WordCamp Chicago 2016 was held at University Center in the heart of Chicago, IL, where more than 300 attendees spent the weekend learning about WordPress. The event was organized by Ryan Erwin and a team of volunteers.
Tracks were split up into three separate rooms limiting the amount of background noise during sessions. Giving attendees a schedule is handled differently at most camps. Some provide a paper schedule while others put it on the back of the name badge.
At WordCamp Chicago, schedule boards were displayed outside each room that corresponded with a track number. This made it easier for attendees to determine if they wanted to stay in the room for the next session.
WordCamps are a great way to stress test a venue’s network but the WiFi at WordCamp Chicago was flawless. I didn’t experience any issues and it remained fast throughout the event. I didn’t stick around for lunch as there are plenty of lunch options available within walking distance of the venue.
Most WordCamps host an after party at a restaurant, bar, or other establishment away from the venue. WordCamp Chicago’s after party was held at the venue. It included, non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks, food, and card games on each table. It was fun mingling and networking with people without having to compete with blaring music or a loud atmosphere.
One of the biggest pieces of advice he shared is to build direct relationships with clients. No one is going to fight your battles as much as you and third-parties are unlikely to stick their neck out. Managing direct relationships leads to trust, referrals, and being rehired to do additional work.
His session contains a lot of great information and I highly encourage you to watch it when it’s published on WordPress.tv.
Throughout the event, I spoke to a number of people and noted the following. Many attendees said they received more value than expected paying $40 a ticket. Some have spent hundreds of dollars on conference tickets and didn’t enjoy themselves or come away with nearly as much information.
I discovered a number of attendees are part of one or more WordPress meetup groups. According to Meetup.com, there are at least four WordPress groups with hundreds of members spread throughout the Chicago area. It’s a strong indication that the WordPress community in Chicago is thriving and supportive of each other.
It was a pleasure attending WordCamp Chicago and making new friends. I especially enjoyed speaking to WordPress Weekly listeners and getting their feedback. Also for those wondering, I satisfied my craving for deep-dish pizza via Lou Malnati’s. The pizza tastes better than I remembered. If you’re ever in the Chicago area, you have to try Lou Malnati’s pizza.
Everyone involved with WordCamp Chicago 2016 did a great job. If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year, don’t worry. After taking a break for a few weeks, the organizing team plans to begin organizing WordCamp Chicago 2017.