The story of how we took WordCamp Santa Clarita from postponed to online in nineteen days.
On with the show, this is it
We had a very big decision to make. Upon receiving word that we had the green light to go to a live stream format for our postponed WordCamp Santa Clarita event. Go online ahead of the next events in the queue in May (WordCamp Spain and WordCamp Kent) or wait. We settled on April 18th, but that meant roughly nineteen days to make it happen.
That Saturday was an incredible achievement, but couldn’t have happened with a lot of things falling into place.
Truly a Global Community
Many of those new to WordPress don’t understand what the term community means in relation to our open source project but after Saturday, April 18 our fledgling local Community felt it. Here are a few of the highlights:
With a Stay at Home order in place, meetups, and other public gathering events moving to online versions of their in-person events our accepted speakers gladly offered to move to a new format. Presenting online is very different from in-person but these incredibly talented people were all in;
We had Washington, Florida, Texas, and as far away as Italy represented alongside our local WordPress Communities as well as guests participating in the chat from Iceland, Africa, and India; and
The same thing applied to our volunteer team as we had team members from Ohio, Florida, and as far away as India help with monitoring and moderating. The WordPress Community is truly amazing!
Curve ball, batter up!
A week into our accelerated cycle, we made a change in our initial live streaming tool was not accessible. A swift and decisive move to a new partner turned out to be very beneficial to our team. A shift to Blaze Streaming meant we’d focus on the content and they’d take care of the production elements for our WordCamp.
Traffic including event ticketing skyrocketed a few days ahead of the event 463, 430, 707, 3,079, and 9,813 page views on Event Saturday. Amazingly, 62.5% of attendees registered for the 512 total tickets within the final three days.
The magic of a global WordPress Community
Here are a few things that we learned doing an online event:
Expand your call for speakers – include a more national and international roster of speakers. We were fortunate enough to add speakers who couldn’t initially accept our invitation due to schedule conflicts but with the changes afoot due to COVID-19, we didn’t have to worry about flights and lodging accommodations for our online event;
Work closely with your Livestream partner – Blaze Streaming laid out their process and requirements early on and my job as the team lead was to determine what we could do to support their efforts but add something new or push the ball forward for other WordCamps that follow in this format;
Think of the WordCamp Online experience as a television production – your organizing team should ensure that everyone involved is onboarded in the process of how the Livestream works, how they’ll function in this new setting for speakers (less interaction between them and the audience, limiting distraction, etc), their roles as speakers, volunteers with a focus on content delivery. Blaze Streaming laid out our team’s possibilities and requirements which allowed me to add an opening/intermission video loop, lower third graphics, and live graphics that allowed me to scratch my motion graphics itch from my other animator’s life…
Manage from your personal control center – My role during Event Saturday was monitoring three devices (mostly muted) looking at the event from a speaker, monitor, and attendees vantage point and communication with the partner, speakers, and volunteers Event Saturday. Much less physical running around for Organizers than an actual in-person event;
Offer an all-day green room for your Speakers and attendees to gather. This was one of the most successful areas of our online event with as many as eighteen of the twenty-one speakers visiting during our two times allotted for this. Very relaxed, interactive, our speakers really shared great stories and bonded over WordPress and were the closest things to an in-person event; and
Offer more value for your global sponsors and attendees – Connecting sponsors, speakers, and attendees was a personal goal of mine as well. The hallway track and the experience new attendees have at a WordCamp is part of the fabric of these events and I wanted to bring those Global Sponsors in with spots at the beginning of our WordCamp during our opening remarks.
These spots were pre-recorded as part of our onboarding and got our sponsors involved in what we were doing for attendees and created positive vibes and bonds that carried through Saturday.
Coming soon to a screen near you
Videos will be published shortly on WordPress.tv for a second look at the incredible content presented. Thank again to my mentors, Cami and Courtney, the teams at Blaze Streaming and White Coat Captioning, our Organizing team, our volunteers, our speakers, sponsors, and most of all our attendees for helping us make history. See you next yea