Conferences: More Than Just Technical Tips

There are many reasons a project can come to a screeching halt:

  • Lack of inspiration
  • Unsure of how to organize something
  • Confusion of what your goal is or what to do next
  • Burn out
  • Being too busy

Sometimes you can find that second wind and slingshot your ideas and projects along faster and better than you thought you would be able to do.  It’s vital to at least continue on some level before your project stagnates so long that you decide to give up completely.

Joining a local group

I was a little hesitant at first to use WordPress when I was thinking about making a new website.  I heard some good things about it, however, and also discovered a group in Dallas that focuses on WordPress that Christopher and I could join.  If we had any problems, we would be able to get help as well as learn about this particular blogging platform.

One thing I swore I would never do is get too involved with customizing or reworking the code.  I wanted to stick with the easy one-click settings and not change the layout or functions of the already-existing layout.  I don’t have time to learn yet another hobby, after all!

Unfortunately, I did end up having to make a little change when Christopher wrote his guest entry.  I needed to set things for showing who was writing each entry so there would be no confusion.  Although I don’t see myself having lots of guest bloggers, it’s handy for the few times I would need it.

Changing the code — mainly just adding one line in the first part of the code, but I had to learn what I was messing with before I tried it — terrified me at first.  Once I realized what I was doing, it wasn’t too bad.  I still don’t see the need to do anything more involved, thankfully, but at least I know I can do minor changes.

My first conference

I enjoy the WordPress group, but I never imagined I’d really do much more than the occasional Meetup with them.  This past weekend, however, my husband and I attended Open Camp in Dallas.  It was originally Word Camp, a big event focusing on WordPress, but this year they opened it up to other things like Drupal and Joomla, as well as talks about podcasting and lots of other social networking and media formats.  I really enjoyed my first conference and had a blast meeting people and learning about some things for blogging and the Internet.

I learned a lot at the conference, but the biggest thing I gained was more confidence.  At first, I felt out of place because I don’t strive to get as many hits as possible or make money with my website, but I soon learned that people were still interested in what I was doing and were impressed with my hobbies.  I even had some photos to show of a few of my projects and people asked me a lot of questions about what I do and why.

Instead of hoping no one would really ask me about what I was doing and what I hoped to learn at the conference, I got into the spirit and initiated conversations — happily chatting with people about websites and goals.

Sessions and speakers

I attended many sessions covering various topics, mostly focusing on WordPress as well as podcasting.  There was a lot of helpful information — some I may not need for a while, but I still appreciated the opportunity to learn.  There were a few speakers who really stood out in my mind, but for different reasons than technical information.  In fact, I won‘t be going into detail about plug-ins, programs, or optimizing a website.  I‘ll be talking about things that inspired me, and why.  If you would like to see more detailed points from some of the sessions, please see my husband‘s site for his entries about the conference.

  • Cali Lewis stated in her Success With Multimedia session that success is different for everyone.   This was a great way for me to start my sessions for the weekend — because I’d been very nervous that my goals and website were too different and as I told her after her session, I’d been feeling a bit like a freak lately compared to the bulk of the people I’ve talked to or read about.  The thing is, my website doesn’t need to be anything I don’t want it to be.  If I want to keep things simple and quiet, as long as I’m happy and pleased with the results and keep finding ways to have fun with the content and have that outlet for friends, family, and myself, then I’ve achieved my goal.  If I meet new people, or help them in some way (even one person), then I’ve gone above and beyond what I set out to do.
  • Trey Ratcliff talked to us in his Clever Tricks to Make Your Blog More Beautiful and Popular session about making sure you write about what you love.  He keeps things simple and doesn’t believe in chasing the popular thing — he wants to stick more to inspiration and things you can be passionate about.  One of his examples to illustrate that point is that he has a blog about drinking chocolate.  While it may not get tons of hits, he is obviously passionate about it to create a blog for it.  This made me realize that I am on the right track with some of my goals, and even could help me focus on narrowing in on specific goals and projects for my own website.
  • Mark Ramsey has many podcasts and gave a session on Audio Podcasting Tips.  He went on to explain that there is no way to start off with a perfect show.  You learn as you go along, and it’s best to just dive in and learn from experience.  He also helped me realize that my interest in possibly trying a podcast of my own was just fine.  I’d worried that I really had nothing to talk about, but after listening to his session, I’m almost more excited about looking into a show of my own than the blog itself!  He explained that we all have a desire to get things off our chest.  Just like many of us post on blogs or websites about something, we also feel the need to discuss things verbally.  It just adds to our options for communication online, and actually conveys an extra level that the written word just can’t do.

There were many more wonderful and inspiring things I learned from the various panels, but those were the ones I think I needed the most.

Inspiration and goals

The whole event helped me think about what I wanted to do with this blog and website, and renewed my excitement to work on it.  One of the themes that seemed to pop up a lot, especially in the podcasting and videocasting sessions, was the need to just express ourselves and get things out there.  To communicate, and possibly even to get a response — even if it’s just someone thinking about what you say and acting on it for their own goals.  As Mark Ramsey said in his podcast session, don’t worry about whether or not it’s perfect — just do it and it’ll work out with practice.

If you need to find inspiration or learn something to help your craft, try to find a conference to attend.  You might meet some new friends or get excited about what you‘re working on again!

Cali Lewis gives her presentation on Success With Multimedia.

Waiting for a session to start, surrounded by technology.

About Cynthia Griffith

I have way too many interests and hobbies, and continually cycle through them -- paying attention to some, while others wait for when I can get around to them again. My main interests are sewing and costuming (I enjoy historical clothing, such as 18th and 19th century, as well as fantasy costumes like elves and hopefully someday even dwarves), as well as getting back to art by drawing fan art of Thorin Oakenshield and Company. My husband Christopher and I spend a lot of time together, enjoying the outdoors and shared hobbies such as juggling. This blog and website is my way to share what I'm up to with friends and family.
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8 Responses to Conferences: More Than Just Technical Tips

  1. Scott Ellis says:


    Thanks for the write up on OpenCamp, I think you got out of it much of what we hoped people would so thank you for sharing your thoughts! As one of the core team of co-organizers this is the kind of stuff to hear about that really makes me feel like we did a good job and keeps me energized to work on it.

    For those around the Dallas area we’re also doing monthly OpenCamp Meet Up‘s. I bring that up not to just plug the group but because a conference can be energizing but all too often people loose that energy after a while and the Meet Up Group will be a great way to help stay energized and focused throughout the year. Thanks again and look forward to seeing you soon.

  2. Scott, thanks so much for the reply! It was my first conference ever, and I really needed it (been craving something like it for a long time). It was a blast, and I look forward to more!

    I should have mentioned more about MeetUps as well, since I only briefly covered them. I definitely look forward to continuing meeting with folks to learn and have fun. I second your comment — anyone interested should definitely look into groups like the OpenCamp MeetUp!

    Best wishes to you and can’t wait for next year’s conference! 😀

  3. I guess I better get busy finishing my conference review, now!

    (I’ve been busy thinking about restructuring my categories and tags and considering taxonomies!)

  4. Scott Ellis says:

    Christopher, Taxonomies are powerful! As with any tool just make sure they are the right one for the job, depending on the nature of your site and how you want to organize your content. I’ve got 2 write ups plus my video from OpenCamp to post as soon as I can plus I’ll be doing a slightly more advanced version of that talk at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic on Sep. 11th so I’ll have video from there as well, so keep your eyes peeled. I’m also going to be working with Lorelle VanFossen on some taxonomy stuff so lot’s to come!

  5. Scott, your presentation was definitely the surprise presentation for me at Open Camp.

    With the other sessions, I knew what to expect. I went the Mark Ramsey route with my blog and just jumped right in. While I’m happy with the content I’ve produced this past year, I’ve always known I can organize it much better. I’ve been reading the links to taxonomies information you provided.

    Oh, and I feel like a total goof for actually struggling to remember “Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species” years ago when all I needed was to remember, “Kelly, please come over for good sex.”

    They taught us “Mary’s violet eyes make Johnny stay up nights,” to remember the order of the planets from the sun out, but they didn’t tell us a thing about Kelly!

  6. Scott Ellis says:

    Christopher, it’s funny to me to that 25ish years later I still remember it that way but I guess when you’re a 13yr old boy… 🙂

    Glad to know my preso wasn’t too predictable!

  7. Mary says:

    Cynthia, this is a great review. Thanks for doing it. Of course, we talked when you returned and I loved the enthusiasm and world of new ideas you both took away with you. Maybe best of all was this: “the biggest thing I gained was more confidence”. 🙂

    “Press” on! (Hee)

  8. Great writeup Cynthia! I had a great time at OpenCamp and really enjoyed meeting the two of you. You are right that it is about a lot more than tech tips (though those are nice) and more about networking and meeting like-minded people.

    I wish I could make it to the monthly meetups but, as a New Orleanian, that isn’t exactly practical. Sadly though the local scene isn’t as robust as it is in Dallas. Still, everyone there was great and my hat is off to the organizers of the event!

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