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Meet the WCEU Lead Organizers for 2024! The Behind-the-Scenes of How WordCamp Europe Happens

Hello and welcome to a roundup interview that we did for a special occasion with the 2024 WCEU lead organizers! 📢

The special occasion is that the lead organizers of WordCamp Europe 2024 recently announced the teams that will help make next year’s event happen. This news made us curious about what’s behind the scenes in organizing such a big event.

WordCamp Europe 2024 will have 13 organizing teams and 79 organizers in total. Most of the teams are the same as last year, except for the Five For The Future team. This new team will facilitate connections between organizers/volunteers and organizations that allocate five percent of their resources to WordPress development. Another small change involves the IT team, which will be called differently next year, namely IT & Website.

WCEU Lead Organizers.

We wanted to dig more and learn how the process of selecting the members of the organizing teams takes place. We were also curious about how WCEU lead organizers do their work, their takeaways from past experiences, or some weird incidents that happened during their contributions from other WCEU editions. But this is just a sneak peek into the many insights the Lead Organizing Team shared with us for this roundup.

Why does this topic mean so much to us? Well, our team barely missed WordCamp Europe over the years. And it was not just about attending. We were always interested in contributing to this community as much as we could. As such, we were either volunteering, helping as Media Partners/Supporters, or even contributing as part of the organizing teams (yes, some of our teammates were organizers, too). So, as you can see, we love to connect with WordPress people and get to know the core of the WordCamp Europe event. 🖐️

Announcement tweet

With that in mind, our curiosity led us to contact the 2024 WCEU lead organizers, which resulted in this roundup-style interview that you’re reading now. In this post, Wendie Huis in ‘t Veld, Takis Bouyouris, and Juan Hernando (the WCEU Lead Organizers in Torino), together with Laura Sacco (the Local Team Lead) are answering questions about what it’s like to organize a major event like WordCamp Europe.

We split this interview into two parts. In the first part, each lead organizer shares his/her personal insights about contributing to WCEU. Then, in the second part, you’ll read answers given on behalf of the entire team of WCEU lead organizers about interesting logistics behind such an impressive event.

So, let’s pass the mic to Wendie, Takis, Juan, and Laura 🎤:

WCEU lead organizers share the behind-the-scenes of how WordCamp Europe happens

Getting to know the #WCEU 2024 leader organizers and their work

How much time in a week do you spend organizing WCEU?

WCEU Lead Organizers: Juan Hernando.

Juan Hernando:

I would say 4-6 hours a week at the beginning and it will increase as the date gets closer. Beyond the hours themselves it’s always being “on the lookout” in case someone needs something… it’s the hardest thing to balance with life so you don’t spend too much!

WCEU Lead Organizers: Laura Sacco.

Laura Sacco:

Even though I have been in the WCEU organizer team since 2019, this is my first time as team Lead. So, I’m spending a lot of time reading the documentation and trying to figure out everything. I started in July and August with 4-5 hours per week. Now I work about 10 hours per week for WCEU, and I can imagine this number will increase up to 14-16 hours per week after February, when we’ll be closer to the event.

WCEU Lead Organizers: Wendie Huis in 't Veld.

Wendie Huis in ‘t Veld:

I started with a bang and writing a lot about the processes we have so for me right now it’s about 4. It will grow as the event grows closer I think. Hopefully not too much, because the team will be so awesome that we can sit back, relax and watch the event take form.

WCEU Lead Organizers: Takis Bouyouris.

Takis Bouyouris:

Having done this for some years now, I think for me it is around 8-16 hours per week on average. It starts low in the beginning and it becomes more and more intense as the big day approaches. But I don’t mind because working this amazing bunch of people is very fulfilling!

Does your company support your work for WCEU in any way or are you doing it all on your own, as a separate project?

Juan:

I am a freelancer in Spain but luckily there is a French company, Weglot, that sponsors me a number of hours per week to dedicate both to the organisation of WCEU and to be part of the global Community team within the Five for the Future initiative. This allows me to become more involved in the team and to contribute more than just a volunteer or an organiser.

Laura:

Yes, my company, Yoast supports me with the WCEU organization. My managers are always available to make some adjustments to support my schedule, when needed, to allow me to attend to some calls or other activities – like visiting the venue – and provide me with some hours for working as one of the WCEU lead organizers.

Wendie:

I am doing it on my own.

Takis:

I run my own small web design agency along with a couple of partners, so, I’d say that this is a yes. But we generally always encouraged and supported both each other as well as our employees to contribute to the WordPress community in as many ways possible.

Can you share a controversial incident that took place over the years while you were involved in the organizing team? What were the lessons that you’ve learned from this incident?

Juan:

It wasn’t a controversy, but being part of the team that started organising the WCEU in Porto 2020 and then didn’t happen until 2022 because of the pandemic was a real shock. If usually working with volunteers is different, working in that situation was a challenge to adapt to the different realities of each person, each country, each family… and having to adapt almost every week to Portuguese regulations, travel restrictions, vaccination obligations, masks… I am super proud of the work that the team did in such a situation.

Laura:

Last year, I was the Content team co-lead when, on former Twitter, the discussion about the lack of diversity in the speaker line-up arose. We (the content team) worked under bad pressure, and the experience was unpleasant. We felt like we were under attack by the entire WordPress community. The moral support of the other WCEU organizer members to the Content team was fundamental for managing the task. I learned that this kind of discussion on socials happens, and I need to keep myself away from them during the WCEU organization. After, I can discuss and express my point of view with more serenity.

Wendie:

I am a plus size person and it has always been an issue to get shirts in the right size. Most years (not only WordCamp Europe btw, but most WordCamps) plus size was ordered later, or not available. I was very pleased and happy about the standard sizes extended last year.

Takis:

There have been smaller or bigger dramas in the past, but I would not like to focus on any of them. However, the common lesson from all has been that firstly the team needs to stay calm, stick together and act in a composed and collective way and then afterwards reflect on what it can learn from the whole thing and do better.

What are your personal gains from doing this volunteer work at WCEU? In short, why are you doing it?

Juan:

I love the WordPress community. Simply that. I co-organize the meetup and the local WordCamp in Pontevedra, I’ve been a volunteer, speaker, attendee and organizer in many WordCamps… It’s changed my life and I’ve seen many other people’s lives changed too. I can’t stop for a moment as long as there are still people to inspire, people to feel the same as we do…

Laura:

For a lot of reasons. First, WordPress changed my life (literally), and I want to give back a part of what I received by providing my expertise to the WordCamps organization (I have organized many events outside the community as well). Then, I’m pretty active in my local community (Torino and Italy), so I love to be connected to the international WordPress community too. Finally, working with people from different cultures is a priceless additional value. It is challenging and enriches my point of view.

Wendie:

I like doing it. I started out a volunteer in 2013, and wanted to do more which grew to being part of the organizing team in 2018 and leading the team now. I always thought I wasn’t ambitious but it turns out I have way more ambition than I could ever imagine. The people you get to work with are amazing, it’s broadened my world so much, I owe my job and livelihood to WordPress and the community, and it’s great to be part of something bigger than myself and my little part of the world.

Takis:

Interacting with so many amazing people is the key reason, hands down. I love traveling, I love meeting new places, I love giving back to the community, but if it weren’t surrounded by all these amazing contributors the overall feeling would be so much weaker. So there you go!

What is your personal mission when you enroll to help organize WCEU?

Juan:

To make sure that we do a community event, that it is fun, that it is sustainable and responsible, economically (I have been the team lead of the budget team for two years) but also socially and environmentally as much as possible.

Laura:

Have fun and help to create an unforgettable event together.

Wendie:

I want to make it easy and fun for everybody. Last year that was my goal with the Volunteers team, this year that is my goal for the entire team.

Takis:

WCEU is a community organised event and, to my mind, that is its biggest value. So, ensuring the community spirit of the event is held high and vivid would be what guides all my motives and decisions.

What makes you think “it was worth it” at the end of every event you organize?

Juan:

When people who have participated, whether a lot or a little, thank you, smile and say they look forward to seeing you next year. When you see the photos on social media and, above all, when I read in personal blogs about the experiences and stories of the people who have been there.

Laura:

When people smile, hug, and come to say Hello, we’ll see in … [next Meetup, WordCamp]

Wendie:

When things went well, people saying thank you. You don’t know the impact you have but it’s always way bigger than you can imagine. I remember looking at the big names in my community when I was still a little shy WordPress beginner and how much I learned from them and how they encouraged me to step up and become more myself. I love being the one helping other people grow into their full potential.

Takis:

After every WordCamp it feels like someone has infused me with a weird and overwhelming feeling of joy, energy and completeness. This usually comes from seeing so many friends together again and, of course, seeing all your efforts coming together. Nothing is perfect, mind you, and the WCEU lead organizers usually know it first hand, but the feeling of collective accomplishment is still there!

#WCEU 2024 insights on behalf of the Leader Organizer Team

What are the responsibilities of the WCEU leading team?

WCEU Logo in 2024 year.

Birds eye view:

Making sure the event happens within its technical and economic space, that it is of a high standard, that it is an exemplary flagship event for all other local events to emulate and that all this happens while respecting the core values of the WordPress community, like the GPL, being open and welcoming, being accessible and, inclusive, etc. On the day-to-day stuff: it means a lot of management, communications and decision making!

How many applications for organizers do you get yearly, on average?

This year we received 177 and it is a pretty common number actually.

What’s the selection process for WCEU organizers? Are there any mandatory requirements to be selected?

In short: First of all the WCEU lead organizers are picked from the previous leading team and then they initiate the process for the current year. The process is quite open, anyone can apply, but we do focus on people who have at least some WordCamp organising experience and are located in Europe. We like to balance experience with opportunity to new people and also be as inclusive as possible. After we get the applications we vet the list for people who might not abide by the WordPress community standards. Then we pick the leads of the teams and then let them pick their team members!

Is there any news regarding the structure of the teams? Any new teams or formats for next year?

The team structure is more or less set during the years with minor changes happening from year to year and responsibilities shifting from one team to the other. One big addition we did last year was to set up a special IT team. We use a lot of tooling and it seemed like a great idea to have a team to manage them all!

How does the brainstorming happen inside the organizing team(s)? How do you guys synchronize with everyone to communicate and exchange ideas?

We share lots of ideas on Slack every day, we discuss things during regular weekly Zoom meetings and we document our process on P2 blogs, so that everyone in the organising team can read and comment on.

That sums up our roundup interview with the leader organizers of WordCamp Europe 2024, which will take place in Torino. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed this post and feel free to share with us your own curiosities about WCEU. If you want to learn more about next year’s organizing team, here’s the official page.

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Adelina Tuca

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