WordCamp Organizing 101: Choosing a Date

WordCamp 101: Choosing a Date

This is the second post in our series on organizing WordCamps. Our previous post covered forming an organizing team. Check out Getting Involved: WordCamp Organizing 101 for the full series.

If you’re an organizer with advice to share, or a potential organizer with questions to ask, please get in touch with us!

When’s the next WordCamp?

Attendees were asking us this question before our last WordCamp had even finished, and we were getting emails asking the same question less than a week later.

Choosing a date for your WordCamp is one of the first steps you’ll be going through as an organizer, and it’s an important one. This is the date you’ll propose to potential venues, and it’s what all of your timelines will work towards.

In this post we’re going to cover a few considerations that you should have when choosing the date for your WordCamp. 🙂

How many days will you need?

One, two, or more…? For the last three years Toronto has used two days: Saturday for the bulk of the WordCamp (sessions and after-party), and a shorter Sunday for workshops and panels.

Another popular setup is to use a half-day or evening on Friday for smaller hands-on workshops, Saturday for user-focused content, and Sunday for developer-focused content.

WordCamp San Francisco 2013 used three full days: Friday through Sunday. But in 2012, they did it all in a single Saturday.

What time of the year?

Once you have an idea of how many days you’ll need, it’s time to think about when in the year you’d like to hold the event.

Spring and summer are popular. Nice weather, vacation time, and few holidays… it’s a wonderful mix. But that also means there are lots of other event organizers thinking the same thing. This can make venues and vendors difficult to wrangle.

If you go for autumn or winter, consider the weather in your region, and what it means for your attendees. (Travel conditions, what they have to wear throughout the day, etc.)

What venues are available? Think about the potential venues that are likely available during different times of the year. For example, colleges and universities are fairly empty during the summer, while other event venues are busy during this time.

Will you be competing for attention?

Are there other activities happening at the same time? If there’s another attraction in your city, hotels might be difficult or more expensive to book. If there’s road construction, traffic and transit will probably be affected.

If your venue is preoccupied with other tasks (schools through the academic year, for example) then you’re more likely to have delays in communication.

If there’s another event that’ll attract your attendees, you’re forcing them to make a choice between the two. Even moreso if there’s another WordCamp or relevant conference in your area at the same time.

Tip: You can view a schedule of upcoming WordCamps on the WordCamp Central website. An RSS feed is also available, if you’re into that sorta thing!

You can use disadvantages to your advantage, though. In 2012 we inadvertently scheduled WordCamp Toronto to happen alongside Nuit Blanche, an annual overnight arts festival in downtown Toronto.

Nuit Blanche made traffic and hotels a frustration, but it also gave attendees something fun — and free! — to check out during their time in the city.

Don’t forget the out-of-towners!

A WordCamp is a bigger commitment than a meetup — often a full weekend, or more — and attendees will want a heads-up well in advance.

Toronto had folks coming in from other provinces and around the United States, while WordCamp Europe had attendees from all over the world.

In our opinion it’s important to show those out-of-towners a good time and be a gracious host. Help them enjoy and experience a bit of your city while learning new things from your local WordPress community.

Recap: Length, Season, Month and Competition

In a nutshell: As your team is deciding on a date, go through the following:

  • How many days do you need?
  • What’s the best season?
  • Within that season, which month is the best?
  • What weekend is best to avoid competition?

An important note: Announce nothing until your venue is confirmed. If you’ve selected a date but you have no venue, you’re setting expectations that may not be meetable. Instead, get a commitment from your venue first, ideally in writing.

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