Highlights of WordCamp London 2019

WordCamp London 2019 was the best yet for me – and definitely one of the highlights of the year. Here’s what I loved the most about it.

WordCamp London 2019 has been and gone, and it was one of the best WordCamps I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a few in a number of countries by now).

It was also my fourth WordCamp London, and the second in this city for me as a speaker. In fact, as my first public speaking appearance was at WordCamp London 2018, this year’s WCLDN marked the first anniversary of my appearing on stage to share what I’ve learnt. So WordCamp London will always hold a special place in my heart – with the added advantage of being held in my favourite city in the world.

(Filthy old London is my city, and Londoners are my people.)

What is a WordCamp?

For those who don’t know what a WordCamp is: WordCamps are conferences for WordPress users, held in cities all over the world.

However, very interestingly, many of the talks are actually not specifically on WordPress. You could easily have attended WordCamp London 2019 and not have seen one single WordPress-specific presentation, even without taking a break. This is actually kind of what I did, in fact.

I watched talks on:

  • Public speaking
  • Accessibility
  • Mindfulness
  • Marketing and sales
  • Design/ UX
  • Remote working

Only one of those talks actually had “WordPress” in the title, but in reality WP was just a marginal element overall in that talk.

So there you go, I spent a weekend at a WordPress conference and learnt about all sorts of things from all sorts of people and no one needed to even mention WordPress in order to be accepted as a speaker there – that includes me.

This makes WordCamps truly enriching conferences. The bigger WordCamps, such as WordCamp London, also tend to have speakers from all over the globe, which makes sure that the talks are varied, diverse, and reporting from the leading edge of web innovation.

Moreover, WordCamp London 2019 (and all WordCamps in general, to be fair) really do care about diversity and inclusion. Their selection of speakers covers all skin shades and genders. Which is so nice, from any point of view and in particular, from mine as a woman. Our gender is still heavily un-represented in IT in general, but at WordCamps women do feel represented when looking at the stage. So thank you, WordCamps all over the globe.

The talks I attended at WordCamp London 2019

This year (almost) all the talks were live-streamed, which is brilliant because it means that those who couldn’t make it there in person don’t have to wait for the volunteers to edit and upload the videos to WordPress.tv – a huge and time-consuming task.

Instead – the videos are already up on YouTube. The WordCamp London 2019 YouTube Channel has a playlist with all the rooms’ livestreams in it.

However, if you don’t have the time to watch the whole stream in order to get to the talk you want, help is at hand. A very kind soul, Ben Gillbanks, wrote a blog post with deep links to each talk in the live stream, which is incredibly helpful.

The following were the highlights for me. As I said above, none of these talks is specific to WordPress and it could have had a place at any tech or design conference. Design for Geeks is tool-agnostic, so as a rule I don’t filter anything via the tools I use. I want everyone to be able to learn from what I talk about. And WordPress is just this after all: a tool that we use when it fits our purposes.

So even if you don’t use WordPress, do check these talks out – they are extremely worth it.

Mindful Design: Designing with Presence for Purpose and Inclusion

WordCamp London 2019: a slide from Raffaella Isidori's talk on mindfulness.
by Raffaella Isidori. A talk on how mindfulness can save your life, and how applying it to the way we design – or work in general – will lead to better products, better productivity, and a better life in general. It resonated with me particularly: meditation has been an integral part of my life for a few years now. I also had a therapist in London that introduced me to mindfulness as a healing practice a while ago, and indeed, I considered it a life saver.

Design Matters In Open Source
by Tammie Lister from Automattic. Brilliant talk on how, in a nutshell, designers and developers can and must learn to work together – which is, incidentally, also Design for Geeks’ main credo. Tammie is an awesome designer, who was the design lead for phase one of Gutenberg at Automattic. I loved this talk, every single thing Tammy says resonates deeply with me. We’d had long conversations on the subject in Helsinki already at WC Nordic, and it was great to reconnect on the topic in London.

Content Monetisation Platforms with WordPress
by David Lockie from Pragmatic. Don’t be fooled by the ‘WordPress’ in the title – it’s about much more than that. A visionary talk which ended up being much more about AI and cutting-edge technology. A mind-blowing eye-opener that I highly recommend. It also has high-octane scary moments.

Effective Copywriting Tips for Better UX

WordCamp London 2019: Andrea Zoellner's talk on Effective copywriting tips for better UX
by Andrea Zoellner from SiteGround. This was a truly excellent talk that everyone should watch. Trust me. I firmly believe that copy is an essential part of UX: in this talk, Andrea gives invaluable tips on how to make sure that your ‘microcopy’ (yes, it’s a thing!) makes a positive contribution towards making your users’ experience your website – and your brand’s communications as a whole – in the best possible way. A serious contender for best talk of WordCamp London 2019 in my view: simply because I learnt so much from it as well as finding it very inspiring for my own ventures (UX course on copy and typography in the works…)

Accessibility Testing for Content Managers Workshop
by Rian Rietveld. Rian is an accessibility guru and I love how deeply she cares about making the web a great experience for everyone, regardless of their ability. Accessibility is an essential part of good UX, so this is a must-watch, too. In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t able to get into the room when the workshop took place so I’ll watch the YouTube video, just like you.

But watch it I will, because accessibility is a huge, loud MUST in this day and age. It is our moral duty and legal responsibility to make sure that the websites we design can be enjoyed by anyone who visits them. Plus, did I mention it’s illegal not to? And there’s a huge business case to be made for it, too.

Lightning sessions at WordCamp London 2019

Lightning sessions are simply shorter talks, around the 15 minute mark. I love these because they are quick to take in and often even more challenging or enlightening than the longer form, the 30-minute talks.

I attended the lightning session in Track C on Saturday 6 April and I loved every single one of the three talks. Sadly, the live streaming wasn’t set up yet, so we’ll have to wait for the talks to be uploaded onto WordPress.tv in order to watch them again.

Public Speaking: Myths to Dispel and Tips for Success by Simona Simionato. This talk hit quite close to home: the little devil was dancing on my shoulder for a long time telling me “You are a mere imposter” for many years before I dared take to the stage, and it pays me many visits even now. A brilliantly fun and entertaining talk that reassured me and that I hope will persuade others to take the plunge and jump on that stage already.

Using WordPress to Do_Action by Tess Coughlan-Allen. A moving story by how giving back is not as difficult as you might think, with video interventions by the people and the not-for-profit organisations that had been so deeply touched and transformed by the generosity of Mind Doodle, the company Tess works for. Tess is a brilliant natural speaker, too and she conveyed to us the feeling that taking ation creates huge ripples that change lives.

Collaboration Vs Competition by Meg Fenn of Shake It Up Creative. Meg talked about how collaborating beats competing by a long mile: there’s no competition, we are all colleagues. Which is the best thing about the WordPress community, incidentally. And which also reflects the relationship between Meg and me: we have been collaborating for a while and are actively seeking for a project to work on together. Meg was also the protagonist of the first of Design for Geeks Live talks (temporarily on hold but to be resumed soon) on how good design means good SEO.

Then on Sunday I made sure I did not miss How to Sell 5 Figure Funnels with WordPress by Mike Killen from Sell Your Service.

dCamp London 2019: Mike Killen

I have been a member of Mike’s excellent courses platform, and he always delivers killer content. This talk was even better than usual because it was delivered in 10 minutes at breakneck pace and with laser-sharp focus. I am even starting to believe that I, too, can and will charge 25k for my funnels… Highly recommended viewing. Mike can seriously change your life.

A Masterclass in Collaborating with Education
by Tom Chute from Pragmatic. This was such a great talk on how an innovative agency gives back by collaborating with local schools and universities. I found myself envying Tom for his job – even though it’s definitely NOT always easy to keep a handle on school kids. Again, all our gratitude to teachers.

Talks I would have liked to attend but wasn’t able to

Inevitably, at a conference with THREE tracks you are spoilt for choice. This also means that, short of cloning yourself, you will inevitably miss out on a number of talks that you really wanted to attend. Here are the ones I didn’t get to but would have loved to:

Are You Ready To Publish? – The Afterlife… by Ronald Gijsel. Ronald is an esteemed colleague who I am working with on a couple of projects, and I’m really impressed by his professional approach as well as his deep knowledge of content marketing and SEO. His presentation sounds very intriguing: he’s run an experiment by publishing two articles, a short-form one and a long-form, content-heavy one, a couple of months before WCLDN. The point of the talk is to compare the results and see whether what Ronald preaches – i.e. long-form content – really is as effective as he thinks. I haven’t watched this yet and I can’t wait.

Sales Funnel = Sausage Maker? by Yvette Sonneveld. The idea of a different type of funnel, one that is magnetic and therefore pulls with ease rather than pushing, is very interesting to me. Yvette also says she’s providing templates to implement immediately. Another must-watch that I look forward to.

8 Lessons I Have Learnt Through My Mental Illness (and How My Life Has Improved with WordPress) by Judith Schröer. The topic of mental health has become prominent in the community, with all stigma removed, and I think it’s a brilliant thing. So many of us work remotely and in isolation, and this can have unpleasant side-effects that go beyond never getting out of your yoga pants. I know very well, as I live this from the trenches. Talks like this, and initiatives such as WP&UP, are literally life-savers for some of us.

My own talk: UX for Everyone

It does feel like blowing my own trumpet, and it probably is. At the same time, it would be remiss of me not to mention my own talk on UX for Everyone.

WordCamp London 2019: UX for everyone talk by Piccia Neri

Those of you who have enrolled in the free UX for Everyone course will be familiar with the topic: it’s all about how UX is not an arcane process just for big people with large budgets. It’s a process that all of us should, and must adopt as part of our web design practice.

Even if you’ve taken the course, if you are interested in UX for your agency, this talk could still be a good watch, because the condensed format makes the focus sharper (hint: it’s all about empathy – bet you’re not surprised).

The first version of this talk opened the first day at WordCamp Nordic 2019. After I delivered it, I asked a friend for feedback – and she gave me an honest answer. In fact, her opinion was so useful that I went back and changed the talk drastically. As a result, I think that the London version is better than the Helsinki one. Which can only be a good thing!

This has made me develop a new habit: now whenever I have a talk to prepare, I rehearse it over Zoom with colleagues/ Design for Geeks students/ Design for Geeks Facebook group members.

It’s basically good UX, ironically. Test things out before you deploy them. 

With the first UX for Everyone talk, I did what most small people do: I deployed, and then tested. Which can be ok – the Helsinki talk was very well received and it was a good talk.

But it’s better, whenever you can, to test before you deploy. Lesson: learnt.

I don’t know whether my delivery is still as good as it could be, in all honesty. In fact, given I mentioned honesty, I’ll give you my truth: I know that my delivery is still not as good as it could be.

This is because I don’t give it enough time. I don’t have a salary: I have to create my own salary. WordCamp talks are not remunerated. Everybody is a volunteer. I am extremely lucky, because Yoast have sponsored me a number of times. Even so, preparing a good talk takes a lot of time, and I generally concentrate on the quality of the content. Delivery takes second place.

The room was extremely crowded. This was definitely a surprise, because Zac Gordon himself was talking in the bigger room. I am a big fan of Zac’s, so I assumed that my talk would go deserted. However, he talks about development while I talk about design, so I suppose it was fine for that reason.

Anyway, I was told that there was overflow and loads of people outside. I was simultaneously delighted and appalled. No pressure then!

After the talk,  I was very happy to find out that a few people liked the talk enough to tweet and write about it. So thanks.

Here are a few reviews:

Our Five Top WordCamp London Speakers
Highlights from WordCamp London 2019 – Bringing you the latest insights
Fellowship Attend WordCamp London 2019

My final thoughts on WordCamp London 2019

There is a lot of knowledge that gets shared at WordCamps. And that’s a big draw for me. Thanks to attending WordCamps the world over, I have learnt a lot: some of the insights have even been properly transformative.

But there’s an even bigger draw.

The thing is that if you start going to WordCamps, you’ll end up making many friends.

To me, going to a WordCamp – no matter where it is, thanks to Slack and Facebook – means that I’ll get a chance to hook up again and hang out with lovely people who gift me with the warmth of their friendship and respect.

I remember how scared and lost I was at the first WordCamp  I ever went to. Imposter syndrome almost paralysed me!

That first time, people spoke to me and told me that my view, too, was important. That my experience could help others like me. That I, too, was an important part of the community.

I listened. And here I am now. I’ve met so many people along the way who are now not just colleagues: they are also firm friends.

And isn’t that interesting?

Because in fact, when you come to think of it, we are in fact competitors.

But just as Meg Fenn said in her talk: collaboration is so much better than competition.

Thank you WordCamp London. I have a lot to be grateful for to you.

WordCamp London 2019: the wonderful Diane Wallace. Thank you Diane.
WordCamp London 2019: the wonderful Diane Wallace, my MC and previously so nice to me when I knew zero about WordPress. Thank you Diane.
WordCamp London 2019: a few out of a great bunch of wonderful organisers and volunteers
A few out of a great bunch of wonderful organisers and volunteers. Thanks Dan, Babs, David, Hauwa and Todd!
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