Did I just go to big kid summer camp? Like the super cool techy kind?
Yep, I think so. But better—because there was beer and no curfew.
WordCamp Grand Rapids 2017 was a one-day revival of the camp that was originally held in 2012-2014 and then took a few years off.
Inspired by Grand Rapids’ active summer culture, the theme was outdoorsy. The waves and paddle in the logo, attendee gift water bottles, trail mix, and speaker gift lanterns were all great touches by the organizers.
The feel of WCGR 2017 was welcoming, warm, and local. Grand Valley State University’s downtown Pew Campus seemed to be the perfect setting—beautiful and memorable but still intimate.
As far as the attendees, no big-name appearances for a keynote here—Just a sold out crowd of 144 local friends, mostly from the Great Lakes area.
I was seriously impressed with the variety of talks. Lead organizer Cate DeRosia had mentioned at one point making this a one-track WordCamp, but they received so many speaker submissions that they filled three tracks.
One classroom throughout the day was dedicated to developer talks, which makes sense since the WordPress Meetup in Grand Rapids is full of developers.
The other two rooms had topics that ranged from animation to blogging to business partnerships to design trends.
All of the local speakers did a great job. Here is a recap of a few of the talks I attended:
Sample Talks from WCGR 2017
Mike Reid from BoldGrid put together a great presentation about animations on the web. He recommended Animate.css and Wow.js and showed some fun examples of what to do and what not to do. A key takeaway was to use animation sparingly, only to bring attention to key elements (like your call to action).
My talk for WCGR was thankfully in the second timeslot of the day. For a while now, I have been itching to present about how my agency structures our ongoing service packages. I shared how our client experience has improved so much, and how the recurring revenue has been a big relief.
Thank you to the organizers for choosing my talk and to all the awesome client service folks who attended.
If you are interested, I live streamed the whole talk on Twitter/Periscope:
— Sara Dunn (@Sara11D) August 26, 2017
Talk slides and resources are available here.
One of the short 25-minute talks before lunch was from Peter DeHaan. Peter talked about blogging and creating better content. An avid writer, Peter has written over 1400 blog posts for his website. He shared one of my favorite takeaways from the day, about categories and tags:
— Sara Dunn (@Sara11D) August 26, 2017
Veteran WordCamp speaker Mike Hale drove up from the Chicago area to share a talk on Growth Hacking. Mike had excellent tips for us on how to use data to find out what’s working on your website and how to test small changes to improve conversions. I always love seeing Mike at Midwest WordCamps!
I have tons of respect for WordPress business partners Leeann Drees and Laura Eagin of ellell & co. They have made a big shift from freelancing separately to partnering in a successful agency.
Leeann and Laura shared insights into how their partnership has allowed them to take weeks off at a time when needed. They also answered burning questions like “How do you split up the money if you don’t each do 50% of the work on a project?”
Laura mentioned to me that they want to tweak this talk and give it again in the future. I’d highly recommend it if they speak at a conference near you.
In the only developer talk I attended on Saturday, the always insightful Steve Grunwell led an awesome talk on structured data. As an example, he illustrated how structured data can help search engines to understand the ingredients in a chocolate chip cookie recipe.
In a very fortunate turn of events, chocolate chip cookies were served at the break right after Steve’s talk. #winning
— Steve Grunwell (@stevegrunwell) August 26, 2017
I wrapped up my day with the very fun and energetic Shelby Elliott & Tracy Apps of Corner Market Media. They shared how they can work together even though they have totally different design styles. I loved seeing the variety in the examples of their work.
— tracy apps (@tapps) August 26, 2017
The After Party
Atwater Brewery in GR threw open their big doors for a relaxed after party. It was the perfect vibe to finish up a great event.
Excellent location downtown too—I heard that a few attendees headed out to get more stamps in their Beer City Brewsader Passports 😉
As Seen At WordCamp Grand Rapids 2017
— cate (@mysweetcate) August 26, 2017
— Tim Nolte (@tnolte) August 26, 2017
— BGMike (@bg_miker) August 26, 2017
A thousand hugs and high fives to the organizers, sponsors, and volunteers for WordCamp Grand Rapids. A special shout out to Cate DeRosia, lead organizer, who took on a lot and planned so thoughtfully to pull this memorable experience together in just four months.
I heard so many attendees say they were really glad to see this event come back to GR. I also heard rumblings already about WCGR 2018, which may take place earlier in the summer. Fingers crossed that it does happen and that I’ll see you there!
Find Out More
Interested in WordCamp Grand Rapids or future WordCamps? Here are some links you might like: