known as the “Live Musical Capital of the World” and these talented musicians were able to showcase their unique stylings throughout the entire event and after-party.
Overall, the event was a success! The reaction on Twitter was overwhelmingly positive. People were praising the musicians and the speakers alike. The YouTube streams and the virtual space was populated the entire day by attendees. The organizers were thrilled to see the community come out and support the 12 speakers and 8 musicians who delighted viewers throughout the one-day event. With any luck, the musical portion of the event will be implemented into future WordCamps in Austin. Whether that’s online or in-person, Bluehost and the community will be there- cheering them on!