This weekend I attended my first WordPress conference, known as WordCamp, in Sacramento. I’m not a web developer or a tech person at all, really. Still, I wanted to explore and learn whether there was a new market I could reach with my writing and editing services. Meeting people and asking questions was my modus operandi.
I’m in the process of turning my one-woman shop into a team, or at least, a network. My “shop,” Rhuby Editorial, helps experts in the health & wellness space to share their knowledge with the world.
Here are a few of my takeaways from WordCamp.
Talk to strangers
Opening speaker Chris Lema taught us some valuable tips for talking to strangers. First of all, forget about the notion that you (as a content creator), have an “audience.” Just forget it, he said. 75% of the people who come to your website are strangers and they don’t come back. Assuming it’s those strangers you want to pitch your product or service to, you should learn how to talk to them.
Quickly assess whether the stranger that you are proposing to do business with is a “toward” person or an “away” person. That is—is your prospective customer looking to achieve a goal (going toward something)? Or trying to avoid a certain type of pain (oriented away from something)?
Develop a set of questions you can use early on to figure out whether the thing you’re providing will help your customer reach a destination or avoid pain. Then, make sure to tailor your message, from the images to the testimonials you use in your proposal, to that stranger and no one else.
Refine your elevator pitch
New to WordCamp Sacramento this year was the facilitated networking session. The concept was great, though I’ll say I had a mixed reaction to the way it actually worked in practice. We formed intimate circles of 10, and went around the circle taking one minute each to describe our business and what we hoped to learn at WordCamp. This part went well. Then there was a moment when we were supposed to be exchanging cards and also changing groups at the same time, and our facilitator maybe felt it was taking too long and maybe sort of screamed at us in the mic.
But my takeaway from it was: say the one thing that makes your business stand out from others like it. I heard a lot of people say, “I’m a freelance web developer,” and frankly, all those web developers blended together after a while.
I wanted to know, like, do you serve a distinct customer segment? For example, I met a guy from the Lake Tahoe area whose customers tend to be health and outdoors-type businesses. Pardon me while I bury my head in my bag to find his card–I want to learn more and possibly partner with him!
Also, if you’re developing a product, consider describing it by comparing it to something others know, but with a twist. For example, “it’s like X [thing people know] but instead of Y, we do Z.”
Find out what causes your customer pain
By 5pm Saturday, I felt like the day at WordCamp had taken me full circle. I had two detailed conversations with web developers about their pinch points.
First, Mahal Torres and I chatted in the hallway about how web devs need checklists & other documents to gather customers’ business requirements and otherwise define the scope of the project. He also noted that a lot of small business owners don’t realize that the developer needs content to plug into the site! Waiting on content that the client hasn’t yet generated can cause major holdups. I NEVER KNEW THIS. But it makes perfect sense. Hmm, where could I plug into that?
Next, I stayed after the Project Manager panel talk to pick Laura Gannon’s brain. She generously helped me analyze what we’d just heard from panelists Jake Goldman, Amber Hewitt, Justin Sainton, and Katie Elenberger. According to Amber and confirmed by the rest of the panel, project managers often need to “separate out a client’s wishes and dreams from what we can really do for them.”
So, I wondered, do web developers need help with communicating the hard things?
- Like, “we’re going to keep you focused on your goal (say, fundraising) even if what you tell us you want is more blue things and buttons on your site.”
- And, “the reason we charge for this is…”
- And, “the amount of input we need from you increases with the complexity of the website you want.”
Can Rhuby Editorial help web developers create some tools for that all-important discovery phase? Laura brainstormed with me, punctuating certain ideas with, “yep, I’d pay for that.”
All I can say is, my brain is churning! And thank you Laura and Mahal.
Bonus takeaway: Secure your…everything!
The talk on website security by Tony Perez couldn’t have come at a worse time for me personally. It’s OK—my site hasn’t been breached (that I know of). But I just got finished working with an author, a mental health provider, on a tricky book chapter about HIPAA and securing clients’ private health information.
As his editor I tried to help build in some kind of framework that readers could turn to so they would not just be constantly afraid of hackers. I suggested, and ended up writing myself quite a bit about, the “controls” framework: Physical, Administrative, and Technical controls. However, what I wish I could’ve done was adapt Tony’s talk for my author client.
Tony described six major threats and five essential, recursive actions site owners need to do to mediate those threats (Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover). See? Here are my notes:
Final take: It’s ok to go rogue for lunch
WordCamp registration included lunch on Saturday. I was stoked for a picnic on the beautiful California State Capitol lawn, eating something delicious from a food truck while talking with smart people. Unfortunately, there were only three food trucks for the 450 WordCampers. Needless to say, the line was ridonkulous.
I went to the end of the burger line. There I had a chin-wag with one of the conference sponsor reps who’d been hanging out at his exhibit table all morning. Eventually our conversation came to its natural end. And we’d moved about six feet, still nowhere near the front of the line and now out from underneath the shade.
So I went rogue, and walked over to Old Soul Coffeehouse. It was dark in there, and yes, I basically paid for my lunch twice, but it was also nice to sneak away for a bit. My advice for any conference goer (especially my fellow introverts): it’s OK to take time away when you need it. Quit talking to strangers, go refresh yourself, and dive back in when you’re ready.
I had a great time at WordCamp. Despite the hiccups I mentioned, overall it was a win. And at $40 for registration, it was totally worth the trip downtown. A huge thank-you to the organizers and sponsors. Here’s the link to the Attendee page, if you want to look up any of the smart people I referenced above.