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Make real friends at WordCamps – #PressPause mini podcast series – #006

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In this, the sixth episode of #PressPause mini podcast series, we speak with Dave Toomey. He’s a website and ads consultant from Ireland.

All of the episodes are released in the run up to WordCamp Europe. My name is Nathan Wrigley, and Micah Dailey (from WPMU Dev) and I have been on the lookout for some WordCamp stories to share with you; stories that have stuck with previous attendees of WordCamps. It’s a chance to pause and remember that WordPress is made up of people, just like you.

Dave talks about a time that he overcame his anxiety and attended WordCamp London. How he arranged to meet up with some of his online friends before he set off, so that there would be things ‘booked’ in – things to do when he arrived.

He wanted to meet people who shared his passion for WordPress, because in his normal day to day life, there are none of them around. This is the perfect reason to attend, but it’s so much more than that.

We hope you enjoy the show, please do subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. We’re always looking for feedback, if you have any thoughts or comments, please do reach out.

And remember… Together we can #PressForward 

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Podcast Transcript

Nathan Wrigley: 00:02 Hello #PressPause, a new week and some new podcasts episodes for you. This is episode six, you know, mini series old running up to WordCamp Europe. The series is brought to you by WP and UP and WPMU Dev. My name is Nathan Wrigley and Micah Dailey have been on the lookout for some WordPress stories to share with you stories that have stuck with previous attendees of WordCamps. It’s a chance to pause and remember that WordPress is made up of people just like you.

Nathan Wrigley: 00:49 If you want to listen to episodes that we’ve already put out, you can just go to WP and UP .org forward slash podcasts and there you’ll find some uplifting and thought provoking stories of what can happen. That’s a WordCamp and that’s the point of this really to allow you to smile along knowingly if you’ve been to a WordCamp before and to encourage you to consider going to one. If you’ve yet to attend, they’re fun events to attend, places where you’ll learn, make friends or reconnect with old friends there for everyone, including you. Right. Let’s get on with the show. This edition of press pause is brought to you by green geeks. Green geeks offers an awesome managed web hosting platform that’s built for speed, security and scalability whilst being environmentally friendly. Enjoy a better web hosting experience for your WordPress websites with green geeks. So we’re going to hear today from my friend Dave, Dave, to me to be more specific. He’s a WordPress consultant and add management consultant. But as you’d imagine, he’s not really on here to talk about either of those things too much. He’s here because he’s got a WordCamp story for us all to here. So what is your story, Dave?

Dave Toomey: 02:23 My WordCamp story basically revolves around the fact that I sit in my little Home Office and I work for clients day in, day out, and I don’t meet anybody. So, um, the total definition of a solopreneur and now I have team members both, they’re all over the place. So really when it comes to working with people, there’s very little human to human interaction, you know, pressing of the flesh as it were, shaking hands and actually go on and have a coffee. Right? That doesn’t happen in my business. So the WordPress community, fabulously so always amazing online Facebook groups and forums and email lists where people tell me what’s going on in the community. But I’ve never actually met somebody in person that does what I do. And I wanted to change that. So I went to my first WordCamp in London 2018

Nathan Wrigley: 03:16 Working online is about the most rewarding thing that I can imagine. But not everyone feels like that. And let’s be honest, most people have no idea what WordPress is or what it does. So like Dave, you might not get to share your passion about WordPress with the people you’re in the same room as

Dave Toomey: 03:38 Well, I’ve developed my 60 second pitch to three words, which is I build websites and because that’s what the general public understand and nothing more, I would be shocked and surprised if more than 2% of people understood what WordPress is. And knew what it was. And probably one and a half of those two would be thinking of WordPress.com rather than.org like if I said to someone, I’m a mechanic and I work on Ferrari’s, like there would be more of an interaction and come back and people could ask me questions about my job and showing interest in it. But when you say I build websites and I use WordPress, they really haven’t got a clue where to go next. What does that mean and why you should I care? And I spend an awful lot of time in my business trying to not use the term word price because the clients don’t understand that is so really even my wife to a certain extent it would be like, well, is that your um, website? Your friends, you know, you’re still a message that I would say are, you know, so and so from the WordPress group, you know, and, and you know, she doesn’t even know when she was living with me. It is difficult to sort of have that kind of camaraderie and kinship with somebody face to face locally, et cetera. And there are meetups, but they tend to be in larger communities like cities and things. When you live outside of a large city, it’s harder to find people that are doing what you’re doing.

Nathan Wrigley: 04:56 So Dave was feeling that he needed an outlet for his WordPress life. He needed to meet like minded people. So he took himself off to WordCamp in London. Did he go knowing that he’d meet up with people? What was he going completely solo?

Dave Toomey: 05:14 Yeah, a bit of both, to be honest with you because there is not a trepidation about the definition of knowing somebody. I have some of my best friends in the world that we consider WordPress people and I’ve never met them and probably may never meet them ever because they live in Australia or Canada or America. You know? It’s one of those things where some of the most genuine people that I would literally give a kidney to, I have never and will never meet. And London was one of those things. It was close enough that I knew a proportion of people that I found very interesting and likable or we’re going to be there. And some of them I would know, but very much like this, I would know them through talking to them. Very rarely comments on a Facebook group. Like you know, WP and UP or WP Builds or the beaver builder group or whatever.

Dave Toomey: 06:04 And it’s just, well this person’s interesting. I really want to meet them. And the only opportunity I would have to do that would probably be be a WordCamp. And we’re in Ireland, Dublin and Belfast or so, you know, they don’t happen that often and I think it’s a numbers game and it’s a shame. Last time WordCamp London was happening. I got very ill on the Thursday and I missed the whole thing. So I thought, no, I’m definitely going. And London came up the following year, so I just book the flight and I just said, who’s going like, is anybody going to London? I’m going to be there. You know, let’s meet up and have a beer. But if you’re, if you’re not somebody who is social on Facebook or the like, I’m sure there are groups your aware of that have WordPress communities.

Dave Toomey: 06:48 And what I would use, what I would recommend you do is literally go in and put a post up about a month before a WordCamp say, I’m considering attending. Is anybody else going? Would you like to meet up for coffee? Just ask other people, but when people will make recommendations as well, if somebody had been to the same WordCamp the year before and it might say, oh, there’s a cafe two minutes around the corner that does great vegan food. You know, there’s almost that kind of excitement about the upcoming WordCamp. If you’re not friendly with the people at attending, you can build relationships in the few weeks before the WordCamp. Just meet somebody for a coffee and that’s brilliant too.

Nathan Wrigley: 07:23 Good advice about teaming up with your online friends before you go to WordCamp? This is something that I do. I find out who is going to go to the WordCamp and then I connect online and just chat about what I’m going to see where I’m staying and sometimes arrange to hang out in the evenings.

Dave Toomey: 07:43 Yeah, my little one, I got over my imposter syndrome and fear, which is only natural to to walk up to a group of strangers and there is no matter what you do for the first time there is that anxiety and a large proportion of us that sit in an office and talk to a microphone or a type in a keyword and don’t do anything else from a human interaction point of view suffer from anxiety and social anxiety and that idea of fronting up to a room full of people. It just scares the bejesus out of it. But what I found and I would say is from my own experience is everybody’s in the same boat, you know, and the only people that aren’t in the same boat are the ones that went to the WordCamp last year. So they knew already what it was going to be like.

Dave Toomey: 08:29 There is a, I’m going to say and I don’t know, but I’m going to suggest maybe 50% of the people that attend WordCamp haven’t been to that WordCamp before, whereas the other half went last year or have been to another one. So there’s going to be a high proportion of people that their first WordCamp. And like the London was for me last year and I, and I was nervous, I was anxious about going and meeting people and I just bumped into someone in the corridor of the hotel I was staying and it was like, oh, you’re so and so in your sound. So great. Are you heading down? Yeah. And we just spent 10 minutes walking down to the pub to meet up with other people and that anxiety went fairly quick and it wasn’t the alcohol, it was us. People are in the same boat. So it’s that the first step is the hardest. Just go, you know, you put a name badge on for the morning of the Saturday and people start looking at name badges and they’ll recognize your name and introduced themselves and you do the same. You’ll spots for you. You recognize you, oh, Nathan Wrigley, I’ve heard of you. How are you getting on? And it’s that kind of way, but it’s, that first step is just just difficult. It’s one of those situations in life where you go, why the hell was I being so nervous about it? Once when you reflect on it,

Nathan Wrigley: 09:38 what comes up so much going on, talks, learning, meeting people, eating and more. I wondered what day you found to be the most valuable. Well, a couple of things I’d say about that is

Dave Toomey: 09:52 one, two days there were probably, I don’t know, 20 presentations and they’re all not going to appeal to you. What will happen is there’ll be two or three that stand out on the list and you go, I really, really want to see them and you will, you’ll make the effort to go to them. But an awful lot of people find that they’re there because of the community, the people around them, and the learning is almost a byproduct. The education and God bless the organizers of WordCamp stays, put so much effort into finding speakers and they’d put the speakers themselves put so much effort into it, but I always found that it’s the people in the community around those parts of the WordCamp were the most beneficial to me moving forward. So that money I spent under the premise of education actually ended up being value for money in a completely different way because of the relationships I built around the two days.

Dave Toomey: 10:48 The sometimes the two are hand in hand that it was the speaker I ended up building a relationship with because I went up to them after their talk and said, I really need to talk to you. I’m built a relationship with the speaker. But generally I got, you know, so much more than just education out of the two days. So that 60 pounds or whatever it was that is technically cheap for what you get, uh, has way more value than the face value. I think it’s, it’s one of those things, it’s almost like a holiday in the sense that you know, you remember a holiday you went on five years ago because you remember the feeling that you had after the holiday that it was a great holiday. And really when you think about it, most of the holiday was nonsense, but it was two or three things that happened on the holiday that made the whole thing the whole experience. Fantastic. But you had to put it off and often an awful lot of effort into going on holiday. But five years down the road you still have those memories. And I think word comes from me. Certain word comes have that as well. So some will be better than others, but it’s almost like you have to, you have to get in your hand into the pick and mix to find the things you like. So don’t think of it as like, oh it doesn’t

Speaker 4: 11:54 look like there might be anything here. For me it’s, well let’s just go and experience the whole thing and then review it afterwards about what you gained from it. So don’t be put off by, you know, there may not be at a very specific talk or a specific workshop goal for the event goal for the overall experience, not just the talks. And don’t be afraid. It’s one of those situations in life where yes, you’ll be anxious, but it’s unfounded anxiousness that is totally unfounded. I promise you that. And that’s coming from someone with massive experience of social anxiety in these situations, you’ll get over it instantly. It’s just one of those things that at the end of it, and go, why did I worry so much about the same?

Nathan Wrigley: 12:43 So there you go. WordCamps are great. There’s lots to do, lots to see friends to make and reconnect with. You’ve just got to take the first step and buy your tickets.

Nathan Wrigley: 13:07 the press forward podcast is a production of WP and not. This mini series is a collaborative effort by wpm you, Dev and WP, and up Micah Dailey. Me, Nathan Wrigley produced this episode and Micah created the original skull. A special thanks today for chatting with me today, and thanks for listening and remember that together we can #PressForward

Nathan Wrigley