23 Comments

  1. Norcross

    agreed on pretty much every point, including keeping official WordCamps affordable. I understand the comparisons to other events and the differences are there, and that’s OK. as WP matures, there will be a growth in the event space, with more focused events that have those perks, and charge for them. I’m looking forward to that.

    personally, I’d love to see a more developer focused WordPress event, without users or marketing or even business tracks. this clearly wouldn’t appeal to everyone, and that’s fine. but I would get value from it. and I’d expect to pay more for it. the average cost of the non WP conferences I’ve attended in the last two years is about $600 per ticket.

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  2. David Bisset (@dimensionmedia)

    First off, let me say that anyone who thinks $50 is too much for a day long conference (Pods related or not) has a right to that opinion. But i disagree completely. At the end of the day, you look back and see if you got your money’s worth from a conference. Networking alone is worth $50 for me. Especially if people laugh at my bad jokes.

    I don’t think WordCamps regulars take the ticket price for granted. But I have gotten the rare feedback from locals about complaints that are so outrageous that it does warrant the question back: “You paid less than $30-$40, and you’re complaining about that?” I should write a blog post on that.

    I do see larger ticket prices – and rightly so – for non-WordCamp events. Even these are reasonably priced compared to the majority of professional conferences that exist.

    In any case, tips to get more people with low income levels or just people that you might not normally think about in terms of WordCamp attendees:

    1. Reach out as soon as possible to local colleges, high schools, and special groups (like GirlsWhoCode) in the area. Typical students usually have a rich desire to learn and not a lot of cash. Even free tickets to students usually have a high turnaround rate in Miami. Reach out to the technical (or similar) contact for each school. We have even posted flyers and posters at schools letting students know about the event and the discount.

    2. Kids workshop attracted a variety of different types of families and individuals. Not every camp can have a kids workshop, but if your event is kid friendly then it might open more people to come. Making your event family friendly also helps.

    3. Local meetups – talk about WordCamps months in advance to get the local word spread. Occasionally offering discounts to other meetup groups (as a courtesy for helping us support the local tech community) gets a decent response.

    After five years in Miami, we have people come to WCMIA just because of the value and the networking… some don’t even do WordPress at all. So thanks to the <$40 ticket prices, most certainly appreciate the value they get from the event.

    Now if you excuse me I have to convince the wife that I need to pay $1000+ a ticket for A List Apart conference in Orlando.

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  3. Rafael Ehlers

    Here in Brazil we’re constantly trying to change our WordCamp ticket prices with the foundation without any luck so far.

    We are trying hard to increase to R$45 (~U$20), while the foundation wants us to keep at R$35(~U$15).

    The problem is that in Brazil is very difficult to get sponsorships from local companies (most of them digital agencies). Also, most of the tech events in Brazil costs around R$200 (around U$80) for a single day (without lunch), and that was never considered costly from attendees POV.

    I’m part of a user group that organize all WordCamps in Brazil (5 so far, with 2 more to happen anytime) and having to rely on the foundation sponsorship to cover most aspects of the event, is not a good thing.

    We are trying to buy sound and filming equipment to share among all WordCamps in the country, and it’s been tough with this actual policy in place (the “big mac index”)…

    I agree with all philosophies behind the ticket price that WordPress Foundation defines, but we should trust more and let the locals decide on what’s the best price to charge, since we are the ones that live here and know how much events like this cost on average and to organize.

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    • Norcross

      this is one part I wish there was some flexibility on. “affordable” is needed, but a hard and fast rule on price that doesn’t take into account the locale is difficult to swallow.

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  4. Caspar Hübinger

    WP Camp Berlin 2012 –essentially a barcamp-style 1-day-WordCamp– attracted ~200 people. Coffee, soft drinks and snacks were available for free all through the day. We served a warm lunch at the venue (vegan + non-vegan). The event received extremly positive feedback from the local community, so it became clear we were practically expected to do it again in 2013. At the second iteration ~300 attendees showed up.

    Attendees were charged €10 for each event.

    Our top sponsor packet was worth €1000. The one advantage we might have had was one of our team members was able to convince a local university (Beuth Hochschule für Technik) to host the event and sponsor all room costs at the same time. So our venue rates were down to a couple of hundreds of Euros for technology rentals (beamers, mics, technical staff). Catering could b provided through a service located in the same facility, so their transportation costs were basically zero — an advantage they kindly forwarded to us in their extraordinarily kind offer.

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  5. Morten Rand-Hendriksen

    I have a lot to say here but I’ll refrain from flooding the comment stream. Here are the highlights:

    $20 for a ticket works only because of extensive sponsorships and reliance on a) free speakers and b) the support of the community including in most cases free venue space. While this may work for smaller communities and cities it is exceptionally difficult in larger cities like Vancouver, Canada. When we organized WordCamp:Developers in 2011 we reached out to every venue in town for even partial sponsorships. The response we got was often outright laughter. Vancouver is an event town and we were competing with every other major conference and event, all of which were paying full price. Needless to say an open source event with on a shoestring budget had no chance.

    The only way events like WordCamp Vancouver can stay afloat is through massive funding through sponsors. This results in a perception problem from the viewpoint of the attendees. They only pay $20 and think the event is trivial while in reality it is a major undertaking with colossal costs. The low ticket price leads to significant attrition and sets a bar that is way too high for similar events offered at the same price.

    We did a price comparison and found a total of zero other events of a similar events in this town at the same price. The next cheapest event was $50 and required a previous membership to an organization.

    The $20 price tag makes WordCamp look cheap perpetuates the perception both inside the community and out that WordPress and WordPress work is not expensive. That is not a sustainable platform on which we can build a solid footing for the future. It was fine when WordCamps were small independently organized events more like extended Meetups, but now that WordCamps strive to become “real conferences” we need to raise the bar and the cost to make it all sustainable.

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    • Rafael Ehlers

      Totally agree with you on that. I can say the same for WordCamp Rio de Janeiro. The organizers pulled a miracle there to find a free venue there, right after the WorldCup.

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    • David Bisset (@dimensionmedia)

      “The $20 price tag makes WordCamp look cheap perpetuates the perception both inside the community and out that WordPress and WordPress work is not expensive. That is not a sustainable platform on which we can build a solid footing for the future. It was fine when WordCamps were small independently organized events more like extended Meetups, but now that WordCamps strive to become “real conferences” we need to raise the bar and the cost to make it all sustainable.”

      I’ll first off by saying everyone’s experience is different (especially for those not in the United States), so I can understand some of where you’re coming from.

      At the same time, commenting toward WordCamps look “cheap” and we need to raise the bar and make them “real conferences”, i couldn’t disagree more. WordCamps are LOCAL events and comparing them to “real conferences” (you didn’t site examples or what makes something “real” so for the moment i’m thinking of conferences like An Event Apart or smaller like http://convergefl.com/) shouldn’t be happening. I don’t want WordCamp Miami turning into a higher paid conference. I want it to stick to it’s humble roots, which I think we did (even last April when we had over 770 tickets sold). “Real” conferences are also per-profit businesses… unless you plan on donating leftover funds to charity which is a separate topic.

      $20 doesn’t make WordCamps look cheap. It makes them look accessible. There are other WordCamp related conferences that charge more. Getting sufficient sponsors for the event to accomplish your conference’s basic needs at minimum allows your tickets to be at a price where you aren’t turning away the very audience that makes WordPress what it is today.

      To address “not a sustainable platform”, WordCamp Miami has grown from 200 to 770 in the past 5 years. Again, experiences are different but it’s hard for me to agree with that comment.

      Keep WordCamps local and humble. If you want a “real” conference, there seem to be plenty of WordCamp conferences now that are coming up to potentially fit that bill. If one disgrees, they can start their own. WordCamp Central doesn’t stop you.

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      • David Bisset (@dimensionmedia)

        Apparently a paragraph got chopped off when I pasted my comment above. Just one more point: I do not object to having a slightly higher ticket price if your local circumstances do not permit you to have a minimum of event at a cost of the typical WordCamp ticket (it’s making work camps more like bigger “professional” conferences that I disagree with). Last time I looked earlier this year, there was enough camp event sponsors to allow a small camp to function without the need of additional sponsors. It might be possible that some of these event sponsors are limited to the United States – I don’t know if that’s true or not.

        In the end I will take someone’s word for it if they say it’s impossible to produce it working up in their area. Like I said, number of factors.

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      • Morten Rand-Hendriksen

        My concern with pricing has to do with its relation to the real world. $20/ticket doesn’t reflect the actual cost of the conference but is an artificially low price as this article clearly shows. This is not sustainable in the long run and puts the conference organizers in a difficult position when sponsorships become hard to find. It also builds up under the attitude that WordPress and everything associated with it should be free or cheap. This grows to the erroneous understanding that WordPress services should be free or cheap which in turn erodes the valuation of WordPress and WordPress services.

        As for the “real conference” remark I was indeed referring to conferences like An Event Apart. While WordCamp is a great event for community building and networking the community needs more advanced conferences where the community is challenged, educated, and exposed to all the things that are happening outside the WordPress bubble. This can’t work within the WordCamp framework for many of the reasons you mentioned. I think what’s needed is another additional type of conference, still organized centrally, but with a focus on education and expansion. Essentially WordCamp is to TED and TEDx what this other conference would be to An Event Apart.

        Don’t get me wrong: WordCamp is great I go to as many as I can, but we as a community need to grow bigger and wiser and that requires adding a new type of conference with higher ticket prices and a different focus.

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  6. Dustin Filippini

    Correction: WordCamp Milwaukee was $25 for two days. Saturday/Sunday. We also had beginner workshops on Friday which were $15 on top of the weekend ticket.

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  7. Miroslav Glavic

    Oooh I started a WPTavern post. (at least I will think it that way).

    I was the one that said $50 on the pods event post was too much.

    Most conferences are way more because they make the attendees pay.

    WordCamp organizers should get sponsors. PERIOD.

    Lower income hopeful attendees won’t be able to attend.

    I have organized events (non-WordPress related).

    If location ABC is expensive, then go to location DEF. Do you really need the high tech college/univesity campus? NO

    Look at the meals, don’t need catered. get cheaper lunch.

    Maybe even cut out lunch, everyone should get their own lunch in the neighbourhood. That way you don’t have to worry about people’s dietary/allergic needs.

    The more expensive conferences, it is usually the same people.

    Look at your expenses, Do you REALLY need this or that item?

    All swag items on the goodie bags should be paid for by the owners of those items.

    Charge more to sponsors.

    I think we get MORE at WordCamps than other more expensive conferences.

    Doesn’t the foundation pay for the meetup.com fees? They should pay the venue fees for all WordCamps.

    Regular WordCamps should be $20-$35. The “Developers” WordCamps maybe more ($20-$55).

    I have organized conferences in the past. I find a location with restaurants and coffee shops in the area.

    Want coffee? well, in the 15 minutes between sessions you can go across the street and get it yourself.

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    • Chris Christoff (chriscct7)

      To be fair WordCamp organizers get as many sponsors as they possibly can.

      For the location comment, the venues chosen are picked for a variety of reasons. First, you have to consider the usually hundreds of attendees that are coming. That alone usually limits you severely. From there, you have to work on cost. Most places don’t give you that space for free. Most WordCamps, save for ones with extremely good sponsors like NYC, can’t afford to use high-cost venues, like hotel based conference rooms. The reason most WordCamps use university and high tech college venues is because usually they are extremely cheap (in some cases free). Most of these venues give WordCamps this opportunity in exchange for some sort of advertising at the venue (like an inkind donation essentially), so your point on WordCamp’s typical locations is completely irrelevant to your argument.

      Most WordCamps that use catered lunches get them at an extremely discounted rate. Some venues, like for example the Sunday of WordCamp Miami 2013, simply brought in food trucks and let the attendees pay for their own lunch, instead of putting the cost in the ticket price. For most WordCamps, the cost of providing lunch is extremely cheap. Milwaukee, which I’ll use as a general case here, provided lunch for Saturday and Sunday at a cost of $5/meal (per their reported budget). For most WordCamps, there is another benefit to providing lunch: people don’t leave to go find their own lunch. By having people eat at the conference, it keeps the attendance rates high for the speakers directly after lunch, who people might miss coming back from lunch. And as for coffee, of the few WordCamps that provide it, its usually included in the aforementioned food cost. Lunch cost, for the most part, is completely irrelevant here.

      At WordCamps that give out swag bags, usually majority of the items **are** from sponsors who donated them. The right to give away things in the swag bags (or the swag bags themselves) is bestowed in the sponsorship deals at most WordCamps. Again, completely irrelevant to your argument.

      As for your argument on charging sponsors more or getting more sponsors, that’s not feasible. Most of the “pillar” level sponsors, and such level, agree to sponsor entire contents, regions, and even in some cases all WordCamps. With 2 or so WordCamps every week, that’s over a hundred WordCamps some of these sponsors are providing. Not only is that an incredible amount of generosity on their part, these sponsorships are negotiated by the Foundation in bulk. Each worldwide pillar sponsor (at least at rack rate) donates $163,050/year. Many WordCamps have difficulty finding sponsors as well to begin with. We’ve seen in the comments the testimony from Vancouver and Rio. For smaller WordCamps, particularly ones in smaller cities, or for WordCamps in highly competitive conference cities (Vancouver), your argument simply isn’t feasible.

      “Doesn’t the foundation pay for the meetup.com fees? They should pay the venue fees for all WordCamps.”

      The Foundation, to their credit, already does a lot. I’m not sure if you fully understand the costs of venues in some of the cities that WordCamps run in. San Francisco’s venue last year alone costed them $30,000+. Unless you are volunteering to donate them like a million dollars a year to make this happen, its a pretty unfair argument to be making.

      “Lower income hopeful attendees won’t be able to attend.”
      With WordCamps typically charging like $30 for a ticket, most attendees at a WordCamp will usually spend well more than that on lodging, food (outside of the camp), and transportation. At some point, WordCamps simply cannot be free. The value of the appearance of the conference would diminish. You would see people snapping up free tickets, simply because they can, and have a high turnover ratio. Ask any WordPress Meetup group organizer in a standard city about their typical ratio between the number of people that say “I am going” on meetup.com vs the number that actually show up. Cost of ticket, brings an incentive to show up, and an incentive to get the most out of the event. It encourages people to attend, not simply because it is free, but because they themselves value it.

      That being said, lower income attendees are being given increasing considerations at WordCamps. The number of WordCamps this year that offered free or discounted student tickets is up. And San Francisco is providing an ambitious travel assistance program (hats off to them). Ultimately, the problem with providing discounted tickets to low income attendees is plagued by a variety of problems. How do you maintain privacy of attendees while simultaneously having them prove their income status to prevent assistance abuse? How do you go about defining low income? How do you vet the recipients? These problems, over time will have to be answered. I hope one day, WordCamps will be able to provide programs like the one SF is doing. Maybe the Foundation, or a someday established other charity will let people donate to a fund which disburses tickets and other needs, like the SF program. I think, depending on how SF’s program goes this year, that could become more viable.

      But at the end of the day, a $20 or $30 WordCamp ticket, is super cheap compared to a $500 or $1,000+ ticket to a comprable design or development conference. It’s a really good price point. Not too cheap to diminish value and not to expensive to limit participation.

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      • Andy M.

        And, to add to that: AFAIK PodsCamp is not a WordCamp. It’s not running through the Foundation. It doesn’t have the same multi-sponsorship base, mass appeal, or brand awareness behind it as a WordCamp. It’s targeting a different audience, a much more niche audience, than a WordCamp does.

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      • Miroslav Glavic

        WordCamp at the begining (and every other popular conference) did not have multi-sponsorship base. It grows. podscamp can grow.

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      • Miroslav Glavic

        You are twisting what I said.

        So I am going to correct you…

        If organizers are complaining about location fee/rental being too high the go find another one.

        Nowhere does it say a WordCamp has to be held at a university, hotel, at LAX runway. You can hold it in your backyard if you have a VERY BIG backyard.

        I live in Toronto and there are enough locations. Vancouver, Montreal, NYC, LAX and Miami same for them.

        Maybe don’t hold them in the downtown area? Most north american downtown areas tend to have higher fees.

        WCTO on 2008 and I think 2009 were held in east end of Toronto, in the area called Scarborough. This year it is going to be held in the southwest part of Toronto, 20-25 minutes from downtown (via car).

        Does it say anywhere that you have to include lunch? If you want to provide it, don’t complain about higher costs.

        First two WCTOs were at Centennial College, next one was at a dining hall (Brendan’s turn when he did it).

        Rest were in at Ryerson? Both Ryerson/Centennial have cafeterias. Within 5 minute walk in any direction from Ryerson there were at least 30 restaurants.

        Humber College’s Lakeshore campus has a cafeteria, if you want 1 1/2 minute north to Lakeshore boulevard and go any direction within 8 minutes you will find restaurants.

        If you have high costs, then get more sponsors. 1 person giving $5,000 or 2 people giving $2,500 each or 5 people giving $1,000 each, get the idea?

        Was WCSF’s venue really the only one? I seriously don’t find it acceptable to pay $30,000 for a long weekend of conference days.

        Most attendees at WordCamps are local. So lodging costs is not real argument of anything.

        I find that I get BETTER value for WCTO and that Andy, Brent and rest have done and excellent job over the years than other conferences that I pay $1,000 for it. (company paid it).

        I NEVER ONCE SAID FREE. Not a single occurance of FREE is found in my original comment.

        Most WordCamps, including WCTO, have different levels of sponsorship.

        WCTO 2014 has: $75, $200, $500, $1,000 & $5,000

        This question is for all WordCamp organizers: Why not have, in addition to whatever sponsorships you might have, VENUE SPONSOR, COFFEE SPONSOR, etc…

        What if WCTO uses my $5,000 and gets Tim Hortons (a Canadian’s favourite coffee), I am employed by a company that is in the middle of a lawsuit with Tim Hortons. If I gave my $5,000 and WCTO organizers got Tim Hortons coffee, I would not only get crucified, I would get fired.

        An option would be to have $35 (attendance only), $45 (includes meals).

        PLEASE NOTE: I have been volunteering for WCTO since before the current organizers, I think since 2008. I think WCTO organizers last year (and this year) did/are doing a great job.

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  8. Andy M.

    My $0.02: I think there’s an entitlement problem with some people.

    Many WordCamps have set a high bar with outstanding content and activities that trump expensive conferences. After a while, it’s what attendees expect as the norm. Pay $20, get educated and fed for a day (or two).

    WordPress, as a platform, also has to deal with that: Free or cheap plugins and themes, free software. Build an entire site without paying for more than hosting and a domain. Heck, I’ve seen folks balk at the idea of paying for a Gravity Forms license because they can’t fathom paying for a plugin.

    Events like PodsCamp, WooConf, Pressnomics, etc… that deviate from the WordCamp norm, that set a higher price or shift the focus, are a good thing. It’s a sign of the industry maturing beyond the neighbourly, global collectives of WordCamps.

    All of these events fulfill a need, I think, otherwise people wouldn’t be going to them. :)

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    • Miroslav Glavic

      I like the LITE / PRO approach. I have upgraded to PRO of many plugins. I bought my first theme (for my own site), a few months ago. Themes I paid for clients do not count.

      Anyone reading this comment, Andy is one of the wonderful WCTO organizers who does an excellent job.

      Andy, I think last year was the WCTO that I was out of the continent, I gave my ticket away to someone. I usually buy two tickets for different community groups/lower income groups. I have done this in other WordCamps. Just nothing official.

      At work, I let my staff come to WCTO. After the event, all they have to do is give me a receipt of WCTO ticket payment and proof they attended and company expense will cover it.

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  9. garthmortensen

    Jeff, your link to “Multi-Event Sponsors” is broken.

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  10. Samuel "Otto" Wood

    I’ve been to more than a few WordCamp’s. So, here’s my 2 cents. ;)

    There is certainly room for other WordPress-related events that are not specifically “WordCamp”, and that’s fine. There’s more than enough developers out there to support something like an advanced-wp-conference, sort of thing. Clearly there are enough people using Pods to have this event, and that’s kinda awesome.

    That said, of course these more specialized events will have higher ticket prices, and that’s natural and expected too.

    WordCamp in specific is primarily about the users. If you go to any of these at all, the “bloggers” track is frequently the largest one, and a large majority of the questions people ask of the various experts there have to do with fairly basic principles. How to choose plugins/themes, how to do SEO stuffs, etc. I’ve explained these simple questions and fixed minor problems for people’s sites, oh, dozens of times at a WordCamp. Keeping the cost down and encouraging local involvement and even local speakers is really what a WordCamp is all about.

    Though many of us travel and speak and pay for lodging at these events, the majority of the people I meet at them are definitely local, maybe drove down from a nearby city for the day, and usually are super-happy and impressed by the low cost and highly valuable information they are getting. I think that’s absolutely great. It encourages growth and all too frequently tech conferences are simply out of the price range of people who want to learn more or are just starting out. If a ticket is $100+, then it won’t phase somebody already paying a couple thousand for plane+hotel and such. But it makes those day-trip attendees a lot less viable.

    So, I think WordCamp’s are great the way they are. If more specialized conferences start to happen, then higher costs might be on the table for them, and that’s cool too.

    And if at some point a WordCamp-named event does become more specialized, then maybe the foundation will experiment a little more. They are clearly focusing on more local oriented events at present, and I personally like it that way for now. Keeps it interesting, as I get to meet and help out a lot more people, which is always nice. :)

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