There are hundreds of local WordPress meetups throughout the world. I joined my first one in Seattle in 2010. I have been an organizer and co-organizer, and I’m currently a member and event organizer. I can tell you, as a web pro, there is no better way to start building your local network than by the sharing and learning that happens there.
What is a WordPress meetup?
You might have experienced other meetups in your life, both personal and business related. But in the space of WordPress where we value community so much, a WordPress meetup goes beyond hand-shaking and passing out business cards. You will find that each one has its own flavour. The meetups don’t revolve around the organizer, but instead are focused on the needs of members. And with the unique mix of WordPress users, developers, bloggers, designers and consultants, they are quite varied.
Who might you meet at WordPress meetups?
There is a ton of value in connecting with WordPress users of all kinds. As a web pro, when it comes to networking, you often think of “finding customers.” And although WordPress meetups can help you grow your customer base in the long-run, the knowledge and experience you will discover is invaluable.
Other web pros
As someone who has been networking in business for more than 25 years, I have found that some people look at a meetup with a critical eye because they think that networking with colleagues will get them nowhere.
But the things you will learn from other web pros can bring as much to your business as your customers do.
You can learn from others, as well as teach others. You can hear the experiences that colleagues have had to help you better manage your own business. You can find partners who will work with you on your existing projects or refer others to you. The development of trusting relationships cannot be understated.
Consultants and others
Building that network of people you can refer to — or be referred by — isn’t as simple as sending an email to someone and asking, “Can we help each other?” It is something we need to constantly cultivate, and in person is a great way to do that. It won’t happen with one meetup — that’s for sure. But over time, you will build strong, mutually helpful relationships.
Customers (or not)
Sure, not every blogger or business owner who uses WordPress is going to become your customer. But a WordPress meetup is a goldmine for learning more about their needs, what frustrates them, and what they look for in a web pro.
Isn’t a WordPress meetup just networking?
Well, yes and no. Regardless of which WordPress meetups you attend — and where — it’s all about the networking. Whether you choose to become part of the organizing team or remain just a member, you will have the opportunity to both learn from others and share your own knowledge. But here are some of the other ways WordPress meetups can help you build and strengthen your brand:
Find like-minded people
There are times when you need to run something by a friend, someone who understands you because they do the same thing you do. You will find some of those people at your local meetup.
Help a colleague or a casual WordPress user
You will find out that you know more than you think. And isn’t it better to help someone solve a problem they’re having than stand up and give a 60-second commercial? If you consistently wear your “helper hat,” you will soon become known (and appreciated) for the expert you are.
Get speaking experience
Many web pros live inside their own minds for extended periods of time. It comes with the territory; diving deep is how we solve problems. But sometimes, we need to get out of our introverted selves and communicate with others. WordPress meetups will force you to do that. And the more you do it, the better you will become.
Reinforce and extend your online content and persona
One good strategy is to leverage your social media and online presence to reinforce your brand when you meet people in person. For example, if you share your new business card on social media — and your rationale for creating it — it’s more likely that someone at a meetup will say, “I saw your new business card on Facebook and thought it was cool. Did you bring any with you?” And there you go. Someone actually asked you for a card.
Let’s face it. People who need help with a project don’t usually do a web search. They often approach someone they have gotten to know, someone they trust. What better way to get your name front and centre than to be a helpful meetup member?
Each WordPress meetup has its own personality. Some have a single meeting each month, with networking time and a speaker, followed by breaking into groups for deeper conversations. Others might serve as a help desk by bringing pros and users together for some in-person support. Other WordPress meetups might have one larger general meetup and other smaller ones that focus on developers, bloggers or workshops. Whatever your need is a web pro, you will either find it or, if it doesn’t exist, make it happen yourself.
Finding and starting WordPress meetups
It’s easy to find a meetup. Go to Meetup.com and do a search. If you can’t find one, find the closest WordCamp and look for like-minded people in your area who attend. If you can’t find one, see if there is enough interest to start one in your area.
One of the best actions is to start talking with the people on WordPress.org about this. By doing this, you can be under their umbrella, which gives you a more head start and saves you a tonne of headaches down the road. They might have recommendations for how to best approach this. Because you don’t want to start one and show up to an empty room. There are many other organizers out there who will share their experience so take advantage of the community to help guide you along the way.
WordPress is about community
Final words. If you have a WordPress meetup in your area, I encourage you to check it out. If you show up with an open mind and an open heart, I can guarantee you that you will be going back.
Editor’s note: Want to further build out your WordPress community? Check out the GoDaddy Pro Lounge and interact with other web pros.