WordCamp Europe 2020 – An unexpected journey

Yesterday, the 8th edition of WordCamp Europe had it’s final day. And it was an amazing experience. I had the pleasure to take part as an organizer, but the result was quite different, that I would have expected.

WordCamp Europe Porto 2020

The journey began 12 month ago in Berlin. At the closing remarks of the WCEU 2019 we announced that we would go to Porto. I commited myself to continue a fourth year in a row as an organizer, taking the role as a Global Lead. But I was not going to do that alone. I was joines by Tess and Jonas. For the first time in WCEU history, we started with three Global Leads. But the team would not be complete without José Freitas the Local Team Lead for Porto.

In September, our Call for Organizers was done, our organizing team of 72 volunteers from the WordPress community was selected and we started organizing an event for around 3500 attendees. This trip to Porto would have also been my first trip Portugal. But then things changed.

The cancelation of WordCamp Asia

The COVID-19 outbreach had just started, but on 12 Februrary, only around a week before the event, WordCamp Asia was postponed to 2021. This was not only a shock for the global WordPress community, but also for us as organizers of WordCamp Europe. Having an event only three and a half months later, we could not see, if we would be able to let it happen. The next weeks were quite intense. Other events were postponed as well, and it was getting clear, that we had to do something, Finally on 12 March, one month after WordCamp Asia, we also had to postpone WordCamp Europe in Porto to 2021. It was one of the hardest decision any organizer of a WordCamp Europe probably ever had to make. But the WordPress community was amazing in supporting our decision.

Starting from stratch

When we decided to postpone the in-person event, we also decided to have an online event insted. Up to this day, no other WordCamp that had been canceled went online. So there was no experience in the community on how to best do an event of our size online. We basically had to stop with the local event and start all over again organizing a very different event.

Although the decision was made by the whole organizing team, not all of us were able to continue helping with the online event for various reasons. While Tess and Jonas couldn’t continue as Global Leads, I was joined by Rocío Valdivia who was previously our mentor. We were joined by another 31 organizers who re-grouped in different teams.

Group photo of the WCEU 2020 Online organising team
The WordCamp Europe 2020 Online Organizing Team

This was the start of the first ever WordCamo Europe Online and a new milestone for the community and many of us.

Three months of passion and hard work

Organizing a WordCamp Europe in nine month is a lot of work. Organizing an online event that size in less then three month, is incredibly harder. With the passion, dedication, hard work and amazing team work, we managed to deliver an event, that can hopefully be an inspiration for other online WordCamps to come.

We have received so much help from other WordCamp organizers along the way. The WordCamp Asia team showed us how to deal with postponing an event, the WordCamp Spain team organized a real community event, that made us change some of our plans, to copy some of the great ideas they came up with. And also other WordCamps around the world had some unique things, we were inspired by.

The biggest Wor(l)dCamp ever

Any organizer who ever had contact with vendors probably experienced, that the name is sometimes misspelled as “WorldCamp”. And this time, it can’t be more true. Although our focus is the European community, we wanted to allow anyone from around the world to participate. So have chosen a time from 15:00 to 20:00 CEST on the three days, allowing Europeans to join in their afternoon, so they don’t necessarily have to take a day of to participate. But this times also allowed many attendees on both sides of the Pacific to attend, either in the early morning or late evening.

The WordCamp in Porto was expecting 3500 tickets to be sold and more than 3000 attending. Last year we have sold more than 3300 tickets, welcomed around 2700 attendees from 90+ different countries. This year we sold 8600 tickets for our live stream and had more than 9000 views to the track 1 session of Friday in the first 24h, with some attendees watching the replay of the stream. But the number that was most impressive: we had signups from 140 different countries, so truely a “WorldCamp”:

World map of all attendees of WordCamp Europe 2020 Online

An experience I would never had imagined

I’ve attendeed every WordCamp Europe and have been involved in the organizing team since 2017. When we had the event in Berlin last year, it felt quite different. This year it was even more different. Usually I traveled to a foreign country some days before the event and met old and new friends. This year, we all had to attend and organzier from our homes. Everyone was missing the personal contact to other attendees. But the feedback from the community was overwhelming!

A huge thanks to the community!

I cannot put into words how I’m feeling right now. The experineces of this week is still so fresh, that it’s hard to describe. But more than anything else, I’m feeling thankful. For my fellow co-organizers, for the community who attended the talks, participated at the Contributor Day, for the speakers, the emceees and other volunteers, for the sponsors helping the event financially and any other person or organization helping with this event. Even though we didn’t had the chance to meet with friends, we gave so many more people the chance to participate.

See you all in Porto in 2021!

I hope many of you joined us this weekend at WCEU 2020 Online. Next year, we hopefully have the opportunity to finally meet in Porto. I will again take part in the organizing team as one of four Global Leads, joined by Lesley, Taeke and Moncho. If you want to help as an organizer yourself, please apply at our Call for Organizers. And if you just want to attend, you can already grab your ticket.

See you all in Porto in June 2021!

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Bernhard is a full time web developer who likes to write WordPress plugins in his free time and is an active member of the WP Meetups in Berlin and Potsdam.

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