As WordCamp US 2016 nears this weekend, I’m already beginning to experience some anxiety about attending. I’ll only be going on Friday because I have previous commitments on Saturday, but perhaps that is for the best.

WordCamp US seems to be like a regular WordCamp on steroids. I avoided it last year, but didn’t want to miss the opportunity this year since it will be moving to another city next year. I haven’t been to a meetup since July because I’m still recovering from WordCamp Lehigh Valley (which was awesome and my first time speaking), so I also miss seeing the friends I’ve made this past year.

I’ve seen a bunch of posts about how to make the most of WordCamp US, so here’s my perspective as an introvert who has been to three “regular” WordCamps so far:

Go

Even though it will be tempting to bail at the last minute (which I did with the first WordCamp ticket I purchased a few years ago), make yourself show up. Just by showing up you will hopefully start to feel more confident and comfortable. Also:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep the night before
  2. Dress however you feel comfortable
  3. Bring snacks!
  4. Read their Code of Conduct (seriously, it helped me prepare)

Stay

Once you make it there (a feat in itself), you’ll get signed in and find yourself amongst a crowd of people all talking and hugging and laughing! This will make you want to run for the exits if you’re alone, but I promise it will get better, so don’t leave.

This one comes with a caveat though because you also may need to take a break during the day. Luckily, WordCamps are very sensitive to people needing to function on their own schedule so skip a session if you need time to relax or compose yourself. There are no tests at the end, I swear!

Side note: this summer I attended my third WordCamp and I still didn’t plan sufficiently, especially since I was speaking near the end of the day. My sister, who attended for the first time and isn’t a technical person, was wise enough to take a break and skip a session when she felt like she needed a break. While sitting out in the lobby she found another non-technical person and had a great conversation with them, which made her feel more at ease and energized for the rest of the day (which included attending my talk!).

Talk To People

While it can be overwhelming at times, it hopefully will also be incredibly rewarding. I didn’t have a conversation with anyone during my first WordCamp until I was standing in line for lunch. The person behind me asked me something about the food because I was taller than her and could see over people. It led to a conversation about what we both did and why we were there, and later we sat next to each other in another session.

Even though my intention wasn’t to make friends at my first WordCamp, I ended up finding the nerve to sit at a table during lunch with complete strangers and contributing to a great conversation. I realized there were other people there who were just like me! That WordCamp led me to eventually start attending a local WordPress meetup. But it all started because someone else was brave enough to say hi to me, a complete stranger at the time.

WordPress People are Friendly!

I don’t know what most other conferences are like, but one of the things I value the most about the WordPress community is how open and willing to help they are. Instead of being competitive, the culture of WordPress encourages everyone to share what they know. This, along with a lower barrier to entry is why I think so many people have found a home with WordPress.

In the last two years I have met some amazing people in the WordPress community (including Matt himself at WordCamp Scranton)! None of that would have happened if I hadn’t gotten way out of my comfort zone and started attending WordCamps and meetups. So if you’re still on the fence, see my first point.

Final Thoughts

I am going to WordCamp US! There will be lots of “famous” WordPress people there who I will probably be too afraid to talk to, even though I shouldn’t because they’re all really nice.

Hopefully I’ll see you there too.