The thing that tends to happen to me with WordCamps is that I take tons of notes, always expecting to create a great write-up post, and then don’t get a chance to write the post. It takes me days to recover from attending a conference, and once I’m back on my feet, I’m too busy trying to catch up on work to blog.
This time was a little different, though you’ll notice it’s still several days after the end of the event. I don’t have reams of notes, so it’s a little easier for me to write without feeling pressured.
WordCamp Sacramento was a one-day event, and in the normal course of things I would have driven up in the morning and back in the evening. But because of the speaker dinner the night before the event, I rented a hotel room (painted in clashing shades of ocher, but cheap) and drove up on Friday. I ran into a massive construction delay on 160 at the first drawbridge, but eventually made it to Ten22 in Old Sacramento. (For all the times I’ve been to Sacramento, I have never had a chance to really explore Old Sacramento and do the tourist thing. One of these days.)
Both the WordCamp organizers and the restaurant staff were extremely supportive of my special dietary requirements, and the food was lovely. It was also an occasion notable for the fact that we were a roomful of geeks and no one pulled a phone out during dinner.
After we ate, Jennifer and Brian Bourn handed us our badges, T-shirts, and the special sweatshirts they’d had made for the speakers. These are a lovely cranberry color that clashes so violently with my hair that I couldn’t possibly wear it in public unless I put the hood up. I’m wearing it to sleep in every night, though, because it’s warm and comfortable.
Dinner wrapped up at about 8:30 and I went back to the hotel to work on my talk. I’ve done a lot of public speaking, but I was extremely nervous about this talk. I kept reorganizing slides, removing some and adding others, and checking the time. (Interestingly, every time I rehearsed the talk it was barely 15 minutes, but it ran longer in real life.)
I went to bed at 10:30. Woke up at 12:30 a.m. Didn’t get back to sleep until 5:00 a.m.
This left me less than perfectly focused once I arrived at the Art Institute. I didn’t take any notes, though I did a fair amount of live-tweeting good lines from other people’s presentations. I spent every break in the speaker ready room fussing with my slides or running through my notes. Prior to lunchtime, I appeared to be the only person who had discovered it, so I had lots of privacy to practice. I began at last to feel confident.
Despite my difficulty in focusing, I could tell that the event was going extremely well. There was plenty of parking, everything was clearly signposted, an abundance of volunteers kept the speakers on schedule, and there was coffee when I arrived. (Okay, so they did run out of coffee. I’m not sure it’s possible for any event to provide enough coffee for a conference’s worth of geeks.)
It was gratifying to see people there from the East Bay WordPress Meetup, including one woman who said she’d heard about WCSAC on the meetup mailing list even though she hadn’t yet been to a meeting. There were also a lot of people there I didn’t know, and I had a chance to talk to some of them in the Happiness Room (which was also the sponsor room and the coffee room).
The room setup for the beginner track was a little odd. The room was wider than it was deep, created by opening panels to connect three rooms. Each of these rooms had a screen that projected slides, but it was only really possible to see the speaker from the center section. And the blinds weren’t nearly dark enough, so the slides weren’t as clear as they could have been.
All of the speakers responded to the challenge, however, and I didn’t hear any serious complaints about the room, though people did comment on it. The audience was actively engaged and asked plenty of questions.
My own talk was in the advanced track, in a smaller room with an ordinary classroom layout. I turned out not to need the HDMI adapter I’d bought at Fry’s the day before, but I did find the remote I’d purchased at the same time useful. Since my presentation was at 5:00 p.m., I didn’t have to worry about sunshine on the screen. Instead, it was too dark to present without putting the lights on, which contributed to the same effect. But no one complained that they couldn’t see my slides.
Given how quickly WordCamp Sacramento sold out, I’m sure it will take place in a larger venue next year, so we won’t be dealing with those specific issues. Whatever the new venue is will no doubt have some challenges of its own; no location is ever going to be perfect. This seemed like a good choice for a first event, and I think the organizers were wise to keep the event to something they knew they could manage the first time around.
If you hadn’t known this was the first Sacramento WordCamp, you would never have known. It was extremely well organized. Just take a look at the blog to see all the detailed information that was posted before and during the event. I appreciated the focus on local speakers and first-time speakers, though it was also nice to have WordPress rockstar Chris Lema there.
Chris Lema’s presentation rocked, of course. But the rest of the presentations I saw were also good. I learned something even in the beginner-track talks I attended.
Alas, by the time the event concluded, I was much too exhausted to attend the after-party, so I can’t say anything about that. I dragged myself home to my cats, had dinner, and went to bed.
I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s WordCamp Sacramento.