OpenCamp Dallas 2010 Post-Game

OpenCamp Welcome Banner by Jennifer Conley [http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenniferconley/4944331594/in/set-72157624721564411/]

It’s the Tuesday after the Tuesday after one of the most-amazing things I’ll ever accomplish: co-organizing the OpenCamp Dallas 2010 conference.

I still can’t believe we pulled it off: a core team of 11 individuals from all walks of media banded together to program a four-day event that attracted 600 participants. We did things that hadn’t been done before, and the foundation has been laid for a sustainable event that can only grow to be more impressive in future years.

What I Learned

Every takeaway from last weekend can’t possibly make it into this post without getting all War and Peace in length. So I’ll probably spread out my new-found knowledge over a series of posts these next couple weeks. However, I would like to highlight the significant mind vitamins my brain consumed.

Since I directed the WordPress room both days, I was witness to several great sessions dedicated to my CMS of choice. Specific takeaways include:

  • I love Lorelle VanFossen because she brings unbridled passion to potentially-staid events. Her session on WordPress plugins enlightened me on several nuggets that will make not only this blog better, but also my wife’s future business blog. I never knew I could use WordPress as a freelancing invoice engine — Jenn will be thrilled when she finds out (ssh, don’t tell).
  • I’m glad that Aaron Brazell (a.k.a. Technosailor) was able to speak, as I knew he would highlight the nooks of WordPress that few had ever shed light upon. Thanks to his undiscovered APIs session, I learned about the Transient API, which allows you to store temporary data in the wp-options table. I’ve got some issues with that API’s intentions, which I’ll get around to discussing in a future blog post.
  • Although I am very familiar with Categories, Tags, and Taxonomies, the Scott Ellis presentation was good because of the discussions it enabled.  It appears that WordPress has not done an adequate job of explaining how to use them.  The same applies to Custom Post Types.
  • Paula Berg was one of the speakers I looked forward to, and I was lucky enough to have a break during her presentation.  She talked about starting the social media machine that operates within Southwest Airlines, and I took away some great pointers on how to better focus my own social media strategy.  I’ve been good about keeping up, but not being forward-thinking — that’s going to change now that I’ve listened to her advice.
  • Right after Paula was Brian Clark, a.k.a. Copyblogger, asked that we focus more on content within our work, and less on SEO gimmicks.  If the writing is of quality and consistent, that should draw visitors to my site.
  • Our big speaker Chris Pirillo did not disappoint.  His energy, candor, and long online track record were a great mix, and his presentation was a great nugget of inspiration.  Once it was over, I wanted to rush out and start blogging!

Outside of the sessions, I learned some significant personal skills. Namely, how to plan an event capable of packing a hotel for two days and filling up internet chatter even more. Although I had participated in planning WordCamp Dallas last year, I had stepped in during the latter stages, after most of the initial work had been performed by others. This time around, I was there from day one.

Advice

I’ve been doing this for awhile, and I recommend it to others: bring business cards to the event. When you get into the weekend and you’re meeting 600-something people for the first time, they are an essential tool to remember faces and names. I gave out over 100 of them, and in the past couple days I’ve reaped extra hits on my website as a result.

I had dreams of taking a ton of photos and videos — and I took exactly zero shots. I think it was due to having a clunky, not-easy-to-wield dSLR. In the future, I would bring a point-and-shoot camera that was easily transportable in my pocket. Then I might have more photos that look like this.

Leave the laptop computer at home, and instead bring an iPad. I spent Saturday hauling around a heavy laptop bag, packed with extension cords and spare batteries, assuming I would be neck-deep in live-blogging or watching the Twittersphere. Nope, didn’t happen. But the iPad was revolutionary for me: its 10-hour battery coupled with quick power-up, light weight, and small footprint combined to make it the ultimate conference-friendly electronic device. Don’t tell John P., tho!

Take time off before and after the conference, not only to spend with the family, but to personally decompress and process. In particular, I wish I had taken off the Monday afterward — I could have used the time to update my Twitter lists, email my new friends, and start digesting what I learned.

Special Thanks

Finally, before I disappear, there are a handful of people I need to thank for their special contributions.

Thanks to Ryan Short of MODassic Marketing for the assist in printing high-quality business cards on such a short notice.

Kudos to Jennifer Conley and John Pozadizides, both of whom were my literal shoulder to cry on during the most-stressful parts of the conference. Life has been a roller-coaster of stress lately, and there were times I cracked this weekend. Both of them were really good at listening, telling me it was OK to whine, then getting me pointed in the right direction.

And finally, a special shoutout to my wife Jennifer McGarity. She was my rock, encouraging me all the way through the weekend, despite the stress of watching a sick toddler in my absence — then stepping up again as mom/wife/babe while I had to immediately leave for a business trip after OpenCamp. Thank you, sweetie…you have no idea how much I love you.

Now, who wants to get started on 2011?

Author: Matthew

Husband to Jenn, father to Zachary and Penelope, blogger, artist, WordPress consultant, OpenCamp organizer, and running enthusiast. Brother, can you spare an extra hour in the day?