Volunteering at a WordCamp

Today’s blog post is a personal one and a call for people from the community. I want to talk about my experiences volunteering at a WordCamp.

My very first volunteering experience came quite late. I’ve attended my first WordCamp in 2010, organized the first event back in 2012 and spoke at many WordCamps since. Those types of contributions are also very valuable. But they are quite different from volunteering.

WordCamp Europe 2016 in Vienna

I don’t know exactly when I first thought about bringing WordCamp Europe to Germany, but back in 2015 I’ve joined a group of community members to talk with the current organizing team on how we could make it happen. When trying to organize an event this size, it’s usually best to have some experience in how it’s organized. So to me, it made a lot of sense to volunteer at the next event.

My first shift was as a “Foyer Guard” at the speaker’s green room and child care, which was quite interesting. I’ve only seen child care being offered at WordCamp London, but really felt that this was very important for some attendees travelling to Vienna with children.

My second shifts at the first day was at the registration welcoming new attendees. At this shift I was also not alone but joined by other volunteers. This made the shift much more fun, not only because I was able to work with other volunteers, but also because I was meeting so many people, some of which I have known for some year.

On the second day, my position was at the “Lunch Attendee Orientation”, so I basically told people where to get lunch – in case they haven’t had found it already at day one. My last shift was as a “Door Guard” for the largest stage. I made sure that attendees coming late would not make too much noise entering the room.

WordCamp London 2017, 2018 and 2019

My next volunteering change came in 2017 at WordCamp London. Only about a month before the event, the organizing team was asking for help, as they had some drop-offs amongst the volunteers. I already bought a ticket, but still volunteered as help was needed. I was also able to join an amazing “warm up” speakers, organizers and volunteers. It was a bar with “table tennis”! Really a lot of fun!

Just one year later, I volunteered again at WordCamp London. It’s one of my favourite WordCamps. At this event there was a kids workshop hosted by the WordPress co-founder Mike Little. I was amazed what some school kids were doing in these few hours the workshop lasted.

I volunteered a third time at WordCamp London in 2019. Here my first shift was in the storage room / cloakroom. I’ve helped sponsors store their boxes after setting up their booths and prepared some “swag bags” for attendees. After my shift, I’ve enjoyed the WordCamp and saw some session. Later, the WordCamp lead organizer found me to apologize. She said that she hasn’t realized, while planing the volunteers shifts, that she was putting the current Local Team Lead of WordCamp Europe into the cloakroom. But I assured her that there was no need to apologize. I was just a volunteer like any other and my help was needed in the cloakroom, so I worked my shift there.

Conclusion

Everyone who is helping out at a WordCamp as a volunteer is much needed and appreciated, no matter how small and insignificant your work might seem. Volunteering is also the first step of becoming a future organizer. There is no rule that you had to be a volunteer before joining an organizing team, but it helps a lot. Not only do you get a first idea of how organizing an event works, you will also know what it means to be a volunteer at an event, who might not even know anything about WordPress, and it’s community. So whenever there is a WordCamp near you, I would highly encourage you to look out for the Call for Volunteers to see if you can help. It will give you a very new perspective of the event.

And speaking of WordCamps who need more volunteers: WordCamp Europe is happening in June and you can still apply to volunteer until 31 March 2022. If this very blog post made you apply, please make sure to find me at “The Social” (this is what we call the “warm up” party at WordCamp Europe) and share some stories with me.

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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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