The original BetweenSessions was going to be a behind the scenes of WordCamps and other events that lets you know what you missed when running to the next great session, having dinner with co-workers, or just taking a much needed nap. We’re not here to recap the speakers, sponsors, sessions, and official events, the official sites and other recaps will do those things justice.
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When in-person events get back to being a reality, I’ll be following the more original format but have decided that some virtual events might have enough going for them that they fit the mold.
WordFest most definitely fits that mold. This 24 hour, global event, created by Big Orange Heart, covered WordPress, accessibility, business management, mental health and well-being, and so much more. What really made WordFest stand out was the diversity of topics. The full schedule and sessions are available if you missed specific sessions or the entire conference.
The Festival of WordPress
I was privileged to be the Americas emcee with Kathy Zant on the GoDaddy Pro, Fused, and BOH stages. We covered the 11:00 am – 5:00 pm CT sessions which spanned podcasting through yoga. Did I mention the variety was amazing?
The only problem with being an emcee is that it left very little time to network at the tents. Anecdotal reports indicate that networking was solid. I’ve written about the Big Orange Heart (BOH) virtual event platform before, and I still feel it is one of the easiest and best ways to “hang out” at sponsor tables and chat with folks in the event.
As mentioned earlier, I try not to do a room by room, or session by session recap. There is plenty available to review and experience at WordFest.live so I’d rather get into a bit of the history as well as where WordFest is going in the future.
The Making of WordFest
Sure there was an official kick-off announcement on November 5, 2020 but this was obviously in the mix for much longer. Big thanks to Dan Maby, Trustee and Founder of Big Orange Heart, for this quick Q&A.
When did the actual idea for WordFest Live occur?
Big Orange Heart has been delivering events into our community for many years; the idea of providing a larger scale event has been on the cards for some time. In 2019 for #GivingTuesday we delivered #DoSummitGood, we had planned to make this an annual event. In a brainstorming session with some of the BOH volunteers, we discussed the general concept of making this event bigger.
As a Board of Trustees, we met September 9, 2020, and voted on the concept to change #DoSummitGood into WordFest Live. The idea was to allow the event to become more focused on WordPress than donations into the charity. On September 17 we formed a small team of core volunteers and October 1, we published a basic holding page on the site. October 21 was the official launch of the concept. And the event then delivered 93 days later.
Will WordFest Live be an annual event (or more often)?
This is a great question and one we’re still working through. The delivery of WordFest Live has always intended to support the fundraising efforts of Big Orange Heart. The general concept has been; to deliver an event that supports our mission of reducing social isolation for our community members, whilst focusing content on a subject that will allow sponsors to meet with potential customers.
We currently have an open call for feedback, in which we’re asking this very question. At a minimum WordFest Live will be delivered annually, the current most popular request from the community is twice a year.
When in-person comes back, will WordFest Live be in-person as well as virtual?
We’re actively working on this right now. We feel the delivery of virtual events has lowered the barrier-to-entry for so many across our global community. The virtual format has also provided access where there may not have been in the past. So the ability to offer a hybrid event successfully is one of our highest priorities for all our events at the moment.
What’s the future for WordFest Live and the Big Orange Heart team?
As for so many; BOH has been hit hard by the financial crisis the global pandemic has caused. In 2020 all paid team members had to be released from duties, as a cost-cutting exercise. I was deeply humbled by these fantastic people’s responses, with almost all continuing to fulfil their previous responsibilities voluntarily.
As with all Big Orange Heart activities, WordFest Live 2021 is delivered by a team of volunteers. The work that’s being delivered requires a considerable time investment, along with specialist skills. Whilst I am deeply grateful to every person giving their time, to build a sustainable future, efforts need to be made to make this financially viable to recruit individuals. This will only benefit the community.
Along with the efforts to build a more financially stable future; all funds raised through WordFest Live 2021 will go directly into developing a dedicated Support Hub from Big Orange Heart. This Support Hub will be freely available to the community and consolidate several support services currently offered by BOH.
The Near Future of Virtual Events
I think that events which tie together technical and professional sessions with a variety of well being and bonding topics will be much more successful in this virtual environment. WordFest really succeeded at this – there were great connections made even during the live Q&As after sessions. I’m still all for experimenting as much as possible with the platforms but the more they do to reduce friction in connecting with each other, the better. I’m very curious for how hybrid events will take advantage of what virtual offers to in-person, and hope to be seeing that by the end of the year.