WordPress Workshop and How it Works

I’ve been running the WordPress Workshop Meetup in Vancouver, BC for almost 3 years and I have to admit, it’s among the most enriching work I do.

There is nothing more satisfying that seeing a lightbulb go on above the head of an exasperated and confused person whose only desire is to build a modest site for their business. It makes me feel almost saintly.

On my Meetup.com page, I describe my WordPress Workshop as “Vancouver’s most personalized way to learn how to blog with WordPress.” When I say personalized, I mean working with a maximum of 3 bloggers and giving each one the help they want, not just what I think they need.

And the system has worked. So far, I’ve amassed a following of 117 bloggers who I’ve helped to build and develop their WordPress site. Here are a few of their thoughts about it.

What surprises me is why more WordPress consultants are not organizing workshops like this around the country. It’s a great way for people to learn in a short period of time and there is a never-ending supply of bloggers needing to update their skills fast.

Plus, there is always a chance to network. Running WordPress Workshops often lead to web design jobs or private consultations. And because I hold the workshops in a coffee house, it’s a pleasant reason to step out of my home office and engage with people.

Location, Location

blenz frontNot wanting to be the hostess as well as the organizer, I chose Blenz Coffee at Broadway and Heather for a number of reasons.

  • It’s close enough to my home that I don’t need a car
  • It has a strong wi-fi server for numerous connections
  • There is a nice, quiet space far from the espresso machines with tall stools I can hover around
  • This Blenz is near public transportation as well as street parking (however expensive)

Small Groups

When I first started WordPress Workshops, I accepted 5 bloggers at a time. What a mistake! I could not digest all of their questions and felt too stressed to answer them properly.

I found that 3 is the maximum number of sites I can look at and advise on. And at $20 each I’m earning just enough in 1.5 hours to feel respectable.

Also, 3 bloggers is the right number to make the meetup congenial to everyone. With only a couple of people around you, it’s easy to chat and share information, which sometimes leads to further friendships.

RSVP Policy

Meetup people can be a flakey lot. They RSVP for events way in advance and then forget about them, even ignoring the reminders the site sends them. That’s kind of ok for free meetups, but it’s devastating for paid ones.

The worst problem with having small groups pay a not-insignificant, but high-value cash fee of $20 for 90 minutes is no shows. Especially when people not only don’t show, they also don’t bother to change their RSVP in time for someone on the wait list to attend.

If one person doesn’t show, it may be good for the other bloggers who get more of my attention, but it’s bad for me who makes less money for my time.

For a while, I took no shows on the chin, while disallowing entry them from attending, and I continued to allow payment in cash. Until one meetup when 2 out of 3 bloggers were no shows. That’s when I instituted the pre-paid RSVP policy, outlined in my new description.

Wordpress Workshop page

Since then, my bloggers are much more responsible about their Yes RSVPs, and everybody’s happy.

Pre-Screening Process

When someone RSVPs to WordPress Workshop, they are asked the following questions:

  1. How much WordPress experience do you have?
  2. If you have a site running, what is the URL?
  3. What do you need to learn about WordPress?

This gives me a chance to prescreen them for experience and find out what they want to work on.

Sometimes, the answers are “none”, “no”, and “everything,” to which I reply that maybe we should schedule a private consultation in which I can give them a Dashboard Tour.

One thing I cannot do at WordPress Workshop is tutor one person from the ground up. It simply requires too much of my attention, and is not fair to the other bloggers who get too little attention.

If all of three are beginners, however, that’s a different story.

Most times, bloggers answer that they’ve been on WordPress a while, have a site running, and have specific needs to address; anything from integrating social media to customizing their theme.

This is great feedback as it gives me a chance to prepare. Sometimes, I need a refresher on a topic, too.

Working the Workshop

After we’ve assembled and logged on successfully I ask each person what they want to work on.

I like it when they prepare a list of tasks so that if one thing cannot be addressed immediately, we can move to the next item

Wordpress Workshop group

Once I have ascertained everyone’s needs, I determine if more than one blogger has the same question so I can work with both at the same time.

If they all have different needs, I work with each one to explain the task and let them work on it, before moving to the next blogger.
And repeat, move to the next.

Back to the first one with, “How’s it going? Ok, now do this.” And repeat for each blogger. Back and forth I move until the 90 minutes is up. If we’re on a roll, we go overtime.

Sometimes it becomes too much to for them to digest and they bow out early.

I always give them homework of some kind and advise them to continue the work immediately, before they forget what they learned.

WordPress Workshop Impossibilities

There are some things I have found cannot be accomplished in a 90-minute workshop.

One is giving a raw beginner a Dashboard Tour, which consists of just me talking and them just listening. No can do at WordPress Workshop unless the whole group are beginners.

The other impossibility is showing a newbie how to use a super-complicated theme they bought because it looks pretty. Even if they have WordPress experience, it requires too much of my time and concentration to figure out a theme and then show them how to use it. That’s what my private consultations are for.

Finally, I will not do the actual site work for the bloggers. That is the antithesis to attending a WordPress Workshop. The idea here is to teach bloggers how to accomplish their dreams and let them fly with it. When they want web design work done I’ll offer to do it later at a different fee.

That’s What it’s All About

So that’s how my WordPress Workshop rolls. For me, it’s fun and satisfying, and a way to meet some very interesting people.

For them, it’s about getting personalized attention to their web site needs and learning things that books and classes don’t always teach them.

I don’t know why more people are not doing this. Do you?


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