WordCamp Birmingham

Hey, ya’ll, a couple of us at Next Level decided to go to WordCamp Birmingham. We’re developing a new website using WordPress and we are all into it, even more so now that we have actually been to WordCamp. If you don ‘t know or haven ‘t guessed, WordCamp is a conference for all things WordPress-to learn about WordPress, Blogging, Business, Design and Programming. And there ‘s a session for everyone, from beginner to very advanced. I really wanted to attend WordCamp after reading Carol Stephen ‘s posts on WordCamp San Francisco and when I was given the opportunity to go, I jumped on it. (Carol was a volunteer at the San Francisco camp and she owns Your Social Media Works, a social media marketing agency. She has a fabulous blog that I find full of good info, so check her out if you use social media for business.)


  The Magic City

WordCamp Birmingham, the South ‘s oldest running camp and in it ‘s fifth year, took place at the Harbert Center in the historic area of downtown Birmingham. I love hanging out in just about any old downtown and enjoyed walking around before classes and during lunch. Like many a downtown, Birmingham has been slow to revive- it still bears the scars of industrial decay and civil rights struggles. But there is definitely revitalization in the air. Still known as “Magic City” due to its rapid growth during the height of the manufacturing age, there are many fabulous old vacant buildings and an Alabama bill was recently approved that offers developers significant tax credits for rehab projects. Downtown Birmingham is starting to tun hip, and you can feel it.

What I Learned

There were so many learning sessions to choose from and since I can only be in one place at a time, I felt a little short changed-only because I wanted to attend everything, including sessions that were too advanced for me. I stuck with mostly beginner classes and found, much to my surprise, that I know more than I thought I did, which is still not nearly enough, but sort of reassuring to know that some things I have picked up along the way are correct (thanks to all the helpful blogs I read!). But I also learned a lot of new things, and I met some great people who were so friendly and eager to help those in need of it. I could write about WordCamp for days, but that might become tiring so I am going to highlight just a few of the speakers and things I learned.
English: WordPress Logo

WordPress 101 and Lost Profits: Being Too or Not Enough of a Professional

The speaker at these sessions was Chris Lema– entrepreneur, public speaker, author, investor, coach and Vice President of Software Engineering at Emphasys Software.
I call Chris the “Billy Graham of WordPress” because he is an amazing speaker. I even went to one of his sessions that did not really relate to what I do, just to hear him talk, but I actually learned some things there anyway. (Chris is an avid blogger and his website is chock full of good info–presentations, videos, e books and more-a good site to bookmark)..
In WordPress 101 (which was really two sessions), I learned of two must-have plugins: WordPress SEO by Yoast, and Gravity Forms. I also found out that if you are a beginner and need to find out anything WordPress related, put wpbeginner.com in every Google search. The other good resource for beginners is WP101-WordPress Video Tutorials  by Shawn Hesketh. There is a one time fee of $19 which is a bargain, especially when you consider that Shawn updates each video every time WordPress updates. There is also a cool WP101 plugin that allows you to have 20 tutorials delivered directly to your (or your client ‘s) WordPress dashboard.
The Lost Profits session was geared to designers by trade but really could be applied to anyone in business. The upshot (for me): know your worth and don ‘t sell yourself short or give your work away, stand up for yourself as an expert in your field and don ‘t get too anal over details that your customer could care less about.
There was much more good stuff at all three of these sessions. Many WordPress sessions, including these, were filmed and will be available for viewing once they are edited, so I look forward to watching them. In the meantime, you can watch a lot of WordCamp Videos on many subjects by great speakers at WordPressTV

Hallway Session with Otto Who Works on WordPress.org and Makes Beer

I did not get to hear Otto speak in a session, but I met him in the hallway between sessions. Otto is super smart, super cool (did I mention he makes beer?) and is also super nice-he kindly offered to help me with a little problem I was having. I have used WordPress.com for our blog for a good long while and we switched to WordPress.org just days before coming to WordCamp so I am a true beginner in that sense. Otto solved my non-problem by installing a JetPack plugin. This plugin gave me back a lot of the user-friendly WordPress.com functionality I (as a non-coder) had missed and was able to quickly fix my issue. Carol Stephen was right when she wrote “Helpful and friendly people, volunteers everywhere… (WordCamp San Francisco: Part 2). Here ‘s a link to Otto ‘s WordPress blog, Otto on WordPress. To be honest, I can ‘t really understand his blog because it ‘s over my beginner head though it ‘s very well written in a nice conversational manner, and I like reading it even if I can ‘t understand it. There ‘s a place in the sidebar of the blog to buy Otto a beer, so I did.

Attracting Clients by Blogging

This great session featured speaker Tammy Hawk-Bridges, marketing consultant, business strategist and blogger for Huffington Post. Tammy is a mentor to entrepreneurs and her company is Perfect Marketing Equation.
Tammy has consulted with companies world-wide so I really pricked my ears up. She is smart and makes her points succinctly-here are some of them: 1. Compelling content creates clients. 2. Define your niche. 3. Define your ideal client/customer.  4. Completely focus on your ideal client’s needs when writing content.  5. People buy when the product/services solves a problem for them. 6. Determine your positioning. 7. The internet has leveled the playing field. 8. The number one purpose of a website is to create leads.
All the points were good but I especially loved the one about the internet having leveled the playing field. It ‘s true, your business could be in your basement and nobody would know. Isn ‘t that great? Tammy also told a great story about a failed business that she had put a lot into. That ‘s when she discovered how crucial it is to define your niche. Just find what you are really, really good at doing-that ‘s your niche!


As I mentioned, I could write a lot more about WordCamp Birmingham. There were 36 sessions offered in all. I attended a total of twelve and they were all very good. With three sessions offered in each time slot, it was often a difficult choice but I know I will spend my spare time watching the videos of the sessions I missed. Not only did I learn a lot about WordPress, I learned about business and marketing and the best part is, I met some really smart, really cool, and really nice people.
PS There could be a part 2 if I can get the other one of us to talk about it. He’s a bigger geek than me, so his experience was…well, geekier.
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