When I go to a WordCamp, I bring a little notebook. We had a DreamCon and there are about a vigintillion little Scout Books branded for it and no one at the company wants them, so I have 20 at my desk and a couple boxes more at home, and every month I burn through one. But I also bring a fresh one to each WordCamp:

Both of those notebooks are 90% full right now. At the end of a month, I copy over everything that wasn’t done in the previous book and put it on the first page. After that everything gets a new page and I X out the page when it’s done.

But this isn’t about how I take notes, or not, it’s about how I learn something new at every WordCamp I go to. Often I learn about new products from people I know, but other times I learn about new methods to coding, tricks I can use to improve my development processes, or just understanding a feature a little better.

I stress everyone should unplug at a WordCamp, turn off the laptop (unless you can just take notes without checking Twitter and Facebook compulsively), and listen. I take notes by hand because it forces me to focus. I have to listen and write and pay attention. By hand I can doodle as well, so I give myself visual clues to what I was thinking later on.

One thing I also do is that I take notes on sessions from the front to the back, but from the back to front I write down all the new-to-me products and features. Sometimes it’s just ones I know about and need to look into a little more. Sometimes they really are brand new. This is why I don’t take your business cards. I write down what I need to know, what I think about it, and your URL. If you can’t give me a URL (or your URL is too long) maybe I’m not going to look at your site.

After a camp, in my ‘downtime,’ I go back through the notes I’ve made, look them up, and decide if I like them or not. From that I’ve sorted out some tips for vendors and people trying to give me their elevator pitch on why I (or my company) need to pay attention to them.

Make It Short

If it takes you longer than 5 minutes, I’m tuning out. You’re at a WordCamp, people are generally checking you out in between sessions, so we want the tweet version of what you’ve got.

Our product compresses images better than SmushIt.

That was perfect. That got my attention and immediately had their name in my notebook.

Make It Easy To Find

If I go to your URL, the one you gave me, and cannot find the ‘WordPress’ product in one click, you’ve failed and I’m not looking at you anymore. The aforementioned image compression tool failed on that one. I went to their company site, the one they gave me a URL to, there was no information on that specific product. In fact, it’s been a few days, and I googled for it, and I still can’t find it! I know it started with a V, but I assumed that they’d have a link to their WordPress related products on their webpage.

If the main URL of your site is not the one with this product, make that clear.

Check out example.com/product-name/

Oh and that’s a great URL.

Have a Demo

I want to see how good this is. Period. With the exception of ‘I’m a new webhost’ if you have a product, let me see if and if possible play with it. This is incredibly true of people who have proprietary code, like a service. No demo? Not going to look further.

Be Ready for Tech Questions

You’re at a technical conference. I’m going to ask things like “Have you benchmarked against TinyPNG? What’s the improvement over the similar functions in Photoshop like XYZ? Does the plugin hook into an API on your end? How do you handle network latency and speed? What happens if it times out? What’s the failback?”

75% of the vendors I talk to at WordCamps tell me “I’m not the technical person…” That’s disheartening. If your sales people can’t answer the basic questions, or you don’t even have a white paper with some tech dirt, you’re not thinking about your audience. Selling to WordPress people means you shouldn’t forget the devs. You can sing and dance your cool factor all you want, but if someone asks a technical question, you should have a technical person around.

Show Me The Code

This annoys me a lot. When people are selling a plugin, I have to buy it to see the code. So when someone asks me to eval, the first thing I ask is “Is this a service?” If it’s not, I’m annoyed I can’t see your code. Moreso when I ask you “Well I’d eval but it’s pay for. Can I look at the plugin source code?” and you say no.

If you’re at a tech conf and they want to see your code before committing, you may want to consider who you just asked to evaluate the code. I do explain that I’m a plugin reviewer for WordPress.org and I work for a webhost. Now if you’re interesting enough, I’ll buy your plugin and check it out. Still. A lot of us want to see the code.

Your Product Beat Your Swag

There were two vendors at a recent WordCamp where the swag they gave out was more memorable than what they were selling. That’s just sad. I don’t care that you were giving away notebooks or watches or cups or shiny balls. I care what you’re selling.

Reader Interactions


  1. One of the best blog posts I’ve read about offering a digital product of or service.

    It’s better than analyzing Google Analytics Reports for the last 12 months.


  2. I do like shiny things though, so don’t forget to bring shiny things too. 😉

    • @Otto: Shiny things are great to remember “Oh hey, you had the swag with the blinky balls!”

      The flip side is all I remember is the balls. Fuck if I remember their product. The shiny product better be better than the balls.

      Balls. Balls. Balls. Balls. Balls.

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