Using WordPress in Higher Ed with Rachel Cherry
Rachel Cherry is a front-end developer and lead organizer of WPCampus, a WordPress conference focused on Higher Education. In this episode, we talk about what goes into putting on this conference, from scouting a location to day-of logistics.
Joe: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of how I built it, the podcast that asks, how did you build that? Today? My guest is Rachel Cherry of WPCampus. Rachel, how are you today?
Rachel: I’m doing wonderful. How are you, Joe?
Joe: I am fantastic. The weather here on the east coast is finally nice as we record this. I know that you just came from California and now you’re back in Alabama, is that right?
Rachel: That’s right. It’s cool. It’s really nice here today. It’s a little warm but not too bad, like high eighties, so it’s a nice day.
Joe: Nice. Yeah, I will definitely take that. have vowed to never complain about the heat because I complained about the cold, so I’m like, you can’t have it both ways, you know, I’ll complain about the snow and when it’s like 100 degrees I’ll be like, whatever. It’s not snow.
Rachel: One thing I will miss about California is the, weather it was always like 70 something degrees, windy, breezy, beautiful. It’s hard to not miss that.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Chris Lema always bust my chops about that because he’s, you know, in southern California and San Marcos is near southern California. I’m a New Yorker so I just think it’s like Los Angeles and San Francisco. But he’s always busting my chops about that. He goes, you don’t have to be cold all the time. And I’m like, I know family and stuff. So, Today we’re going to talk about a very cool event/organization. You guys do a few events throughout the year called WPCampus. So why don’t we start off with you telling us who you are and what you do.
Rachel: So hello, I’m Rachel Cherry. Currently I am working for myself. I just kind of started this whole new adventure doing freelance and, and that’s why I moved back to Alabama to be around my family and to start this new career path. So right now a little bit of a limbo space. A lot of my time is going towards WPCampus and our event. But generally I’m a software engineer. I write a lot of software on top of being the director of WPCampus. I kind of get around as far as writing code and organizing events and organizing the community and I try to speak at WordCamps when I can, things like that. So it’s a little bit about me and then. So yeah, if you had, if you want me to dive into WPCampus or not.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I heard about WPCampus while I was still at the University of Scranton I think, which is now two jobs ago. But why don’t you tell us a kind of when it started and how you came up with the idea for it.
Rachel: Yeah. So speaking of Chris Lema, he played a little bit of a role in it. It’s been, it’s been like three, almost three years, which is kind of crazy. This summer will be our third in person conference, so it started in the summer, late summer, early fall of 2015 & I was at the University of Alabama, which was my job right before my previous job at Disney. And so my last higher ed and I was on twitter and there was a big announcement about WordCamp US & how it would be the first, in PA.
Rachel: Awesome. And so lots of people, they were announcing something some and the Hashtag was WordCamp US, which, so this is where Chris Lema came into play because he saw it. He tweeted that he thought it looked like WordCampus. And so I’m sitting there at my desk and I’m like, oh my gosh, like light bulb. And I tweeted something I could quote, tweeted his and said, you know, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a WordCamp focused on higher education? And it just all kind of rolled the ball, rolled down the hill and it all blew up from there. And so we got Chris, you know, Chris even helped me set up WordCampus.org and we set up, I set up like a landing page of, you know, just getting people’s information. I set up a slack account. So we started hopping into slack and chatting and talking about how fun this would be and it all just went from there.
Rachel: I think that was August 2015 and so we had our first event the next summer in July of 2016 in Sarasota, Florida at the University of South Florida. Sarasota. It is quite a mouthful, but it’s a beautiful little campus and we had a lot of fun. It was a two day event. It’s very similar to a WordCamp except all of our topics are just more narrowly focused on higher education, which was part of the reason why we create or I created this event and why everyone is so gung-ho about it because a lot of people I think had a similar. It’s not a problem but more of just an issue or have going to WordCamps and just you have fun. You obviously have fun. There’s lots of great people. You get something out of it. But I would. I would always leave with that kind of that thought in the back of my mind.
Rachel: I wanted to talk about stuff that I do and there was nothing for me here at this camp, you know, I might get a few dev things out of it. I might get a few. I try to, you know, go to non-dev talks, whatever, but no one was talking about the kind of stuff that I did day to day. And so what’s really great about our event is that people in Higher Ed, you know, it’s a camp for them to go to and talk about the things that they do everyday. And so yeah. So it was a lot of fun and we’re still cracking and we’re still having tons of fun.
Joe: Very cool. Yeah. So I do need to make a stat correction here because I was in the it department of the University of Scranton from 2011 to 2014. I was still teaching in 2015, which is why I associated WPCampus with the university. And now I actually applied to speak and got accepted to the first one and unfortunately like a scheduling conflict prevented me from going. So I was very upset. I couldn’t make it. I, there was another thing going on that weekend and it was like right after I got married and we found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child, so like I’m very bummed to have missed that. I definitely want to make it out to an in person event because I mean WordPress in Higher Ed a very different animal from a lot of, a lot of other organizations, right?
Joe: Like we both have enterprise experience now as well and I saw a lot of similarities but higher ed, a little bit different. There’s different types of red tape and budgetary discussions and things like that. And I know when I was at the university I fought tooth and nail to get WordPress, like accepted on campus. It was a very hard uphill battle and that was like my shining achievement when I left. Like the CIO was like, well your mark is that WordPress is now widely used on campus. Was your experience similar? Is WPCampus a place for people in higher ed to kind of commiserate about stuff like that or do you find that WordPress is pretty well accepted across campus?
Rachel: I do think it. It used to be a problem. It wasn’t a problem at my last university because they were already using it by the time I got there and it was the opposite for me. Like I came in, had never touched WordPress and part of the job description was you have to learn WordPress and so that was already a thing, although it kind of started doing the opposite when I left, they started rolling and wanted to use a proprietary cms, but that’s a whole other conversation. So I do think it used to be a problem. I do think it’s getting better where it’s being more easily accommodated and implemented. I, from my experience and from things that my conversations with people, it used to have a lot of. Oh, what’s the word I’m trying to think of. Like it was like a stigma. It used to have a few stigmas, one of one being security because honest, because what happens a lot, what would happen a lot in higher education and WordPress is that they do have limited resources and on top of limited budget. What I usually tell people is higher ed is enterprise level on a budget, which I believe to be very true because you are, you’re doing these crazy, you know, high level scale work with crazy amounts of editors and users all over the, you know, college with university with different needs and all this stuff. But you probably have like two people doing it. What ends up happening a lot is that you’ll have these low resources and budgets. You’ll have like two people managing a thing and then if it’s not set up correctly, like I were pressed can be successful in higher ed, but you have to know what you’re doing and what a lot of people, you know, they think, you know, back when WordPress had that whole advertising about how it’s easy in the five minute install.
Rachel: I think what happened on a lot of higher ed campuses as they see that easy and they don’t have to hire someone to manage it. And so, you know, random faculty, staff members would set up a blog, no one would come and check on them. They would ignore the blog. Two years later the blog will get hacked and, and so after several years after, it gets a stigma with it department about how easy WordPress gets hacked, you know, and we’re all going, no, it’s not necessarily WordPress’ fault. It was more of an administration fault management fault that there was no one watching it, you know, blah, blah blah and things like that. And so then you have to, then you have to start defending WordPress, tier it. And ultimately, generally it has to be the one that accepts WordPress because they’re the ones managing the servers and things like that. So it becomes very bureaucratic and can be an uphill battle if you’re, you know, if you’re already kind of downhill from the start because of these past experiences. So with all that said, I think it’s getting better, but I do think it’s still a struggle for some people.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. In my experience is the same. I even had like a student in our tech support area, the technology support center. They were called and he was like, WordPress isn’t secure and I’m like, isn’t. He’s like, it’s less secure than what?
Rachel: So to add onto that, what’s also just as important as all of that stuff as keeping it up to date, you know, is things like governance where you have a plan. Like, you know, you’re not just going to willy nilly setup, WordPress installs have, you know, if you want a WordPress install you have to go through process a and then we have process be that checks up on it and then you have, you have to go to training and you have to do things like that. Like governance is just as important and your plan and all that. Especially, you know, if you’re in this environment where manpower is limited, so if you have a process and that you can help, you know, push it all through, then you can be successful. So we do, we usually try to have at least one governance talk every year and this year we’re having a governance workshop which I’m really excited about. You know, I got, I’m going to the workshop, make sure all of my tests are taken care of because I want to go to that workshop. So yeah. So that topic is always big in my mind. I like to talk about that a lot.
Joe: Right? Yeah. And that’s a really good thing to touch on too, you know, we have a lot of maybe self employed folks, freelancers or developers who sell their own plugins and you know what, when we set up WordPress at the university, we made sure to work with the Faculty Senate and the staff Senate to make sure that they kind of knew the proper protocol for requesting and upkeeping for a WordPress site because we wanted to make sure that it was controlled because as you said, it was when in Salzburg not controlled that they would get out of date and you know, there’d be some sort of compromise like a software compromise, not like an agreement, if the software would get compromised. So that’s, that’s really cool. And I love that there’s a whole conference around this and I want to talk to you about planning an in person conference because I’ve done that before and it’s very difficult. But there’s also. You guys do an online conference as well, right?
Rachel: Yeah, we have the, we started doing an online conference after the first in person. So now we have an online every January and the in person in July.
Joe: Great, great. And then was January picked because it’s like a pretty good, it’s like kind of a slow month and people are just getting back and they’re probably not traveling because they were just traveling or was it just kind of. January seems like a good time.
Rachel: It got to that point. We tried several other times of the year and things just like we. I think at first we tried, we were like, Oh let’s do the fall. But then it will just wasn’t enough downtime after the in person to then ramp it. We would have had to like immediately ramped back up to the virtual. So there was just like, oh no, we just can’t do that. Like we need a break and usually like the month after the in person, like we just are slack because can be a little bit of a ghost town because everybody’s like, we’re taking a break and I’m totally fine. And so we just. So fall wasn’t going to work. Plus there was lots of dates to work around like holidays, thanksgiving, you know, if we don’t do it, we don’t wait too long. People go on Christmas vacation, you know, Blah Blah Blah.
Rachel: So we eventually landed on January and it’s actually, it is a great time because people are just kinda getting back into school from winter break so people are back on campus but not too, too busy and there’s not a lot of WordCamps in January pretty much after us WordCamp US. I mean the United States were camps are kind of chill until February so you know, so there’s that. We’re not necessarily competing even though we have it during the week, so that doesn’t really matter anyway. But so January is a good time. It’s also kind of smack dab in the middle between the summer. So it’s a good intermediary event to get you some fresh content out for people.
Joe: Cool. Very cool. Yeah, I like that a lot too. I mean online conferences are becoming a lot more popular because there are a lot more to people. But. So that said, let’s, I want to ask you how you look, how I built, right? How you built essentially what goes into both the in person and the online conference. And I suspect the shorter one of these answers would be the online conference. Is that accurate? Correct. Okay. So why don’t we, why don’t we knock that out of the way first specifically, I’m curious about like the streaming technology use and stuff like that. I’ve spoken to a few online conferences and it’s always kind of been different. So how do you handle that stuff?
Rachel: For our streaming, we go with crowdcast. Okay. And we do like it, it has some accessibility issues which we’ve been actually communicating with them about and they’ve been very perceptive to it. So the hope is that we can continue to use it as long as they work on these features because it’s not in horrible shape, it just. But if they tweaked a few things, I think the biggest, the biggest help that they would probably need is helping some way with captioning it, figure out a way to do live captioning. And so we’re talking to them and I’ve even thrown out some ideas with them about, you know, well we’ve tried this and blah blah blah. So we hope to keep using crowdcast. We like it. Their technology is good. They, the prices reasonable. We generally pay about 90 bucks for the day, so that’s not bad.
Rachel: I think at the most we paid like a little over $100 and so it’s reasonable and their supporters responsive. So we do like them, we embed their player on our website and you can have registration forward and stuff like that. So I like crowd cash. There are a few other options. None of them can come to mind right now. But. So that’s what we use for that. The online conference is obviously much easier to. There’s much less planning into it. The main key elements are, the biggest element is you still have all the speaker management, you still have to get proposals, you still have to decide, you still have to build your schedule, you still have that, which is a big chunk. And then outside of that, like marketing is another big chunk. And then operations, so we have, we usually have an operations manager whose job is to basically build out the schedule for the day and who do, who does what.
Rachel: We have a volunteer manager who makes sure that all of our volunteer needs are filled and that on the day of that they’re there. And you know, what I definitely recommend for anyone interested in this kind of thing is, is these two big areas, having an operations plan and having a volunteer plan and most importantly for the operations is having a backup plan. Every decision you make should have a backup, at least one if not two. And so it just, everything goes smoother. And usually the first question that I always asked myself when we make a decision or we decided to do something new or whatever is what’s the worst that could happen? If this goes wrong? If this goes badly, what’s the worst that can happen? And so, and if the worst that can happen is not that big a deal, then great. You know, like.
Rachel: And so these are things that you just think about because things will go wrong or you know, somebody both. I think both years we’ve had at least one speaker dropout at the last minute. And so this year our first speaker and we have two rooms, the one of the speakers in one room on the first block of the day, her computer wouldn’t start. And so the first block we pretty much just had one speaker, which was fine. We just encouraged everyone to go to the other room and that was fine. And then at the same time we had another speaker had to dropout because she was sick and so, but, but we had like three or four hours between. So you know, we went to the first speaker, Hey, what are the chances of you getting your computer fixed? You could try again this afternoon. And she was able to.
Rachel: And it all worked out great. So you know that. So that’s what we’re doing in the background. We’re like messaging, we’re going back and forth. But you know, it was always a really fun event. It’s really great to just have a chance for the community to come together and talk and the Crowdcast has a chat feature and this really cute fun little Q&A feature and you can up vote and down vote stuff so speakers can just go down the list and so we’re actually going to try to implement a of that feature for our in person this year because we do, we try to live stream, we’re still finalizing all those details so we don’t announce it until it’s all confirmed, but we do try to live stream the in-person for free, and so we’re going to implement like a q and a feature on the site, so for in person and online people to ask questions for the speaker like while they’re talking and so then the speaker can just go back later and answered them and then they’re evergreen on the site too. People can come along later on our session pages and find them and read the Qa and so we’re really excited. We’re working on that right now. So that’s, that’s, that’s a fun new feature we’re going to add in this year.
Joe: That’s fantastic too because I mean for people who can’t make it out, you lose that interactivity. Right. But you know, adding that sort of thing and being able to connect with speakers even online is. That’s very cool. I’ll, I’ll be excited to see that if and when it rolls out.
Rachel: Yeah, well yeah, we, that’s, that’s been a comment we’ve gotten before from people online because we do have a slack channel for them. We encourage them to stay in there and like ask questions and be around to discuss. But you know, it’s, I know it’s not, it’s not really super fulfilling for them because it’s not super active from imperson people because they’re busy being in person and going out and about and so their questions could get overlooked and so we, I think this will, this is obviously a much better option and so that’ll be cool.
Joe: Awesome. And since you mentioned the, the live in person event, what kind of stuff goes into planning that? I know that I plan to WordCamp before I’m on one of the organizing teams this year and we have a little bit of a safety net with the foundation and the global sponsors and the and the financial backing they offer, but you know, plenty of just kind of without that safety net sound very scary. So you know, what’s it like? I know you guys rotate locations and stuff like that. What’s a maybe take us from like step one to, to day one.
Rachel: So we’ve been very fortunate to always have a really good group of sponsors, people that just want to support what we’re doing. And so we’ve always been, we’ve always been fine budget wise and, and you know, we didn’t have any seed money. We, the first year we just went and we had enough sponsor money and you know, thankfully if you’ve plan any as if any of these events you know, that you don’t, you don’t spend a chunk of your money really till the end till right when the event starts, like maybe like a month before when he start ordering swag and, and you don’t pay for catering until really after and so like a wedding? Yeah. Yes. So you don’t necessarily need, you know, $10,000, you know when you start kind of thing. And so we’ve always done pretty well. They’re generally the camp, the university’s donate the space.
Rachel: That’s great. So that’s really great. It’s really. Yeah, universities are just, they’re really great about that kind of stuff. They want to support education and professional development. We will usually pay for my janitorial services and IT support. Those are people’s time, especially especially on a Saturday. We’ll usually, we usually ask for like an on call it in case like, you know, the Wifi drops out or something. And so that would make it very clear to them like we don’t mind paying for these kinds of things. And so then we and we always do on campus catering which helps them and so we support them in whatever way we can give back and we do a fun thing to every year, but we make a plaque and we give it to the, we present it to the university and you know, it says that they, they were at WPCampus and awesome.
Rachel: I always enjoy given that every year. That’s a lot of fun. There’s a really funny story. The first year we gave it out, there was a typo on the plaque that no one saw until we were literally giving it to this guy in front of everyone. And it was like, oh no, I mean it was a funny moment or laughed and I ordered another one and mailed it to them. But you know, it was their name was so long that we just put their initials or maybe we had both, but the initials were wrong. It was UFSFM or something like that. And I’m standing there hand and get to them and I spot it anyway, but, so that’s something fun we do every year for the university to show our appreciation. So that really helps a lot. And so then, you know, we do social events usually off campus, which is a whole other ballpark of fun.
Rachel: But it’s really great to find these places in. And so there’s a lot of planning that goes into that and that can get. We were a big karaoke people and so we usually our after parties karaoke and so we do have a lot of fun with that. The first year was a lot of fun. We just took over this little small bar in Sarasota, Florida. And I know that people that were like in there with us were like, what is going on? But uh, we had tons of fun and I did that last year, so we’ll do that again. And St Louis and, and so there’s planning that goes into that. And so this year we’re trying, we’re trying a few new things that we’re excited about where we pad workshops before, but they were smaller, they were part of the schedule, so they were two blocks.
Rachel: There were two session blocks and you worked for the most part, but it was a little confusing and it didn’t have enough time. Last year we had one workshop go into this. They just, they just kept working through the snack break because they just wanted to keep going. We were like, great, have fun. The food will be here when you get out. And so this year we’re adding a day at third day before the conference starts where we’re going to have three workshops, we’re having a Gutenberg one-on-one would joe mcgill, that’ll be lots of fun. And they were having a governance workshop like I already mentioned with Shelly keys, which will be really great. And I will be there. And then we’ll have a content strategy workshop with Jamie Schmid. So that’ll be. So we’re trying that out, see how that goes. That’ll be like a four hour thing with breaks.
Rachel: So tons of time. And then we have a welcome party, we don’t do a speaker/sponsor dinner, we just have one party that anyone can come to. We just, we liked the idea that everyone’s welcome. And so we usually do that Thursday night. So there’s that. We are implementing something fun this year that we really haven’t announced yet, but we are, we’re ready to pretty much anyway. So you get the first little tidbit of it. We’re gonna implement some games this year and so we have like two or three, like a mini games that will be kind of going on in the background during the event. So we’re really excited about that. We’re actually about to open up one of them being trivia Then there’s two other things but. So we’re about to open up a form where anybody can submit questions. So to help us kind of build up our question bank, that’s cool. So that’s, I’m finishing that up right now. And so that’ll go online soon. So that. So we’re excited about that. We even have like an official game maker and he’s excited about that and I had to make them a badge or something, her shirt, something for the event and you can wear that. He’s the game maker, so we’re trying that out. That will be fun. And we’re trying something different with lightening talks this year where, where everyone’s going to watch all the lightning talks together.
Joe: Oh Wow.
Rachel: So basically we’re going to have opening remarks in the auditorium and then we’re just going to stay in there for lightening talks and, and see how that goes. We picked some really like, picked a good range. There’s four of them. We picked a good range with some really good speakers and they kind of see how that goes. I just, I liked the idea of us all a, of everyone being in a session together and, and so we’ll see what people think about that.
Joe: Yeah, I mean it gives everybody something, uh, you know, if everybody goes to all different talks, at least they have those for that they can talk about.
Rachel: Yeah, they have a good variety. I think we have like a content. We have a Dev, we have like a management and then I forget the fourth one, I apologize to the fourth speaker. Um, so that should be. We tried that and there’ll be a lot of fun. So yeah, it’s, it’s, there’s a lot that goes into these events. Anyone. He plans a WordCamp which is very similar, you know, they, they get it, it’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, it’s people are like, why do you keep planning these events and getting involved because it’s, it’s, it is a lot of work but it’s rewarding and it’s, it’s. I love it. So. Okay. Wow. So we’re, we’re coming up on time, but there are a few things I want to parse out here with the venue specifically. First of all, for those of you haven’t planned an event, the venue is almost always the most expensive thing. It’s either that or like Wifi at the venue specifically will be the most expensive thing. So it’s very cool that you can get the venue donated. I know that you have a essentially a call for for venues for locations, right? Every year, every two years or something like that. How does that work?
Rachel: So we put out a call for basically an application to host and we get about probably six to seven every year so far, which is every year we get like one more, two more. So on average about I’d say six to eight. And so we just, we go through and we have a matrix of things that are important to us. Like for example, proximity to an airport, the actual venues, we have enough space for us. We know we need one audit, we need one room that everyone can fit in. We need three session rooms that can hold per at least 80 people. And so are there enough hotels around, you know, so then there’s like a second tier priority, like what’s public transportation look like, things like that. So we have a whole list and we go down as a group and then as a group we rate them and give them, assign them points. It’s, you know, it’s very higher Ed Matrix, see Rubik, whatever, grading rubric.
Rachel: Of course we our, you know, Higher Ed, so you know, and then we, I have, I have a phone call with the person that applied and we talk about, you know, details and things like that and then, and then we make a choice and sometimes it’s, most of the time it’s usually pretty hard, especially this year, especially the more we become known and people know about the event, you know, they want to apply. Especially if they come to one, you know, they want to apply for next year. Usually the easiest, you know, to knock someone off his airport. Sadly, there’s a lot of places that are just not near an airport and if there’s, you know, one or two schools that are, they, they have to take crazy priority because it’s hard. That’s a hard thing to. The first year we were, we were technically by an airport but it was a small airport but so everyone had to kind of go like 45 minutes to Tampa, which I don’t any here that made people complain about.
Rachel: But I think they were just being nice because it was our first year, but so then last year we were in Buffalo, which was, had a big airport and then obviously St. Louis has a bigger airport so that takes priority. So it’s really sad when I, because there’s lots of people in our community that are just crazy involved and super excited and then they’ll apply and I’m like I’m sorry, but you’re like an hour and a half away from an airport and I feel your pain because my last university, Alabama, it’s this beautiful campus. It’s huge. They have like top notch facilities. I’ve organized a conference there, a higher education conference there before I left. And, but it was regional. Everyone drove. So because Tuscaloosa is an hour plus from the Birmingham Alabama airport and it’s just, it’s just not, it’s not cool. It’s just not fun. It’s not a lot of fun to land.
Rachel: I have to like rent a car and drive an hour or whatever. So that’s a big thing. And so, but you know, we’ve had. So we usually open that up in the fall and try to decide before Christmas every year, I keep saying, you know, we’re going to bump that up and bumped that up and then every year or something happens and it doesn’t get bumped up. But, so that’s what we do. And so we work with the schools and, and we have someone on the ground who’s a rep for us and you know, it’s, it’s helpful if there’s a word press community in, in the area because they can help us with on the ground stuff like finding social events and putting us in touch with any local vendors that could help us with swag or shirts. And so. So yeah, that’s kind of, that’s the main gist of it.
Rachel: It’s, it’s, you know, it’s a hard decision. It’s, it’s usually sitting. It’s usually like me sitting down the last minute, I will narrow it down to like two universities and I’m just like, you know, sometimes it’s just like you just go with your gut and, and you know, I’m sure like, you know, any, any one of these four or five schools would work perfectly. But we can only pick one this year, this year, St Louis, it’s, I mean it’s a great fit all of our needs. But also the big thing for it that really helped when it over was, it was a little more west and our first two years we were in Florida in New York, so we were very extreme east so we wanted to move a little bit and so that was one big factor that kind of pushed it above some of the other options.
Rachel: So there’s lots, there’s lots of, as we were joking about the other day, there’s just so much metadata involved in making these decisions. We were, we were finalizing the schedule the other day, which we hope to get online by the end of the week. And you know, there’s so many, there’s so much like Meta-factoring that goes on and where we place people and you know, where we make sure that topics don’t overlap and things like that. And so that, you know, it’s, it’s a lot that goes into that too. You were saying that the venues usually the most expensive. So thankfully we’ve been fairly fortunate. We, we paid a little bit for a venue before, but it’s not too bad for us. The most expensive thing is by far food. Gotcha. Food by far,
Joe: You want to have good food that’s accommodating to all the dietary restrictions and stuff like that too. Right?
Rachel: Yeah. We’ve usually had really good, pretty good food this year. We might try box lunches. That would be different. We haven’t done that before. Like last year we had like a buffet. It was pretty nice. We had this whole food court to ourselves.
Joe: And did you have wings? You were in Buffalo, right?
Rachel: I don’t know. Maybe. I think so. I, we had some buffalo because I asked him for like regional food, but in hindsight, honestly I can’t remember if wings was one of them, but the second day we had a lot of regional foods, so maybe wings was there, but we do every year we do try to have like a google map of the area, which we already have up. Our guy on the ground there at the university – his name’s Aaron and he’s super great and he like him and some other locals like Joe McGill lives there and he helped build up this map too, is extensive, so we go on there and we like hotels and transportation, like heres the airport and obviously the venue and then like restaurants and coffee shops and breweries and because the St Louis and so that way our attendees can have a little bit of a guide and so I know last year we had tons of wings, places and like years and we try to go in for each one, like here’s why this place is good, you know, and whatever.
Rachel: To kind of help people get around a little bit. So that’s, that’s a, that’s a lot of fun. I hope that that’s helpful for them.
Joe: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m getting a little bit of Fomo. When is it? This year? It’s July 12 through the 14th. So it was a Thursday through a Saturday. Gotcha. And that is, I knew I could, that’s like prime time for my in-laws’ vacation, so will be maybe next year.
Rachel: Yeah, I feel bad. We have a sponsor rep that comes every year and we try to have it on the same weekend every year because it’s just easier for us and we didn’t plan it that way at first. I just worked out that way and now we’re just trying to keep it going. We are the same weekend. We’d been the same weekend every year and that’s like disguise in a wedding anniversary and every year I’m like, I’m sorry dude. I feel bad a little bit, but now he’s a good sport about it, but
Joe: I’ll tell him what I would try. What I’ve tried. “Honey, you know, we can go to this wonderful city for our anniversary…by the way, the day before I will be at a conference, but we’ll have the weekend.”
Rachel: St Louis is a cool city. I’m excited. I’m staying a couple extra days so I can be touristy.
Joe: Yeah, that’s all my list of places to visit. So. Cool. Well we are, we’re a little bit overtime, but that’s okay because I’ve been enjoying this conversation. I hope the listeners have to. And I’m going to ask you my favorite question, which is do you have any trade secrets for us?
Rachel: DO I have any trade secrets? I saw this question. I thought about it. I thought about some silly like conference planning trips, like rent a car. I went to Buffalo, you know, all of. So I guess I work camp organizers had the luxury of it being in their own town and none of our events are in my town. So the first year my mother came, my mother was sweet and she drove down from Alabama and she had a car and we used her car to get around Buffalo. I was like, oh, I’ll be fine because I only really need a car like the day before when I’m running errands to like get a few last minute things. I’ll just Uber and Lyft around like it’s totally fine. I was horrible. I it rained, it poured down rain. And so like I walked for like a little ways but then the skies opened.
Rachel: I literally had to go across the street. So my plan was just to walk across the street, but it was, it was flooding raining. I had to call a lyft driver to literally drive, be across the street was so bad. So yeah, my lesson, my big lesson from buffalo was rent a car. But then I guess my other big thing I always just try to tell people is just have a plan, have like three plans for everything. Never be afraid to ask for help and just try to enjoy it. Always just like I said, try to think of like what’s the worst that could happen because generally it’s not that big a deal. Like the worst that can happen is this and if that happens we do this and then we move on, you know, so try to just relax and have fun and enjoy it. And because I do, I like, I enjoy every minute of it and, and it’s a lot of fun. If you ever want to try to get into something like this, I say go for it. And it’s because it’s a good learning experience. It’s a lot of work, you know, ask other people for advice and mentorship, you know, feel free to ping me if you want. And so it just kind of dive in and enjoy it.
Joe: Fantastic. I love that. I would always give similar advice. I was in drama club and I would say, you know, if I forget a line or mess up align, I’m probably the only person who knows, right. Me and my, the cast, the audience probably doesn’t know unless I’m like, oh, I forgot. Right. So if something goes wrong, you’ll be one of the only people to notice.
Rachel: Generally. Yes. One of my favorite things that’s happened so far is for our recent online of energy annual Larry, I overslept. I didn’t wake up until five minutes after the whole thing had started. Wow. And so that. But that felt to me like I was like, man, I’m doing something right. Because no one even noticed that I wasn’t even there. There you go. That’s perfect. That’s perfect. Right. That’s when you know you’re doing a good job organizing when you got everything under control when it starts and no one even notices you’re not there.
Joe: That’s great. Well Rachel, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
Rachel: Yeah, thank you. And uh, where can people find you? So I’m Bamadesigner in almost all things of life. bamadesigner.com is my homepage where you can go and I have the beginnings of a blog, but I do have links to everything, their web campus and all my social media, WPCampus.org is our home for our community and our events. We have lots of resources that we’re trying to grow. We have a blog we’re trying to grow and part of my new little life adventure is being able to give more time to help some of that grow even more now that I can dedicate some more time. So we’d love to have you involved. You don’t have to be in higher ed to be part of the group when you have a lot of non higher ed people that just kind of want to support what we’re doing and be involved. We have a pretty active but not too active slack channel where you can come and ask questions and things like that. So in order to get into slack, you fill out our get involved form on our website. So it’s pretty easy, you fill out the form, it auto invites you and which also can help you make a user account if you do want to contribute to our blog or whatever other resources, things like that. So that is the place to go.
Joe: Cool. Very cool. And I’ll be sure to link all of that in the show notes. And one more time. WPCampus at 2018 is happening July 12th through the 14th, in St Louis. So if you can make it out, definitely do that. It sounds like a fantastic event and thanks to everybody for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.
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