It’s undeniable that participating in the WordPress community enhances your overall experience with WordPress. This is especially true as a freelancer or remote worker. So, why do so few people attend Meetups? Sometimes it’s really hard. Seriously. Schedule conflicts, distance, and feeling on the outside can sometimes fuel our arguments.
“It doesn’t fit into my schedule.”
This was my excuse for a long time, especially since I commuted to a day job. Going to a WordPress Meetup at that time was far from convenient — and at that time I only had a mild interest. But once I started attending WordCamps, I realized how important it is. After I started working in the WordPress plugin space, I took the Meetups seriously.
“It’s too far away.”
Especially in metropolitan areas, distance isn’t a factor of miles, it’s a factor of traffic. It takes me at least an hour, sometimes an hour and a half to be at a meetup 32 miles away from me — especially during rush hour. So, I get it.
“I don’t fit in.”
It happens to the best of us. Whether it’s a feeling that you don’t know enough to attend an advanced group or you feel like it’s more about design and you’re a blogger, then it’s easy to feel left out. Or maybe it feels too inside baseball or too clique-y. Whatever it is, it can be overwhelming to be the new person. I’d like to challenge you to go anyway.
— Bridget Willard (@YouTooCanBeGuru) March 1, 2016
Remember, a community is what you make of it. We can all be the person who makes a newcomer feel welcome.
Be the Meetup You Want to Go To
You know the misattributed Ghandi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world?” Even though it’s not an actual quote, it’s so true.
If you don’t have the time, the traffic is too bad, and you don’t fit in, then the answer is simple: create your own. Be the Meetup you want to go to. Be the Community you want to be part of. You only need ten people to go.
The WordPress Foundation has a chapter program. They encourage you to join in with them, whether it be existing or new meetups. When you’re an official WordPress chapter, your meetup will listed with all of the other WordPress Meetups.
I’ve written about what makes a successful meetup here so I won’t repeat myself. That said, be consistent, friendly, and on topic. Start with a few people you already feel comfortable with, and then reach out to others in the community.
Serendipity Favors the Passionate
We like formulas. Think about the headlines you read on social: “Top 10” this and “Best Five” that. Formulas are tested. There’s groundwork. There’s a foundation. There’s nothing wrong with formulas. They serve a purpose.
However, let me suggest this: instead of going through the motions, discover your passion. What is it that your group of friends is already talking about? Is it React? The REST API? Object oriented programming? Maybe it’s content marketing? Is it for a special group or geographic area? Zeroing in on a topic like this will make it easier to find people that want to learn like you do.
Case Study: WomenWhoWP.org
In March of 2016, after attending Social Media Mastermind OC, a bunch of us went to lunch. There we discovered that we were a group of all women who wanted to talk about WordPress.
The next day, Jen Miller and Elizabeth Schilling went to the two-year anniversary celebration for Girl Develop It – Los Angeles. They had a great chat on the drive there and called me while looking for parking. They asked, “What if we had a women’s WordPress meetup?”
At the time, I wasn’t as excited as they were, but I told them I’d help with social media and attend. That was March 20, 2016. The next Wednesday, March 24, 2016, we had our very first meetup.
Our meetup is going strong and has recently been sponsored and had a venue change. And, yes, men are welcome to attend. We include everyone — regardless of where they are in WordPress.
What’s special about Women Who WP?
No, maybe you don’t need to go to a Women’s group. But the fact of the matter is this: women interact differently. We tend to give social details when describing our issue. We’re storytellers. We build relationships.
We meet on the third Wednesday of the month. We start with dinner, which makes it easier for members to fit it into their schedules. They don’t have to worry about trying to eat after work. They can just show up.
The group is incredibly diverse. We have graphic designers, front-end and back-end developers, writers, and marketers. Everyone is on a different career path and it’s fun to see where our journeys have led us.
We then have a twenty to thirty-minute presentation on a topic. We encourage our members and members of our local community to present. We have invited men from our local community to talk about nonprofit resources, setting up local sandboxes, and, at our next meetup in March, on Flexbox. We even had a he-said, she said style meeting with a husband-wife duo on website security. That was so much fun.
As we wrote in our close-out post for 2016, we have seen more than just friendships begin and mature. We’ve seen more than just problems solved and challenges overcome within WordPress and surrounding technology.
We’ve seen our members at Women Who WP:
- Sit taller in their chairs and openly participate
- Attend their first WordCamp.
- Present their expertise for the first time
- Attend other local meetups even if we might not “fit in.”
- Launch a .org self-hosted WordPress install
We’ve outgrown Jen Miller’s conference room and have relocated with our first sponsor, Dreamhost, to a restaurant that provides us a private room.
Looking Forward with Gratitude
At the time of this writing, we are waiting to be approved by the WordPress Foundation as an official Meetup. Looking back over the last year of co-organizing this meetup, I could not have been more proud or have made a better decision.
Sometimes you don’t know how much you need the community until you do.