I have been involved with the Reno-Tahoe WordCamp since it was started, including speaking at the one in 2010, and I can honestly say it gets better and better every year. Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 5th Annual Reno-Tahoe WordCamp and once again I walked away with a head full of WordPress knowledge, but also a need for a whole lot of introspection. Sometimes the best things you learn at WordCamp have nothing to do with WordPress itself.
It started right out of the gate with Chris Lema’s excellent talk on Protecting Yourself from Overshoot. Chris is a fantastic public speaker and the way in which he delivers his talks really makes you stop and think about what he is delivering. The two really strong points I took away from his talk and the ones that will have me thinking about my business and processes are this:
- Learn to Say “No.”
- Focus on the What, not the How.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on how to say “No.” to potential clients until I listened to Chris. After all, right up front on our contact page we have some pretty strong no statements. But, after listening to Chris give some real world examples I realize I don’t say “No.” enough. I let clients tell me how things should be done or what plugins the site needs. As Chris says, when was the last time you told your mechanic to replace all of the belts and the alternator on your car. Unless you yourself are a mechanic you don’t do that. You also don’t tell your dentist exactly what kind of bridge you need or that your second right bicuspid is bothering you.
Why should design or development be any different. We are the professionals. You are hiring us to do the job and put our experience and knowledge to use on your project.
The second point from above is that we need to stop talking about the “How”. Stop with the HTML5, responsive, jQuery and all the other “things” that go into a project. The client does care. It makes us feel good, like we know what we’re doing, to spout off these buzzwords, but in the end those responses don’t satisfy our client’s clients’ needs. Focus on what our client’s clients need and the “How” will be satisfied during the process.
The other talk I want to highlight here was the one given by self-professed “WordPress Fanboy” Sterling Hamilton. Sterling is also the Lead Developer for Noble Studios. Sterling’s talk included valuable insights and resources for WordPress developers, but it was one line in his presentation that really struck me.
A lot of WordPress developers get into WordPress because it’s easy. They learn for 6 months and then call themselves professionals.
While I continue to learn new things about WordPress and development every day I realize that I don’t spend as much time doing in depth learning. Most of the learning I do is for specific applications while I am working on a particular project. While this does serve some needs, I some times find myself having to go back time and time again to some concepts because I haven’t really learned it - I’m just regurgitating it. I need to get back to more conceptual learning.
I hate to single out just these two presenters, but if I didn’t this post would be HUGE. What I can say is that I walked away with something from every single presentation I attended and that I think is the most powerful thing about WordCamp.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference. Who knows, maybe I will return to the stage and actually present something.