Planning and Producing a Virtual Event with Brian Richards

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Brian Richards is officially the first repeat guest on the show, and this time around he’s talking about his online conferences, WordSesh and WooSesh. Brian talks logistics, speaker selection, and of course, the tech stack. It’s a super interesting conversation. Plus, if you’re interested, WooSesh is October 18-19, 2018, and it totally free!

Show Notes

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Question of the week: What are you doing with eCommerce? Let me know on Twitter (@jcasabona) or at


Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 98 of How I Built It. Today, my guest is
my good friend and the very first repeat guest, Brian Richards. Now, I need
to apologize to Chris Lema. He’s coming up in this season as well. I told
him he was the first repeat guest, but I moved Brian’s episode up because
he is talking about how he built WordSesh and a new conference called
WooSesh that is happening this week, October 18th and 19th. You’re going to
learn all about how he put together this website with former guest Patrick
Rauland, how they set up their tech stack, and overall how to have a good
Online Conference. If you want to attend WooSesh, it is completely free,
and you can go to and sign up.

Again the sessions start on Thursday, October 18th and they go through
Friday, October 19th. We’ll learn all about that from Brian in a second,
but first, I want to tell you about a brand new course over at Creator
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off. This episode is also brought to you by Pantheon which you’ll hear
about later, but for now, let’s talk to Brian. On with the show.

Joe Casabona:
Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast
that asks, “How did you build that?” Today, another return guest. Chris
Lema was the first, here is the second. My good friend Brian Richards from
WPSessions. Brian, how are you today?

Brian Richards:
I am swell, Joe. I’m honored to be your second second-time guest. That’s
very fitting.

Absolutely. I try not to have a lot of repeat guests, but today we’re going
to be talking about something I’m personally interested in. I’m glad to
have you on the show again. We’re going to be talking about WooSesh and
WordSesh, your two online WordPress-based conferences. Is that right?

Yeah, that’s a pretty good summary of what they are.

Cool. I will recommend that people listen to your first episode, which I’ll
link in the show notes. But for those who might not know you, why don’t you
tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Sure. As you know, my name is Brian Richards, and anybody listening to this
knows because it’s there in the title of the episode. I run WPSessions
which provides training for developers, primarily people who use WordPress,
although my training isn’t strictly WordPress-based. But anybody who works
with WordPress is likely to benefit from it. I do virtual sessions, and I
do onsite team training, onboarding, corporate consultations, things like
that. Anything that involves teaching people how to do more, better work
with WordPress.

Very nice. That’s a fantastic summary. We’re both in the WordPress
education space, and I like this setup that we have. I have the people that
are maybe not quite ready for you to educate yet. They maybe are taking the
undergrad classes, and then they move on to you, which I would say are the
graduate classes.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good summary. Or analogy, rather.

Today we’re going to be talking about two fantastic online conferences,
WooSesh and WordSesh. Let’s start with WordSesh because that was around
first, and then maybe we can move on to WooSesh. From what I understand,
you’re using the same engine to power both of these websites and
conferences, right?

Bingo. Yep. WooSesh was a pretty natural extension of WordSesh, so it does
make sense to start there and move ahead.

Excellent. Why don’t you tell us about WordSesh?

Cool. WordSesh has been around for just over five years. This year was the
fifth iteration of WordSesh, but it missed a few years in between. It was
started by Scott Baasgard, and he’s an awesome guy who did some amazing
things creating WordSesh. In one small part, it was inspiration and impetus
for me to start WPSessions. I was thrilled after year 1 to be able to help
him co-organize and help out wherever I could when he did the second one,
and then again with the third one. Then I was completely out of commission
for the fourth one, that was right about the time that one of my sons was

Then it had always been too much of a burden, and now he has his own
children, and it wasn’t going to happen again. So I reached out to him and
said, “How can I take the reins? Can I help make this happen again?” He
said, “How about you just take the torch and run with it.” So I said, “OK.
That would be quite the honor because I’ve been thinking about hosting a
conference since I started WPSessions. Originally I was thinking about
doing a physical one, and then I shied away from that recognizing that it
costs just an enormous sum of money to even get a venue, let alone all of
the costs that attendees and speakers would have to pay.

Or, that I’d have to pay for speakers to get everybody to the same location
to host something, even something small.” So I thought, “What if I did a
virtual event?” Which then brought me back to a WordSesh, “I don’t want to
make my own when WordSesh is around, how about I just try and find a way to
do WordSesh more?” that’s when Scott and I start talking again, and he
said, “Here. You take the torch and run with it.” So, that’s how it came to
be under the WPSessions umbrella.

Nice. Two points here, as we move, because I do want to ask you about this
specific decision. WordSesh was free originally, right?


And it was also 24 hours.


I know this very intimately because I was selected to speak one year that
coincided with my one year dating anniversary of who is now my wife, and we
were in the city to see a Broadway play. New York City, to see a Broadway
play. In order for me to be able to speak at WordSesh but also be a good
boyfriend, I asked if I could speak at 4:00 in the morning. I did my
WordSesh talk at 4:00 in the morning from a hotel in Manhattan.

You’re a crazy man.

I was, yeah.

Scott was as well. The event used to be completely free and 24 hours long,
which is why it became too burdensome for Scott to keep running for free
and very difficult for any person to watch the whole thing. Some people
tried. Scott tried every year and would nod off at some point in the middle
of the night while it was going on, but then came back too, read a couple
of sessions later. It takes a large number of volunteers to make something
like that work. I wanted to get something up and running quickly that I
could do myself, so I could compress the timeline.

I decided to make it a 12-hour event for this run, and then I also started
charging for it so that I could pay all of the speakers because everybody
was a volunteer for the first four WordSeshes. All of the speakers,
everybody helping out, and I wanted to be able to pay them for their time.
I also wanted to do something that hadn’t been done in any prior WordSesh
which was to transcribe everything in real time, so that every attendee who
is not a native English speaker or who is hard of hearing would still be
able to participate and get something from the event.

Both of those endeavors, both paying the speakers and paying for a
real-time transcriber to come in and caption everything are not inexpensive
independently, and together it was like, “OK. I need to put some of this
burden on the attendees if they really want this to happen.”

And to add on to that real quick, it’s nice that WordSesh was a free event
all this time, but I can certainly vouch that– nothing against previous
iterations of WordSesh, but that the quality and the topics were a bit more
refined this time around.

Thank you. Yeah. There were a lot of good talks in all of the previous four
years, but it takes a lot of work to fill 24 hours. In one year. They had
two separate tracks running for the entire 24 hours. There were 48 hours of
content that came from that one, which means lots of panel discussions,
which are interesting and useful in the moment but don’t have a lot of
shelf life or repeat viewability. I wanted to make something that was a
little more curated from beginning to end, so I tried to pick, and I
surveyed all of my customers beforehand to figure out what sort of things
they were interested in learning about in the next four to six months.

Then I sought out speakers who could talk about those things and came up
with a schedule that I thought flowed pretty well together, so of the 12
talks, there was usually a pair between the two. I had one where Carrie
Dils was talking about 10 Keys to Freelancing Success, and the one right
after that, Nathan Allotey talked about what clients want and how to get to
the business needs behind the ask, and then be able to deliver the services
they want. Other ones paired together nicely like those.

That was a lot of fun to do, to figure out the topics that people wanted to
hear about and find the people who I thought were the best to cover those
topics, and then to arrange them in the schedule in such a way that they
built upon each other. But would still allow somebody, if they could pop in
for just a couple hours, let’s say, to watch something that was relevant
and useful and then be able to come back and watch the recordings later to
complete the experience.

Nice. That’s fantastic, and it flows well into, what research did you do?
You answered how you came up with the right topics, but I noticed that you
didn’t have a call for speakers, for example. So choosing the speakers was
probably part of your research, and then what tools you decided to use. For
example, transcribing in real time. I didn’t know that you did that until
just now.


What kind of research did you do to figure out who should speak and what
kind of tools you would use?

The research I did, I surveyed my customers and my existing audience. I was
like, “What do you want to learn?” I probably could have done more to
survey a broader audience, but I determined from the hundred responses that
I got from just my own audience that I had enough. Like, “This is what I
figured people wanted to hear about. How do I do better work with my
clients? How do I work more efficiently? How do I get better performance
out of the stuff that I’m doing?” That survey was enough for me to go on,
like, “OK. Here are the topics that I need, and in terms of researching
speakers, I looked at several other conferences both in the WordPress world
and out of the WordPress world, to see who is talking about different

Most of the speakers that I recruited I already had a personal relationship
with, so I already knew Chris Lema is the VP of product at Liquid Web who
has spent a ton of time investing in hosted e-commerce solutions. Pretty
sure he is going to be a smart match for this e-commerce talk that I need,
and then others I had heard about and had seen some of their slide decks
and read some of their articles. Like Andrea Goulet, I’m like “This is a
talk that I need to bring to the WordPress community.” She spoke about the
makers and menders. “How do you self-identify? Are you the person who likes
to make new things and solve new problems? Or are you a person who likes to
pick up where someone left off and make it better? To fix problems, to
improve performance,” and things like that.

That was a very illuminating talk. Many attendees, particularly people who
didn’t know who she was or what she was talking about, took a lot away from
that one. So, speaker research was pretty easy. I didn’t have an open call
for speakers. I got some flak for doing it that way, like, “Where was the
call for speakers? Because this used to be a very open community event, and
you close the doors, and you’re charging money, you’ve changed everything.”
I said, “You’re right. That’s a very astute observation. I did all of this
so that I could get one out the door quickly.

I knew that if I’d opened a call for speakers, I would probably get more
than 100 applications because it’s open to everyone around the world, and
even though it’s only 12 hours instead of 24 hours that does still bridge
the world pretty well. Someone you should be able to tune in for an hour.
So I would get way too many speaker applications to go through to only be
able to pick 12 people. The next one will have an open speaker call because
I’ll have a longer runway of planning in front of me. But I wanted to keep
this one tight and moving quickly.

Not for nothing, but there are enough events in the WordPress community
especially that have open calls for speakers, and very low barriers for
speakers. It’s not like our community is lacking that, we maybe have an
overabundance of that.

It’s true.

I’m curious about this. How did you approach Andrea Goulet who you don’t
have a personal relationship with, and say, “I want you to speak at this
conference.” What did the pitch look like for that?

I started following her on Twitter more than a year ago when I started
seeing some of the interesting things she was sharing come into my feed
from somebody else. I was like, “This is really smart. Everything that her
company Corgibytes is doing resonates with me because I have this mender
mindset. They call themselves the Joyful Janitors of The Internet, which is
just great.


Because we have this mindset of, “Maintaining legacy code is awful, and
it’s just so much better to rebuild or complete, rather than refactor.” And
she’s like, “No. It’s easier to refactor than to rebuild and make many
micro improvements leading to a major advancement than to throw out
something and start over. Because you’ll spend so much time building the
thing where you start over, that by the time you’re done with it, it now is
its own legacy piece of software by the time you launch it. I started
following her a year ago, and we interacted briefly on Twitter now and

She’d already seen my name by the time I reached out, and I knew that she
spoke at many different conferences and started pitching herself as a
keynote speaker available for hire. So I said, “Perfect. I had a virtual
event, and you already have a talk that is exactly for my audience. Maybe
with a couple of minor tweaks here in the middle, would you be interested
in giving it?” And she said, “Yes. This sounds amazing. Can you please work
with my assistant to coordinate and make sure that I’m not double booking
myself and we get everything straightened away?” That was it. It was super

Wow, that’s great. I’m sure it probably didn’t help that you did decide to
pay your speakers, which I would also like to ask you about that. Because I
know again, in the WordPress community and WordCamps, it is all volunteer
for speakers. I speak a WordCamps every year, and it’s a nice way for us to
give back, but it’d also be nice to get paid for a speaking gig. What was
your decision behind that?

I didn’t want to ask anybody to work for free, particularly if my event was
going to be making me money. My goal with the tickets was to at least break
even, hopefully, make some money. In the end, I did. I came out a few
hundred dollars ahead of my expenses, so it doesn’t cover my time, but it
covered all of my expenses, and I felt pretty good about that. My sponsors
helped cover my time, so I was pretty well covered there. I didn’t feel
good saying, “Do you want to come and speak at this thing? I can’t pay you,
but I might be making some money off of your back if you say yes.” That
didn’t feel good to me. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to pay them.
It felt like peanuts relative to what I’m sure they could bill their time
for, so I hope to be able to increase that for the next one. But at no
point was I thinking I was going to let anybody speak for free.

Gotcha, gotcha. And this will be the last question here, right before we
get into the title question because I’m curious about this too. I suppose
that will factor in heavily to the open call for speakers if you have one
for next year, right? You’ll want to take into account, “Is this person
experienced and skilled enough to earn what I’m paying them?” Maybe that’s
not the right way to put it. I’m sure you can word it more eloquently than
I can, but you’re likely going to pick people who are worth their salt for

That’s the tricky thing. Because I do want to create a platform where
anybody could have their breakout moment, which is why WordCamps are
designed to be open calls for speakers. We don’t want to exclude someone
just because they don’t yet have an audience or a lot of experience under
their belt, but you also don’t want to put someone on stage who isn’t going
to be able to deliver the material. Because that’s not very useful for the
attendees, it doesn’t make them feel great if they’re nervous the whole
time. I’ve been pondering hiring a speaking coach to help people who have
less experience. This idea was handed to me by Patrick Rauland who is
co-organizing WooSesh with me, which we’ll talk about in a minute with the
title question.

And I thought, “That’s a good idea, to find someone who shows an aptitude
for the material, they understand material well enough, but they don’t have
any way to demonstrate that they can present it. Maybe I can work with
them, either myself or an experienced professional speaker coach, to give
them pointers and help them make the most of the 30 to 40 minutes that
they’ll be presenting. Because you’re right, I don’t want to just pick
someone blindly and pay them and then realize, “You didn’t actually know
this material,” Or, “What you said you were going to deliver was X, but you
delivered an intro to X which everybody already knew, or could easily read
themselves just from a quick google search.”

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I remember Patrick. I know Patrick, and we were talking about coaching
speakers. WordCamp DC in 2017 had a mentorship program that I thought was
excellent, and they asked me and a few other experienced speakers who were
going to be speaking at WordCamp DC if we wanted to mentor a new speaker. I
thought that was great. I jumped all over that. I thought that was great.
So I attended my mentees talk, and it was two ladies. They did a great job.
I don’t know if they really needed my coaching, I’m not going to say they
did a great job because of me, but I thought it was fantastic and very
helpful and unique. That’s a very cool idea. Cool. So, let’s move into the
title question. We have a lot of good background information. We didn’t
touch on why WooSesh– maybe as we talk about how you built WordSesh, we
can transition into moving that over and using the same engine for WooSesh.
If that makes sense?

Yeah. I can answer why WooSesh came to be in about a sentence. WordSesh was
so popular, and I had so many requests for more e-commerce content that it
was a natural extension to say, “Let’s make another session event dedicated
wholly to WooCommerce because so many people were asking for that.” Ta-da,
now WooSesh is a thing.

Very nice. Cool. With both of these sites, let’s talk. How did you build

They are both powered by WordPress, which makes sense because they are for
WordPress-based conferences. WooSesh is slightly different because of a
cool opportunity we have where WooCommerce is sponsoring the event and
therefore underwriting the cost for every attendee, which is awesome.

Wow, yeah.

That’s a much simpler stack, it’s just a nice clean WordPress site with a
simple, single registration form where you provide your name and your
e-mail, and you’re in. So long as someone attends the event live, any part
of it, they will have links and access to all of it. If you can only come
to one session, you can still get all 16 from both days for free, because
you took the time to participate live for one. Then afterward once it’s all
done, we’ll switch it over to the system that’s powering WordSesh where it
will be $200 bucks a ticket. Which is still a steal for the speakers that
we have and the topics that they’re covering, and the freebies that you get
for attending. Going back to WordSesh, it is WordPress with WooCommerce,
with the memberships add-on and then the teams from memberships add-on on
top of that.

Then the MailChimp for WooCommerce extension to push everybody over to
MailChimp, that’s the stack for the site itself, and the reason I went with
memberships and teams for memberships is because I didn’t strictly need
tickets for what I was doing. I was selling tickets, or “tickets,” but I’m
just selling access. I wanted a nice simple UI where someone on a team
could say, “I’ve got 16 people who want to watch this thing.” They register
and then I wanted to make it dead simple for them to get everybody else on
the team in, and maybe at 16 people because they are say the office manager
and they’re not going to watch, maybe it’s 15 people plus them because
they’re the CTO and they are going to watch. The teams add-on for the
memberships add-on for WooCommerce does this beautifully, where you can set
it up a bunch of different ways. The way that I needed it, that I just
described, it handles flawlessly.

A person can buy the product and type in the number of seats that they want
to buy, and then once their order is complete, they are shown a link that
they can use– A page, rather. With a link that they can share internally
via slack or e-mail. Say, “Click this and register yourself.” Or, right
beneath that is a form that they can use where they could type in the
e-mail address for each person they want to invite, and each of those
people get an e-mail with that link that says, “Click here to register.” It
also gives them the opportunity to track, “Of the people that I invited,
who has not yet filled this in?” Then they can eject people, like if they
invited somebody but they no longer belonged, or to regenerate the link. If
they shared it but it accidentally got out, and other people not on their
team were using it, they can eject those people, generate a new link and it
makes it easier for them to self-manage.

That’s great. This is by the folks at SkyVerge, right?


They do brilliant work anyway.

Yeah, they know what’s up. It also made it easy for me to register people
in the admin area because I did local viewing parties this year. I made
that an official, not really sanction, but I promoted local viewing parties
from the website this year. Anybody who was hosting a viewing party needed
to have free access. So I just created a team that was, “Viewing party
hosts,” and invited all of my hosts to that team in no time at all. It was
super-duper simple. So that’s what’s powering the WordPress side of things,
and then for the event itself, I used Crowdcast which has been around since
the beginning of WordSesh but has improved leaps and bounds every single
year since.

What started as a wrapper for YouTube videos with chat on one side and the
audience polls and survey below, now they do their own embedded streaming
video service, and they have a lot of nice features for organizing an event
like this. I was able to create an event for WordSesh, create multiple
sessions in the schedule for each of the different presentations that were
going to happen. Then as I moved from one to the other, and just before I’m
about to go live, I can summon everybody to the room that I’m in. If
somebody were to linger behind, which I encourage so they could keep
chatting, I could bring them to the live room once it was time for the
broadcast to start so they wouldn’t miss anything. Crowdcast is a fantastic

Then when it was all over I was able to archive it, extract and export all
of the video, upload it to Vimeo. Put it right back on the site so that
people who bought a ticket after the fact can come back and easily watch
the recordings without having to bounce around that UI, and then also
upload it over WPSessions. Because one of the perks of being a member at
WPSessions is that you would get access to all of this conference content
for free, without any extra effort on your behalf. All of that just tied
together nicely. The only thing that I was missing, I felt, was a way to
automatically bridge members on to and I got
around that pretty easily. I just exported all of the members on WPSessions
on the day of the event, imported them on WordSesh and everything was fine.
It didn’t take enough time for me to say, “I need to build a solution in
code to fix this,” but I still wish one existed.

I also wish that existed. Dear listeners, here’s an opportunity for you.
Because I wanted to set up a forum for Creator Courses called The only thing on the site was forums, and I wanted
any student who registered for a course on Creator Courses to automatically
have access to the completely separate forums without having e-commerce,
LMS and forums all in one WordPress installation. Unfortunately, there was
not an easy way to share databases between two WordPress installations
easily, so I too wish that existed. I looked into coding it myself, and I
thought, “This is too much work for me to do alone when I’m trying to run
an online courses site.” So this is two very good use cases we’re talking
about here, smart people out there, build that and then come on my show and
tell me how you built it.

That’s right!

Two follow up questions here. You mentioned it’s powered by WordPress and
Memberships. Memberships as a plugin specifically for WooCommerce. I don’t
know if you said that you were using WooCommerce as the e-commerce side, I
did not write that down.


OK cool. Crowdcast, the last time I looked at Crowdcast you could only
export in standard definition. Has that changed? Have they fixed that?

Yes, they fixed that, so you can export the full high def.


You can also export the chats, and as the organizer– That’s the only way
you can export those, but you also can export all of the attendee data,
which is really cool for a multi-session event like this one because you
can see for each attendee, which session they attended and whether or not
they watched a replay afterward. I can easily see per person, “How many
sessions did you attend live?” And then per session, “How many people were
here live?” Which is valuable.

That’s cool. I’m going to link to Crowdcast and all of this stuff in the
show notes. I’ve been considering using some webinar software to do live
webinars, and all of them are maybe prohibitively more expensive than
YouTube. But you’re selling me on Crowdcast here.

They’re all missing one feature that I want. Crowdcast has almost all of
them. The only place that it falls short for me for being a perfect
solution for everything right now is that it has its own separate
authentication. I can embed it on my site, and I can create unlisted events
so that only my members can see them to register for them, but it is weird
that they have to log into my site and then log in a second time into
Crowdcast. I’ve been chatting with their devs about some single sign-on
mechanism to streamline that process, and I’ve gotten at least as far as
being able to pre-populate the log in with their e-mail address. It saves
them one click, which is nice.

Gotcha. That was something that I also would have liked to see. I would
love to have webinars behind some paywall after the fact, but have it as
open as possible. Which is why I continue to use YouTube. Because you can
do unlisted and send links and then people don’t necessarily have to log
in. In any case, that’s for a whole other show, and we’re coming up on
time. We have barely talked about– Well, we have touched on WooSesh a bit,
but I would love to know your plans for the future of these two events. As
we record this, WordSesh has happened. WooSesh has not, and another maybe
piece of context here is that WooCon, which is perhaps the biggest
in-person WooCommerce conference which generally happens every year, did
not happen this year. What are your plans for the future of these two

WooSesh itself is still in the future, so that’s the very first part of my
future plans is, “Let’s see if I can take this sesh model and repeat it a
few times to make more niche-focused virtual conference events, without
doing so many that people are like, ‘OK I’m tired of these.'” 3 or 4 would
be just about right, one per quarter. WordSesh will be broadly useful to
just about everybody, and then the other ones would be pretty specifically
useful too. Like in WooSesh’s case, people who use WooCommerce. We can go
much deeper into that topic. WooSesh this year, I glazed over this, is
October 17 and 18. I am pulling that up in front of me to make sure that I
didn’t botch it. It’s actually 18 and 19. I did, I did botch it. But it’s
October 18 and 19. Who is this guy?

This one’s fun because it’s two days, two probably 10 hour days when
they’re done. Eight presentations each day, day one is focusing on store
builders. People who are comfortable creating an e-commerce store that
don’t necessarily know any code, you pull all the correct plugins together
set up the host and get everything dialed in and get all the products in.
Day one is perfect for you. It’s also valuable for people who do code
because it talks about maintenance and earning more with copywriting, and
things like that. Then day 2 is for coders only, web developers talking
about performance testing and speed, building better user experiences,
creating your own quality extensions. I like this because it allows me to
hit a larger audience and dig into a particular topic, so I’ve been talking
to other people about other sesh events.

8-10 hour full-day long virtual conferences, because this is a very easily
repeated formula for what I’ve built here. Things transfer pretty well, and
then for the events themselves or for the ones that do well, like WordSesh
already has, and like WooSesh is shaping up to. They will become an annual
staple. Every summer we’ll have another WordSesh and every fall, perhaps
we’ll have another WooSesh and so on. Then they may even perhaps spin off
physical events, and I haven’t shut the door on that completely.

I don’t think I’ll ever do a completely standalone event, but I’ve talked
with other conference organizers about maybe having an add-on event
attached to those which could be pretty cool. Because it’s not super costly
for someone to say, “I’ll stay in that town for one more day so I can get
this other content,” compared to saying, “I’m going to buy tickets and get
a hotel room and travel halfway across the country or halfway around the
world for a one or two day event, and then leave again.”

That was something that Brian Krogsgard from Post Status ran into.

Exactly. Very easy to get people to say, who were already going to WordCamp
US, “Yeah, I’ll stay an extra day for Post Status Published.” Much harder,
but not impossible, for them to also say “I’m going to come for a two-day
standalone event in a random part of the year all by itself.” The value is
there, but it’s a lot harder for people to go, “Is it though?”

Yeah, exactly.

And then afterward they go, “I wish I was there.” “We wish you were there

I certainly went to both. I think I got a lot more value out of the second
year, the standalone event.

Same. The standalone one had a lot of really good stuff.

Yeah. In any case, that’s perhaps something I should have Brian Krogsgard
on to talk about. He’ll be my third repeat guest. As we wrap up here, my
favorite question, maybe the subtitle question. Do you have any trade
secrets for us?

I have so many trade secrets. How many can I give you?

As many as time allows.

My first trade secret, we touched on this earlier in the episode, is
peoples is peoples. If you want to talk to somebody about something, if you
think, “They seem to know a lot about this. I wish I could know what they
know.” Talk to that person. More often than not they, as another rational
thinking human being, like helping people. Particularly if they’re somebody
who is giving a talk or writing a book. That’s a very clear indicator,
“This person likes helping people.” Do not e-mail them and say, “Could I
pick your brain maybe? Could I take you out for a cup of coffee?” They will
probably ignore that e-mail. That is very low value, very low effort.
Instead, e-mail them and ask them a specific question.

Like, ‘Hey Joe. I really like your How I Built It podcast. I’ve been
thinking about podcasting for a while. How important would you say the
hardware is and is there a specific microphone that you would recommend I
buy? And perhaps a cheaper version of that because I don’t know if I’m
going to stick with this.” That is a very easy question for you, Joe
Casabona, to answer. “I like these two microphones. Here’s one that’s
higher in price. Here’s one that’s lower in price. You won’t be
disappointed with either of them.” And then back on with your day.

You could even e-mail that person again and say, “Thank you much for the
recommendation. Do you also have a recommendation for blank?” Or, “What do
you think about this as a title, or format?” Ask a series of small
questions, one per e-mail, and you will get answers more often than not. It
might take a couple of weeks, but those are the kinds of e-mails that
people, especially busy people, love to answer.

Yes. The person being asked, they don’t have to spend the cognitive load
on, “What is this person asking me? I don’t understand their question.” Fun
secret for people who need to come up with content, those who ask you
questions are giving you blog topics.

Yes. If you have to answer for one person, consider writing it as a blog
answer for many persons.

Yeah exactly. That’s an excellent number one trade secret. It’s something
that I always say, “Just ask.” Do you have maybe– I think time allows for
a second if you have one.

A second one. It would be well worth your time to come to WooSesh for free
while it’s happening live because that’s $200 you don’t have to spend on
what is ultimately perhaps thousands of dollars in value. That’s more of a
shameless self-plug. I would say one more trade secret is, don’t get caught
up on the tools that you have to use to do something. Work with what you
have and then improve the tools as you go. Because there are many decisions
that are not irreversible.

I feel like that’s pretty appropriate for podcasts like this one, where
we’re talking about, “Here are the tools that I used and how I did it.”
Finding the right tool is amazing. I was talking about with Crowdcast,
“That’s awesome. But because it allows me to export literally everything
that I’m putting into it, I’m not lost if Crowdcast disappears or isn’t a
perfect fit. I can move into the next tool and keep a pretty good pace.
Don’t get hung up on finding the perfect tool, sink some money on a tool.
Spend some time with it. Move on if it doesn’t work.

That’s great advice, because I’m sure we’ve all been there where you spend
a whole day looking for the right tool, and then you’re like, “I’m not any
closer. I might as well use Google Docs for whatever it is I was trying to

I solve so many things in spreadsheets, and once in a while I go, “I should
build a UI for this.” And then I go, “Nope.” Because I still don’t know if
this is how I want to look at the data, so I’m just going to keep it in the

I’ve been thinking of upgrading Airtable or moving from Airtable because
some of the things that I want are way more than I’m willing to spend on
Airtable. I’m like, “It’s doing its job right now, and it doesn’t slow me
down.” Great advice, don’t get caught up on the tools that you are looking
to use, or you have to use, or you need to learn. Use what you got and
improve the process. Awesome. Brian, always wonderful to talk to you. Where
can people find you?

Sure. I tweet very infrequently as @rzen, and you can find me on Twitter
there. But probably the best place to find me is where I’m
hosting tons of training from people who are smarter than me and
occasionally training that I’m producing myself.

Yes. To add on to that, you are doing a series right now where you are
live-coding a project from concept to launch. It’s like the video tutorial
version of this podcast, and I strongly recommend it. It’s for members
only, but I strongly recommend you check out some of that stuff that
Brian’s working on over at It is excellent content.

I appreciate you saying that. That’s my newest thing. I forgot to even say,
that’s a whole series. Every month I’m focusing on a different project or
an extension of a previous project and trying to create concise bite-sized
pieces. Like, “Today we’re going to work with this tool to make this
thing.” It’s a lot of fun.

Absolutely, and insanely valuable. I could talk about this for days as
well, but it’s very much learn by doing, which is something I always say.
That’s how I try to teach my courses, so I love that you’re doing that over

What a fantastic episode. I love talking to Brian. He’s a very good friend
of mine and his trade secret, and peoples is peoples, I love that. Again,
it would be well worth your time to go to WooSesh. Head over to I think it’s going to be an excellent conference. The speakers
are amazing, and it’s totally free, so there’s no reason for you to not
sign up if you do stuff with e-commerce, or WooCommerce specifically.

I also want to thank Pantheon once again for supporting this episode and
the entire season 5, which we are quickly approaching the end of. December
4th, I believe, is the last episode of season 5, just in time for WordCamp
US. Thanks again for their support, this show would not be able to happen
without them or without you, the listeners. The show has seen fantastic
growth this season, and I want to thank you for that. Finally, if you are
interested in getting your own podcast website up and running, don’t forget
to go to to take my new course, Build Your Podcast
Platform in 3 Days.

It’s fantastic, I had a lot of fun making this course, and it’ll be super
valuable for anybody who needs to start a podcast. The question of the week
for you is, what are you doing with e-commerce on the web? I would love to
hear the projects you’re working on, or your store and what you sell, and a
little bit about how you built it. Be sure to reach out either on Twitter,
@jcasabona or via e-mail, Thanks so much for listening.
For all of the show notes head over to Until next week,
get out there and build something.

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