Automatticians at WordCamps

Automattic is getting pretty big, almost 200 folks now, spread all over the world. That’s a lot of people we can send to WordCamps. I remember when it was mostly Matt and I splitting up who’d go to which events — how times have changed in five years!

Since we’re hiring so enthusiastically, my team is putting together a little guide for Automatticians on how to be an awesome Automattic representative at a WordCamp. I have a pretty giant list of tips and advice at the ready (you’d never have guessed, I know), but it occurs to me that non-Automatticians are probably the best people to ask about what we can do better when we pop in to a local WordCamp.

Here are some of the things from my giant list so far:

  • Don’t travel in packs. When there are a few or a bunch of Automatticians at an event, we tend to cluster together because we so rarely get to see each other — and we like each other — but it makes it less likely that we’ll meet new community members. 1. Because we’re too busy talking to each other to reach out to new people. 2. Because it’s intimidating for someone new to break into that group.
  • Ask questions. A lot of WordCamp attendees will already know about Automattic, so while we should definitely be a resource for anyone interested in the company, the better use of time is getting to know the community members: who are they, how are they using WordPress, what would help them make their community more vibrant, who are the local independent consultants/themers/developers that we should know about?
  • Help out. WordCamps are a lot of work. Automatticians aren’t visiting dignitaries — we’re getting paid to be there — and we should help out along with the locals, whether that’s taking a shift on the help desk, moving chairs, or passing out shirts.
  • Be identifiable. Wearing the same WordPress t-shirt as everyone else is cool and all, but wearing a shirt that identifies the wearer as an Automattic employee, or a lanyard for the badge or something, would make it easier for people interested in talking about Automattic (especially people interested in jobs!) to find the Automatticians in the crowd.
  • Carry cards. Saying “email me later” works better when the card with an email address is handed over at the same time. That said, getting community member contact info so the burden of follow-up isn’t on them is even better.
  • Tweet It.  Using Twitter to let local followers know Automatticians are there is helpful. They might love to meet in person and talk about working at Automattic or contributing to the .org project and may not realize we’re there, especially if we’re not on the speaker list.
  • Don’t hog the speaker slots. Yes, Automatticians are speakers you can rely on, and we do employ a lot of seriously smart people, but if the speaker roster is filled up with Automatticians, that doesn’t do a lot to help grow the experience of local folks, which is part of what WordCamps are about.
  • Don’t be exclusionary. If planning to go off to an Automattician dinner or something after a long day of not traveling as a pack, don’t make those plans in front of other people, who will feel excluded (or might not understand what’s happening and might inadvertently show up later and crash the dinner); make private plans in private via Automattic channels. Even better, don’t go to private dinners, go to dinner with members of the local community.
  • Be present. In sessions, don’t work on the laptop, just pay attention to the speaker. In the crowd, don’t focus on the phone, smile and meet new people. Be there for the whole event, don’t take off early or skip the second day. Show the local community that Automatticians are respectful and want to be there.

What would you add? In the comments (or in an email to me at jenmylo/wordpress.org if you don’t want people to see what you think) make suggestions for what Automatticians can do to be awesome at WordCamps. It’s also okay to give examples of times when we have not been awesome. Learning from our mistakes is good, too. Thanks in advance for your help!

13 thoughts on “Automatticians at WordCamps

  1. Going along with “Be identifiable”… I can’t speak for all organizers, but as one for WordCamp Miami I wouldn’t mind knowing before the event day who attending is an Automattician. Perhaps an email or leaving a note when they register. It’s just good FYI but it’s nice to know who attended (and maybe you’ll discover someone who recently moved into town, which has happened). Some Automatticians I know always have a topic to talk about in case there’s a last minute need for a speaker (rare, and you should have backups regardless, but never hurts to have options if the individual is cool with it). It’s also nice to point to Automatticians in the crowd during opening or closing remarks, if they’re ok with it.

    Some of us know the most public or longest members of Automattic, it would be nice to know those who aren’t in the limelight that much.

    • Part of the plan is to have all Automatticians attending WCs start being coordinated through Andrea & Cami so that WC Central can pass along this info to organizers. Mostly for awareness and so you know who you can totally put to work if you need last-minute help. Not so much for calling us out in the audience as if we are more special than other WP-based companies, that would be a little weird. :)

  2. Excellent list, Jen! This list isn’t about just for the Automatticians, either. Many of us WordCamp junkies are good friends, so when we get to a ‘camp it’s like Old Home Week. To somebody who isn’t already familiar with at least one person in that group, breaking in to those conversations can be very intimidating.

  3. Considering the fact I’m a WordCamp virgin, that’s definitely a handy list of things to know. I think the thing I’d “struggle” with most was breaking into a group of people. Considering nobody has really seen me before (unless they attended a WordUp event), and I’ve not seen others, the *first* one must be the hardest?

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