Web conferences: Keep it simple? Yes please!

WPTech Nantes

November 29, 2014 was the first edition of WPTech in Nantes, a WordPress conference dedicated to developers. And I tip my hat! I gotta say that the organizers did a great job, despite the obstacles they faced in getting there. Originally they had set out to create a WordCamp, a WordPress conference sanctioned by the WordPress Foundation and overseen by WordPress Central, whose standards and formalities were too restrictive for our daring young organizers who had something a little different in mind.

Instead of two days, multiple tracks and diverse domains, they kept it simple. One solid day, and one track dedicated solely to highly technical topics aimed at developers. Only at the end of the day did they break things down a little, with two sessions offering a choice of 3 workshops each.

“We think it’s better to have a smaller yet well organized event, rather than a disappointing one,” said Daniel Roch, one of the event’s organizers, in an interview with Sarah Gooding on WPTavern.

I can’t disagree. The approach to WPTech Nantes was in stark contrast to the Blend Web Mix conference that I attended just a month before in Lyon, where there were two days running 6—yes 6—simultaneous tracks. While the subject matter was interesting and diverse, it was enough to make my head spin. How do you choose between 6 different interesting proposals? How do you navigate between 3 floors with several rooms running sessions on each and still have time to chat and network and digest what you’ve heard in between? Answer: you don’t. Or: you miss a lot.

I really like not having to choose between tracks, and being concentrated on one mindset, versus toggling between design, business, marketing and dev subjects. I appreciate the easy pace, with time for questions, time to chat in between presentations, and without the looming sensation that things are running late or that I’m missing out on something. The WPTech Nantes organizers really did a great job, and I think we could do with more WordCamp spinoffs, each with its own focus, much in the way that Pressnomics or Prestige Conf took off. Why not a WPDesign, a WPMarketing and a WPBusiness ?

Unlikely that I will attend Blend Web Mix a second year in a row unless they simplify the program a bit. I prefer quality to ambition every time. I will definitely attend WPTech again next year, and look forward to seeing what other events might pop up, inspired by their initiative.

Jenny Beaumont

Jenny Beaumont is a multicultural, multidisciplinary maker and writer of things. She works as a Sr. Project Manager at Human Made, speaks at conferences in France and abroad, contributes to a number of blogs, and is a former organizer of WordCamp Paris and WordCamp Europe.

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8 thoughts on “Web conferences: Keep it simple? Yes please!

  1. I think large multi-track can work, but you have to come to it with the right mindset.

    I’m a regular attendee at the UK GovCamp: http://www.ukgovcamp.com/ It’s run on ‘unconference’ rules, with at least half a dozen rooms. You can’t possibly expect to see everything on the day, and yes, there’s always a session or two where you have a difficult choice to make.

    But I always found that energising: how great it was that you couldn’t squeeze everything neatly into an obvious single track! And there was a moral duty to share what you heard on the day, because you wanted others to share what they heard in the session you missed.

    • Oh undoubtedly. I’m not a seasoned conference goer. Before discovering WordCamps 2 years ago, I had never been to a web conference of any kind. Now that I’ve racked up a few, I’m starting to get a feel for what appeals to me the most. After experiencing WPTech, I have a great appreciation for a narrow focus. Big conferences like the Blend Web Mix don’t stimulate me. They overwhelm and exhaust me! Not that I didn’t learn some things and meet some great people – I certainly did! But a single track, single domain-focused event is incredibly enjoyable and more my speed.

      • I think that single and multi tracks have theirs pros and cons. Like everything else in the world ;). But in my opinion two tracks are maximum at WordCamp, and they are not so bad. When you have one track, and some presentations are not interesting for you, you can always go to second room. When there is only one track you can be bored, or go for cigarette (and that will kill you ;)). When you have two tracks, you have a CHOICE :D.
        I know that sometimes choice is hard, but LIFE is hard too :D we can’t have everything ;) (can’t eat cookie and have a cookie).

        But I agree that many track, more than two, can be overwhelming.

        • Absolutely! I certainly jumped from 1 to 6 in my comparison which are two extremes, and put the emphasis on number of tracks whereas that’s not all I had hoped to point out. Because what I loved at WPTech wasn’t just the single track – two would’ve worked nicely too – but the single focus, it being a conference for developers, rather than trying to cover all the WordPress related topics. I’m not either saying all conferences should go this route, only that I very much appreciate and enjoy this approach, and hope to see others like it pop up :)

          Also: quit smoking please! wanna keep you around for a nice, long while ;-)

  2. “but the single focus, it being a conference for developers, rather than trying to cover all the WordPress related topics.” – although I think this approach is awesome and I going to steal this idea ;) and implement on my ground, I don’t think it could be realized in official events, such as WordCamps.

    While focusing on developers during event, one exclude the others groups that are not interested in tech/high tech subjects. Exclusion applies to attendees with basic knowledge of WordPress. I’m not saying that exclusion is intentional – but IMO it could create wrong image of WordCamps (and in the end of WordPress) – it could be saying “only programmers are welcome, you have to know more to attend”.

    So, my point is… huh. What I was trying to say? ;)

    It is worth trying and testing – but not under WordCamp logo.

    ps. I only smoke on WordCamps :P

    • Yep, WPTech is not a WordCamp :)
      I love WordCamps, but I now love this dedicated format too (not instead of).

      ps. See you in Paris ;)

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