Reason one: The location.
London is 2oo miles away from Manchester, but by train I was able to get from Piccadilly to Euston in 2 hours and 10 minutes. It was an incredibly straightforward journey. Once I arrived in London, I didn’t need to buy a Tube ticket, thanks to my Contactless debit card, but skipped the queue and headed straight down the escalators. I got the Tube to Kings Cross (nice and quiet at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning) and then another Tube to Holloway Road. You can see London Metropolitan University as soon as you exit the Tube station.
I stayed in a Premier Inn on Saturday night (in a room that had it’s own corridor for some reason) which was a half an hour walk. Nice to do after a day of sitting and listening.
The University is the perfect location for a conference. With room for quiet zones (or Introvert Recharging Areas as they were for me), multiple places to get refreshments, large rooms for the talks, space for the after-party… I could go on. It’s also great because the three tracks were located in three separate buildings next to each other, which meant you got some fresh air between sessions.
Reason two: The food and drink.
There was always food and drink available: at the start of the day; between all the sessions; lunch was provided on both days; and dinner was made for us on the Saturday. There were plenty of cold drinks too – great for someone who doesn’t drink caffeine. The food available catered for every dietary requirement and everything was clearly labelled. There was a huge variety. And what’s more, it was quite tasty.
I also didn’t get my usual conference headache because I stayed well hydrated. My only wonder is if the tables in the lunch hall could have been moved away from the walls so people could queue on both sides, but it may have needed to be set up the way it was to fit all the tables in.
Reason three: The sponsors.
The sponsors were super! Not only did it mean the tickets were cheap, and the conference was great, they were so friendly to talk to. 34sp gave me some great tips on being a technical contact. And WPML answered all my questions about multi-lingual sites. The plugin seems to be the perfect solution for a couple of sites I’m working on.
Sponsor Bingo was a great idea too. When we talked to a sponsor, they stamped our Sponsor Bingo cards with a bingo dotter. And when we had a row, we could collect our WordCamp London t-shirt and trolley token.
Reason four: The breaks.
The breaks were frequent and long! On day one there was at least a half hour gap between each talk. No talks were back-to-back. There was time to use the facilities, grab and drink and a mini-muffin, debrief the last session, and decide which session to go to next.
The lunch breaks were an hour and a half. Plenty of time for your brain to recover, eat, talk to sponsors, catch up with friends. I don’t feel the number of breaks meant that the conference was lacking in content at all – it was jam-packed – which makes me wonder why other conferences I’ve been to only have five minute breaks.
Reason five: The timing.
Everything ran on time. The conference started on time. The speakers were all on time or under time (the people holding up the timing signs did a grand job!). If they were under time, there was more time for questions. And there was time for questions after every talk.
Lunch was served on time and dinner was served half-an-hour early because so many people had volunteered to get the room set up. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a conference before where this has been the case.
Reason six: The variety.
The speakers were so varied: some from agencies, some ran their own businesses, some were freelancers, some I had seen speak before, for some it was their first time speaking.
The topics were extremely varied too: some technical, some explaining technical concepts to non-developers, some weren’t WordPress-specific but still very relevant.
Reason seven: The inclusivity.
So much effort had been put in to making everyone feel included. A creche was provided for those with small children. There were hearing loops, live captioning and a multi-faith room. The food catered for those with special dietary requirements. No one was made to feel left out.
Reason eight: The live captioning.
The live captioning was something I’d never seen before. And although it was there to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing, I found it so useful. If my mine went on a tangent during the talks, I could look up and read it back. If I didn’t quite hear what the speaker said, I could check. It was great when making notes because you could copy down what the speaker had said, even if you’d forgotten.
Global RT Captioning did a brilliant job, and even answered all my many questions about the captioning during one of their breaks (sorry!).
Reason nine: The friendliness.
Quite often, I go to a conference and I can count the number of people I have a conversation with on one hand. I’ve been to at least one conference when no one talked to me beyond a “hello” in the eight hours I was there.
This has never been the case at any WordPress events I’ve attended. I have made some really good friends in the WordPress community, and got to know some very interesting people over the course of the day.
I swapped business cards with a couple of people whose talents I may be able to utilise. I connected with people on Twitter. And I hope to catch up with people at the next WordCamp I go to.
Reason ten: I met Wapuu.
I didn’t even know this was possible to meet Wapuu until I went to WordCamp London. I fulfilled a dream I never knew I had. Here’s the proof: