Over the years, I have attended numerous WordCamps, including a few workshops. However, at this year’s WordCamp Europe 2023, I had the opportunity to participate in several workshops and I would like to share my experiences. First and foremost, I want to clarify that the purpose of this post is not to criticise in any way. I truly appreciate the time and effort organisers and speakers invest to make these events successful.
- Workshop Expectations: Provide users with an idea of what to expect and suggest preparing prerequisites in advance.
- Structuring Workshops: Offer recommendations to speakers on effective workshop structuring, such as clear formats and access to necessary resources.
- Meeting Attendee Expectations: Inspire meet-up organisers to prioritise reliable Wi-Fi, pre-warn speakers about potential issues, and ensure prerequisites are readily available.
Workshops come in different formats, ranging from physical activities like yoga and exercise to mental practices like meditation. They can also involve hands-on learning, such as taking your laptop and going through the step-by-step development process. To provide some context for this post and workshops at WordCamp Europe 2023, I will specifically focus on workshops that emphasise “learning by doing,” where participants bring their laptops and engage in practical exercises related to development.
Having attended various workshops, I have observed different ways they can be structured. For instance, some WordCamps offer workshops without limitations or registration, while others have limited capacity and require prior registration. The latter format, where limited numbers of attendees have access to desks and power, has proven to be the most effective. Personally, my laptop’s battery lasts only about 45 minutes, so having access to power during a workshop is essential for me. In this regard, workshops at WordCamp Europe 2023 stood out by providing a detailed list of prerequisites on their website. This included the necessary tools, local development environments, required plugins, and even CSV test data installations. Having these prerequisites listed beforehand was a great approach.
Top tips for attendees
To attendees, my tip is not to wait until the workshop to set up the prerequisites. It’s uncertain how reliable the Wi-Fi in the workshop room will be, so I highly recommend preparing in advance as much as possible. Workshops can last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, and being ready ahead of time will save time for both yourself and others. It can be frustrating when participants fall behind, and I’ve been in workshops where the speaker couldn’t cover everything they had planned.
The Workshops at WordCamp Europe 2023
Now, without naming any speakers or criticising specific formats, I’d like to briefly explain my experiences with different workshop formats and their pros and cons.
In one format, the prerequisites were simply a blank WordPress installation and some unknown requirements. However, upon arrival, we were unexpectedly asked to download and install Node.js, set up an NPM initialisation package, and so on. Unfortunately, due to poor Wi-Fi, I couldn’t complete the necessary downloads in real-time and had to catch up later, which was challenging. For others who faced similar Wi-Fi issues and fell behind, it likely wasn’t a great experience.
In another format, all that was needed was a blank WordPress installation, as the workshop utilised a Git repository. This repository, with a helpful tool called “WordPress Playground” so the blank WordPress installation wasn’t even needed, the Git repo contained everything necessary for installation and setup. In case of poor Wi-Fi, assistants were present with key drives, enabling attendees to quickly get up and running. The format involved using “git checkout” commands to navigate through each step, allowing participants to follow along even if they couldn’t keep up with the speaker and the code examples. The advantage of this format was that attendees could later refer to the Git repository for incremental changes made during each step, making the workshop more relaxed and beneficial.
The third format required a lengthy list of prerequisites, including a blank WordPress installation, specific plugins, and uploaded data for workshop activities. When some attendees didn’t have these prerequisites in place, a significant portion of the workshop time was spent assisting them. Considering the workshop was only an hour long, this hindered progress and impacted the overall experience.
I gained valuable insights from each workshop I attended, and I genuinely appreciate the effort put in by the speakers. However, given the limited time in one or two-hour workshops, there are certain things that simply cannot be accomplished. Therefore, it’s crucial to adequately prepare and ensure things are set up correctly before and during the workshop.
For attendees, I recommend taking the necessary steps to fulfill the prerequisites beforehand, as this will save time and reduce frustration for everyone.
Speakers should focus on developing a clear workshop format, and a “git checkout” approach with incremental steps works particularly well.
Organisers should prioritise providing reliable Wi-Fi, and if that’s not feasible, pre-warning speakers and arranging assistance or providing key drives with the required prerequisites would be helpful.
I hope you find these insights and suggestions useful. Feel free to share your own experiences if you attended any of the workshops at WordCamp Europe 2023 in the comments below.