I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the folks over at PollDaddy.com for sponsoring my trip to WordCamp Detroit. Without their support, I would not have been able to attend. If you’re looking for an easy to use service to poll your readers or conduct surveys, definitely give them a try. I suggest taking a look at their brand new product: PollDaddy Quizzes which is great for teachers, marketers, or trainers. Who’s going to be the first one to create a WordPress Quiz?
WordCamp Detroit was held this past weekend and for a first time event, went off quite well. The event was not held in Detroit itself but rather, a North West suburb called Novi. Novi seems like a happening place, especially at the town center. However, go two or three miles down the road and you’re back into farm country. The venue was called the Rock Financial Showplace and is built-in such a way that walls can be rearranged to provide as much or as little space as necessary to hold an event.
Loved the catered food during breakfast and lunch. Not only was the food at the same location as the event, but the organizers gave a substantial amount of time for lunch so that everyone had a chance to network with folks and talk about presentations during the first half of the day.
Plenty of 15-20 minute breaks throughout the day to talk about presentations or ask additional questions to the presenter.
One room for all presentations which minimized moving around and the need to have a map.
Majority of presentations focused on the WordPress software itself instead of SEO, content generation, etc.
Very engaged audience. This is one of the first WordCamps I’ve attended where just about all of the attendees sat in their chairs for every presentation with a minimal amount of people walking around outside the room.
Based on what I saw, it looked like a half and half ratio of men to women which is a good sign.
Within the conference hall, the only section that had power outlets was the left hand side of the room. For next year, I would set up a recharging station or ask volunteers to bring some power strips along with extension cords.
The conference hall held all of the attendees as presentations were all done in the same room but those who sat in the back or at a wrong angle from the presentation screen had a difficult time reading. If it was not for my glasses, I wouldn’t have been able to read anything on the screen. I suggest having the projector take up the entire white screen next year so things are larger and not confined to a little square.
Lack of a genius bar. For this particular WordCamp, a genius bar would have been a wonderful thing as most of the attendees were WordPress beginners. I hope to see a genius bar set up next year so beginners or anyone else can go to a central location to ask specific questions regarding WordPress.
WiFi. I’ve placed this in the Cons section but it’s more like an in-between. The free WiFi worked just fine until the start of the event when it became unusable. After the first two presentations, I was frustrated to the point where I paid $20.00 for a one day pass to use the Rock Financials paid access. This worked great albeit the outrageous price but later on in the day, Anthony fixed the problem by working with the venue to open up that section of their network for free and has worked with those who paid for WiFi to get reimbursed.
If it’s not too much trouble next year, I’d like to see the addition of an interview room so attendees have a dedicated quiet area to conduct video or audio interviews.
Overall, I had a great time. The hotel was very accessible from the highway, plenty of places to shop and eat and only a mile and a half away from the venue location. I must give Anthony Montalbano and his team of volunteers credit for pulling off a great WordCamp, especially since it was the first one for the Detroit area. Thankfully, Anthony had attended a few WordCamps previous to creating one for Detroit which led him to do many things right the first time around.
I met a bunch of cool people and found out that many of them in the Detroit area listen to my WordPress Weekly podcast. I enjoyed talking to every one of you that stopped me to say hi and I look forward to starting the show again in November. Hope to see WordCamp Detroit 2011 become a reality!
Thanks for the great review! Please add your comments and suggestions to the follow-up survey. (A link to your post here would be fine.)
We are aware of some of the shortcomings you noted, and we will try hard to improve next year. Because it was a first-year conference we faced some funding challenges that limited what we could do. Hopefully we can find a few more sponsors next year to take things to the next level.
I’m really glad you came to visit us. Please consider this a warm invitation to come back next year!
Perhaps I’ll bump into you at another WordCamp down the road.