WordCamp Retreat Soltau will be the first retreat-edition ever and it takes a lot of pioneering spirit to organize such an event.
With “only” 180 attendees, it can be considered as a rather small or medium sized WordCamp.
As some of you know, I’ve been active in the WordPress Community for over a decade now and in that time I’ve been to many WordPress related activities. From Meetups to WordCamps. I got so excited about WordCamps, I’ve even co-founded a few 😉
However, in all those years, the format of a WordCamp has been relatively consistent. One or two days, multiple tracks and, since the last 5 years, a Contributor Day. Perhaps the biggest difference has been the city + location combination. WordCamp Europe started shaking this up with us opting for a rotating city and country principle (you should totally come to this year’s edition btw), but the main format has relatively remained the same.
This weekend I was attending a WordCamp with my colleagues from Yoast with quite a different format though. Yes, there were still presentations and different tracks. Still a Contributor Day as well, and also an afterparty. So, what was different about this one, you ask? A lot.
WordCamp Retreat in Soltau, Germany was the first of its kind. WordCamps should benefit the local WordPress community and WCRetreat took a very different approach.
Here are a couple of things that set it apart from the other WordCamps:
- Location was exclusive for the WordCamp
- Indoor and outdoor activities.
- Work on your personal development/strengths
- Enjoy co-working under ideal conditions.
- Alternate between valuable input and relaxation.
- Benefit from previously unknown networking opportunities.
Most of this was made possible by the location. Hotel Park Soltau is located in the North of Germany surrounded by woods and heath. The hotel was reserved for WordCamp attendees only. In other words, the only guests there were attendees of the WordCamp. Everyone stayed there, everyone ate there, everyone networked there. Incredibly immersive on a different level than any of the other WordCamps I’ve visited.
Additionally, to the regular WordCamp presentations you’d be familiar with if you’d even went to one, were non-tech related workshops and activities. From mindfulness, yoga, boot camps, to jam sessions and just playing sports outside (like football – not egg hand – and basketball). The goal being interaction on a different level with your fellow attendees. And it worked. I saw much more networking and getting to know one another happening.
The day started with some of the above-mentioned activities, then breakfast for all, followed by the first regular sessions. There was plenty of time between the sessions as well as morning, lunch and afternoon breaks that allowed for a lot of hallway tracks. Before the end of the afternoon, we switched back to other activities again like playing sports or jam sessions.
Contributor Day on Day 2 of 3
One of the things I’ve enjoyed a lot is the fact that the Contributor Day was organized the second day of the three. This meant that everyone attending was kinda ‘locked into’ attending the Contributor Day. I’m not a big fan of forcing people to do anything particularly, but this was a nice way of integrating the giving part of a WordCamp.
Sunday afternoon, as the attendees were getting ready to head home, you could see how much everyone had enjoyed these three immersive days. The relaxed schedule, the different approach to what came when, the fact of us all sharing the same rooms for 72 hours, the activities before, between and after the presentations, they all made this concept an extremely pleasant and relaxed one.
This first edition had about 180 attendees and all of their feedback will determine the fine tuning of what this WordCamp can be, but I’m very enthusiastic about this first edition.
I hope to see this type of WordCamp happen a lot more. It adds value to the format as we know it.
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