The last time I spent time in person with the WordPress community was February 27, 2020. I remember it well, as it was also one of those birthdays with a zero in it for me.
It was the last in-person WordPress London meetup.
Little did I know at that time that it would be the last time for more than a year. As an organiser of many events, COVID-19 was on our radar, as it was for countless others. Following this event, the #WPLDN team and I chatted, as we often do, via the Big Orange Heart Slack team to determine our next move.
We decided almost a month before the government imposed lockdown not to deliver any other in-person events until further notice. But that wasn’t going to stop us from bringing the community together virtually.
You can read more about the process, decision-making, and delivery of our virtual events in this post, covering how WordFest Live 2021 came about. So I won’t go into details here.
Highlight the virtues
In this post, I want to highlight the virtues of virtual events. And focus on the positives that have come from the ability to continue to connect as a community.
For me, a stand out positive has been the ability for greater inclusiveness and diversity from the delivery of virtual events. The Big Orange Heart network has grown to a truly international community, with members joining us from nearly 100 unique international locals.
We’ve featured speakers that may never have had a public voice previously due to draconian visa laws, prohibitive costs or restrictions on people’s movement.
Virtual events open a whole new space for attendees, speakers and sponsors. We’ve seen innovation caused by necessity, and the community has benefited.
I’m not arguing that virtual events can replace in-person events, but there needs to be a space for them both as we move forward. I’ve been having lots of conversations around the idea of hybrid events. I’m happy to say Big Orange Heart is actively working on successfully delivering our events in this format.
We want to continue the openness, diversity and accessibility that virtual events can offer. We also want to celebrate and recognise the organisers who have picked up the baton to deliver these events and run with it.
Celebrate and recognise
During the first WordFest Live delivery, many individuals and companies put faith in our ability to bring people together virtually. The very first company that stepped forward to support us in the delivery of this was GoDaddy Pro.
The GoDaddy Pro team were there before we’d even made a public announcement. And we want to thank them for that early support. We also want to highlight that GoDaddy Pro are proactively picking up that baton to deliver their new virtual event; Expand 2021.
Expand 2021 is a two-day virtual conference, taking place on 27 and 28 April 2021. It’s a free virtual event with a compact schedule of three hours on each of two days, featuring eight speakers. It brings together the web design and developer community to deepen connections between peers and their professions.
Here’s what Adam Warner, Global Field Marketing Senior Manager for GoDaddy Pro, had to say on the event.
Expand 2021 is an extension of our commitment to the web designer and developer-related events and is, in some way, my personal Opus for giving back to the community that raised me and giving the new generation a head start in following their own passions.
The content, speakers, and schedule we’ve put together is laser-focused on helping freelancers start, grow, and streamline their businesses by providing real-world experience and techniques delivered by our fellow web professionals in the community.Adam Warner, Global Field Marketing Senior Manager, GoDaddy Pro
It’s another example of how a virtual event can bring a diverse mix of people together from across our global community. Be sure to grab a free ticket.
As we find our way through this new time, with every country at a different stage in its COVID journey, we need to continue building our community, building connections and move forward together.
I look forward to starting conversations around the delivery of the next WordCamp London. But before we get there, the Big Orange Heart team will deliver the next WordFest Live.
Yes, on July 23 2021, another 24-hour virtual festival of WordPress will take place. More details soon.
We’ll also continue to deliver a range of free events on the Big Orange Heart Live Events Platform every week.
Whilst we may be missing the in-person connection, let’s collectively continue to build on the positives that this time is offering us.