How to Make the Most of Sponsoring WordCamps

In this panel discussion, Michelle Frechette poses questions asked by the Post Status community about the benefits and how-to’s of sponsoring WordCamps. On the panel are Taco Verdonschot (Yoast), Katie Keith (Barn2), Drew Griswold (StellarWP), and Lincoln Islam (WPFunnels).


Episode Highlights:

  • The value of sponsoring WordCamps [00:01:08] Discussion on the experiences and benefits of sponsoring WordCamps, including the last WordCamp attended and the next one planned.
  • Defining KPIs for events in the WordPress ecosystem [00:04:21] Exploration of how to define key performance indicators (KPIs) for events in the WordPress ecosystem and how to make a business case for non-WordPress executives.
  • Measuring ROI and building trust with non-WordPress executives [00:05:49] Discussion on the challenges of measuring return on investment (ROI) for events and building trust with non-WordPress executives who are new to the space.
  • The ROI of WordCamp sponsorships [00:10:27] Discussion on how organizers market sponsorships and measure return on investment.
  • Target audience and goals for different types of companies [00:11:09] Exploration of the different objectives and key performance indicators for service and product companies when sponsoring WordCamps.
  • Suggestions for improving sponsor packages [00:16:05] Discussion on the lack of creativity in sponsor packages and ideas for making them more attractive and beneficial for both sponsors and attendees.
  • Swag options and shipping logistics [00:21:55] Discussion on the importance of swag, options for shipping swag to WordCamps, and the role of organizers in receiving and distributing swag.
  • Shipping swag to hotels and hold for pickup [00:24:23] Exploration of alternative options for shipping swag to WordCamps, including shipping to hotels and using hold for pickup services.
  • Costs and considerations of sponsoring WordCamps [00:27:00] Insights into the additional costs involved in sponsoring WordCamps, including travel expenses, swag costs, and booth attendance.
  • The cost of swag for events [00:33:00] Discussion on the expenses of providing swag for events and the considerations involved in determining the quantity of swag items to bring.
  • The value of water bottles as swag items [00:34:47] The significance of water bottles as swag items and their usefulness to attendees in their daily lives.
  • Sponsoring an event and having a speaker slot [00:37:12] Exploration of sponsors having their own speaker or panel participant in different talks at WordCamps and the potential conflicts of interest and guidelines involved.
  • The opportunity for recruitment or mergers and acquisitions [00:45:25] Discussion about attending WordCamps to explore recruitment or business opportunities.
  • The impact of WordCamp sponsorship on recruitment [00:46:20] Exploring the impact of WordCamp sponsorship on recruitment efforts, specifically in relation to finding an SEO and marketing manager.
  • The challenge of presenting a company’s focus at WordCamps [00:50:58] Discussion on the challenge of describing a company and its focus at WordCamps, particularly when the company offers multiple products or services

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Michelle Frechette (00:00:02) – Hey, everybody. Michelle Frechette here with Post Status. Also, as most of you know, I’m also at Stellar WP, so I actually am on both sides of the questions and the answers this week because I certainly have experience on both sides. But I am joined by four people who are either veterans or newer to sponsoring word camps and I and also organizing word camps. So I thought this would be a great opportunity for us to share some of our experiences and even questions that we might have for each other and be able to share those with the WordPress community in general. Because when I posted this question on Twitter, there was a lot of interest. So and Taco said, Hey, let’s make it a panel. And I was like, That’s a great idea. So thank you all for joining me. And I would like to just kind of briefly go around the room. I don’t know why we call it a room. Go here on the screen. That’s just weird, right? And just say who you are, where you work, maybe your job title, where you work, and then the last word camp that you attended would be that would be great.

Michelle Frechette (00:01:02) – Maybe the next one you plan to be at. So I’m going to start with you, Taco, since I already named your name. Go ahead. I was going.

Taco Verdonschot (00:01:08) – To say ladies first, but. All right, I’ll. I’ll do the honors. So, hi, I’m Taco Verdonschot. I’m with the Yost team. I’m head of relations. And in that capacity, responsible for both customer support and our community team, which includes sponsoring. Um, so, yeah, uh, been involved with sponsoring quite a few work camps over the last couple of years. My last WordCamp I attended was WordCamp Europe in Athens. Probably an answer you will hear more often and the next one is going to be work camp.

Michelle Frechette (00:01:46) – Fantastic. I look forward to seeing you there for sure. Katie, introduce yourself. Please.

Katie Keith (00:01:51) – I’m Katie Keith, co-founder and CEO at Bantu Plugins and also co-host of the WP Product or podcast The Last word camp I went to was Wgcu in Athens, and we were sponsors and it was our first time sponsoring.

Katie Keith (00:02:09) – And my next one will be WordCamp US this year.

Michelle Frechette (00:02:13) – Are you sponsoring WordCamp US?

Katie Keith (00:02:15) – No.

Michelle Frechette (00:02:16) – Okay. Attending. Wonderful.

Katie Keith (00:02:17) – Attending. I thought about sponsoring, but our team is smaller in the US and it was twice the price as well, which put me off.

Michelle Frechette (00:02:24) – A little bit. I can understand that for sure and we’ll probably talk a little bit about that as we go as well. Lincoln please introduce yourself.

Taco Verdonschot (00:02:32) – Absolutely.

Lincoln Islam (00:02:33) – Hi, everyone. My name is Lincoln Islam. I’m the founder of co-directs the company behind WP Funnels. We especially make WordPress plugin for marketing agencies and I’m one of the organizers of WordCamp. Which was in last year. And my last word came was word came in Europe, like many of you.

Michelle Frechette (00:02:58) – Very good. Andrew will introduce yourself for sure.

Drew Griswold (00:03:03) – I’m Drew Griswold. I’m the director of outbound marketing at Stellar WP. I’m relatively new to the WordPress scene, but big into the event scene for the past ten years or so. Slightly different style of events, but looking forward to getting some insights from you folks on board camps.

Drew Griswold (00:03:20) – My last one was also Athens for WordCamp you and we are in full on planning mode for sponsoring WordCamp US coming up here in just a short while. So great to be here with all of you.

Michelle Frechette (00:03:31) – Thanks for being here. And my last WordCamp was WordCamp Montclair so I was at Red Camp Europe with all of you, but my last WordCamp was WordCamp Montclair. My next one is also WordCamp US, so I’m sure I will see many people there and I’m working. I’m on Drew’s team, so I will be there working with Drew for sure. So thank you for all being here. So we got a lot of questions in over Twitter. And so I thought we would take some time to kind of go through some of those questions. And my guess is we’ll have some similar answers, but not all. So let’s just dig right in. So the first question is from James Drew. James says, How do you define KPIs for events in the WordPress ecosystem and how do you make the business case to non WordPress execs who own the budgets? How do you build trust with those execs who are new to the space so that momentum isn’t disrupted? That’s a big question.

Michelle Frechette (00:04:21) – The KPIs, the ROI, things like that. So who wants to go first on this one? Talk with you? Are you unmuted yourself? So maybe you have an answer already?

Taco Verdonschot (00:04:31) – Well, yes and no. Um, I’m. I’m currently in the search for some of the answers to these questions, but I’ve been in the lucky position for a very long time that the owners and founders of the company I work for, um, knew all about community and were completely invested themselves. Which made it really easy to justify, okay, we need to be at events X, Y, z, and there were no questions asked. Okay. You think we should be there? We go there, we sponsor there. Whatever. That’s changed since Yoast was acquired about two years ago and two years ago. Yeah, that’s long. So what we what I’m struggling with now is how do I explain to exactly those non WordPress people what the value of a word campus, what the value of any event, even beyond word camps really is for the company.

Taco Verdonschot (00:05:38) – So I’m really hoping that some of the others have the answer because that will definitely shorten my search.

Michelle Frechette (00:05:46) – Excellent. Drew, what do you have to add to that?

Drew Griswold (00:05:49) – I don’t know if I can say that I have the answer, but I definitely have some things to say. I think that ever pervasive event professional struggle is justifying the budget when there’s a lot of different ways to measure success with events of any type, particularly word camps. You know, there are the hard metrics, there’s the quantitative metrics of like how many leads were generated, how much revenue was generated, how many contacts did we add to our list, things like that. But think where there’s a lot more value and where it gets a lot more difficult to probably convince folks. Is some of those qualitative benefits of being involved with events, relationship building, educating on different things. You know, for Stellar in particular, we’re in an interesting space situation where a lot of folks know about some of our products, but they haven’t heard of some of our other products.

Drew Griswold (00:06:39) – So for us, it’s relatively straightforward. We’re we’re there to educate a community that we’re closely tied in with about some of the products that they may not have heard of and established Stellar as as an individual brand that people think of when they think of these products. So that’s that’s a little bit different. Our brand awareness is definitely a very valuable thing, but it’s very difficult to measure and think establishing expectations for the folks that are holding the pocketbooks and saying, you know, there’s qualitative benefits, but there’s also a lot of quantitative benefits if you want. It’s just about framing. Expectations, I think is what it comes down to. And that’s not necessarily an answer or it’s a very ethereal answer, but I think it is definitely a struggle that every event professional deals with.

Michelle Frechette (00:07:27) – Yeah, I would absolutely agree with that. And Katie, when I was talking with you and Matt on product Talk, one of the things I said is that it really is about branding and brand awareness because you don’t necessarily tie ROI directly to your involvement of standing behind a table at a WordCamp.

Michelle Frechette (00:07:45) – What was your experience at WordCamp Europe and how would you agree or disagree with that sentiment?

Katie Keith (00:07:51) – Yeah, the measurable ROI is very difficult. We try to do that by doing a 50% off sale, which we gave leaflets with discounts to everybody that we met and we made a grand total of zero from that. We literally did not have one sale from the code that we associated with WordCamp Europe. So that ROI not good, maybe long term. We did talk to quite a lot of agencies who are interested in using our plugins for their clients, but that’s we can’t measure because they didn’t purchase during the sale. But for me, the biggest ROI was the impact on the team. So we have about 17 team members all around the world, but there were six of us at WordCamp Europe because they’re the ones that are nearest and because we sponsored, we could really see the team coming together in a way that didn’t happen last year when there were also six of us and we just attended. It kind of gave us a purpose together.

Katie Keith (00:08:53) – It was amazing training for people with different roles in the team because like a developer’s role is not to directly talk to potential customers and tell them what we do, what we stand for. And they just rose to the challenge and it was amazing. I did brief them beforehand and give them a bit of a crib sheets in case they were uncomfortable or anything. But they it was amazing seeing them. And I think it really gave them a whole new perspective on what we do and who we’re working for. So that was really interesting and having a kind of a mutual place to hang out as well. Like often it’s hard to find people, you know, in the huge world camps and everyone would kind of gravitate to our stand and therefore spent more time together. So I could see a very clear impact on the team, which for me is a good ROI because I spent like 4 or $5000 in total on the sponsorship, which includes the swag and the stand itself. And if you think about what it would cost to replace a senior developer, for example, that’s expensive.

Katie Keith (00:09:58) – So if we do retain any of these people because of that added value they’ve got from it, then that is ROI for me. And of course there’s the branding thing. I think nobody could deny that our brand has become more well known from sponsoring because people were talking to us all day long for two days and reinforcing connections we already had. People were coming up to us, didn’t know is asking what we do, so we must have improved the branding. But I can’t measure that.

Michelle Frechette (00:10:27) – It. It really is difficult to measure anything like that for sure. Let me ask Lincoln as as an organizer, what kinds of things? I mean, obviously, organizers don’t make promises that you will have this great ROI or that kind of thing. So how do you market the opportunity to do sponsorships and how do you make those connections and help people make the decision to be a sponsor?

Lincoln Islam (00:10:55) – I’ll outdoor want to share my experience both as a sponsor and not not an organizer but sponsor and think it depends on the type of company you have when you want to organize a WordCamp.

Lincoln Islam (00:11:09) – So let’s say if you have service type company, right, company that provides services. So I used to do that same. So when I join WordCamp as a sponsor, so I was looking to make connections, connection with my target and potential clients, right. So my KPI was like making connections with the right people. No strict monetary value. Right. So let’s say mean. I know that I’m not going to get the straight amount of return. Mean return of investment right away. But it happened that I did get return after, let’s say, four years after coming back from the WordCamp. So we all know that it’s not easy to calculate the immediate ROI. So that’s service company. So you have your, you know, defined before joining. And you know what you are going to expect out of the WordCamp. The second type of company is a product company. So for me, when I’m joining WordCamp as a sponsor, I’m talking about my company. So I try to define my KPIs. So are we looking to get new talents? Are you looking to get, you know, partnerships? So we try to figure out number.

Lincoln Islam (00:12:31) – Okay, we’ll try to talk with at least ten potential partnership agency that we can, you know, collaborate in future. So my success or return of investment that we did earlier depends on the meeting that we did on the WordCamp. And later on, maybe as I said, it takes years to get the exact ROI. So yeah, for the service company, the return of investment can be LEDs that are generating. And for the product company, it can be partnership, it can be like you’re getting more brand exposure. Which is not countable or maybe social media awareness. So as a sponsor. Yeah. Think this is what we try to convince people. So if you’re if you’re a service company, when someone, you know, opt in on the website, the sponsorship form. So we try to see what kind of business it is. So from my experience, we try to have a, you know, diverse of sponsors in the WordCamp so that everybody gets something. So, yeah, as an organizer, we, uh.

Lincoln Islam (00:13:51) – Yeah. We try to focus on the brand awareness more than. Than specific.

Michelle Frechette (00:13:59) – I once was a representative for a sponsor at WordCamp Montreal. There were ten sponsors, and the plug in that I was representing there was the only table that wasn’t a hosting company. So it’s interesting when you look at that to like who has the money to do them. A lot of the times the hosting companies will send people. So if you can differentiate yourself, certainly there’s opportunities for you in this market. Um, I want to go to a question that Cameron Jones had asked, which is do you sponsor to give back to the WordPress community for marketing purposes or for both? So do you feel that WordCamp sponsorships are targeted at one group more than the other? And what do you think that word camps could offer that would make you consider sponsoring more? Um, Drew, let’s ask you that question first.

Drew Griswold (00:14:49) – Yeah, I think it would be very disingenuous for me to claim that we sponsor WordCamp just for the sake of giving back to the community.

Drew Griswold (00:14:57) – That is certainly a huge benefit of it interacting with our community. You know, part of the conversation is talking to our customers, seeing what they do love about our products, what they don’t love about our products, the amount of market research we get to do just by talking to some of the folks that use our products is a huge return. We do see noticeable increase in brand searches and brand awareness if we’re tracking our searches on Google, things like that. And there are a lot of measurable results that make word camps or other events, a potentially good investment. Um, being a company that contributes to the community obviously is a huge priority, but there’s a lot of business value to being there as well. So I’m not going to claim that it’s just 100% for warm and fuzzies.

Michelle Frechette (00:15:47) – How would you add to that taco? Because you’ve been doing this quite a while.

Taco Verdonschot (00:15:51) – Yes. So it definitely is a bit of both. Um, I think depending on where you are as a company, it’s either more about giving back or it’s more about marketing purposes.

Taco Verdonschot (00:16:05) – Market research, as Drew said. Um. I do think and that’s the the latter question that Cameron asked, is what can we do better for for sponsors? Um, but what would us make consider sponsoring more is at this moment um, I think a lot of the sponsor packages around the world are almost exact copies of the same boring offering. And I say that to. Get some response, but there is hardly any creativity in the sponsor teams for any of the events, both flagship events and local events. Um, it’s all about you get a small logo, you get a bigger logo, you get a large logo, you can have your logo on the website, you can have your logo on a tweet, you can have your logo on the slide. And that’s about it.

Michelle Frechette (00:17:10) – You can have a two by four table. You can have a four by six table. You can have a booth. Yeah, well, yes.

Taco Verdonschot (00:17:16) – And preferably we only let you know the size of the table two weeks before the events.

Taco Verdonschot (00:17:21) – Um.

Michelle Frechette (00:17:23) – Exactly.

Taco Verdonschot (00:17:24) – Sorry. Minor annoyance here. Um, and I think that we can do better. And doing better means that it becomes more attractive for the attendees of your WordCamp to visit sponsors or to interact with sponsors. But and that automatically makes it more interesting for sponsors to join your event. Um, I think one of the, the things that work in Europe offered this time that I hadn’t seen before, but liked a lot. Is a short photo shoot. Bring your team to your booth. Will have an official photographer from the event, take your team picture. And I think that is. Really simple. It’s not hard to to organize that, but it’s a nice bonus. It doesn’t cause interaction with the audience, but it’s already a first step of thinking outside the box that we’ve been in for so many years.

Michelle Frechette (00:18:28) – Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. Katie or Lincoln. Do you have anything to add to this question?

Katie Keith (00:18:35) – Um, yes. So it’s an interesting one. I’m a big believer in things that benefit the community and the person doing it, because I think in life often people are motivated by mutual benefit and it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Katie Keith (00:18:51) – So I would say, yes, we wouldn’t have sponsored just as a charitable thing. It was a lot of work. Regardless of the money. I spent weeks on it because I hadn’t done it before. Um, so the I’d say that the community support aspect was a bonus. Really? Yeah, I know what you mean, Taco. About some of the benefits of sponsoring not being very interesting. Like, don’t care if our logo’s on some of these random places around the venue. I don’t think that really has much impact on brand awareness. It would be nice to have other opportunities like um, priority interviews or something on the official channels and that kind of thing to do that. Um, and a link is okay I suppose, but overall I just wanted a booth so I went for the cheapest option that came with a booth and that was my only priority. Nothing else was of interest. So I think people would be more inclined to sponsor if that was, if there were more creative ways of enticing people in and benefiting them.

Katie Keith (00:19:58) – But um, I’ve noticed that. So it’s 2500 dollars or euros, I don’t know, to sponsor Europe and it’s $5,000 to sponsor us. And that seems to be a fairly extreme difference for a flagship WordCamp. I understand the local ones might be cheaper, but there it should be equivalent Europe in US. In fact, I thought Europe was the biggest one in the world, so I was a bit shocked by the price and that put me off. Given that I was unable to financially calculate the ROI of Europe.

Michelle Frechette (00:20:33) – And let me make some really good points there. Um, for sure. And I don’t know that there’s answers, answers and you know, certainly when we put this out on for the for the community to consume, I’m sure people will have some some ideas to contribute as well. Um, I want to move on to swag and talk a little bit about swag because for a couple of reasons, right? So attendees love swag. We like to put things in hands that will keep so that they pick up a pen and they see our name or have a little notebook on my desk that says Barn two on it because I got it at WordCamp Europe.

Michelle Frechette (00:21:07) – I have a fan that says Yoast on it. I have obviously a lot of stellar swag because I work here. But but what I saw Katie asking prior to it, like what makes good swag? What is good swag? And then we had some questions come in that were like, How do you know how much swag to bring? Mark Westcott is asking and what type of swag has been the most effective and then donate a skill read wants to know how do you even get your swag to the event if you’re not driving and putting it in the trunk of your car, which obviously you can’t when you’re crossing an ocean, for example, how do you even get it there? So Lincoln, I’m going to ask you that first. What kinds of swag do you think are the most effective and how does one actually get it to a venue?

Lincoln Islam (00:21:55) – For the swags, without any doubt, the t shirts. It’s a very common thing among WordPress and personally I as a sponsor, I feel very good when I see someone is wearing a t shirt, you know, after a year of sponsoring a WordCamp.

Lincoln Islam (00:22:14) – So, I mean, we could do something better than t shirt, but t shirt is something, you know, we wear and go out. So we are getting both. Someone is getting their purpose served. And on the second side you are getting your marketing and promotion done. On the swag shipping. Think back in 2019 when we’re organizing WordCamp for the first time, which was canceled for Covid. Okay. Before telling that, I should say it depends on the organizers. If you are too nice and flexible, they have time to, you know, receive the sweat from all their sponsors all over the world. I mean, even though it’s not easy, you know, all this, especially in Bangladesh. So we have a really, you know, strict customs. So if someone is sending something to you, they’re going to go to a whole lot of, you know, time and investment. So it worked. Back in 2019, I think one of our organizers, local organization, NOC, she was very nice and she agreed to receive some of the swag from the sponsors.

Lincoln Islam (00:23:29) – And later, I’m sure like literally messed up with all these boxes in the house. And she was like, You know what I’m going to do with all these things? You know, I cannot throw them out. Right? So. It depends. Other organizer on the WordCamp chapter. If they’re nice, you can ship it to them. The second thing is definitely if you have a team member in that zone, you can ship it to them. And the third option could be, which we have followed in the last year, is the event. If not, I know all, not all the WordCamp, you know, organizer team recruit event. But if there is an event management firm working with the WordCamp, you can ship your swag to them, you know prior you go physically there.

Michelle Frechette (00:24:23) – And some hotels will actually allow you to ship things to yourself at the hotel. So for WordCamp Montclair last year, I had all of the stellar swag shipped directly to the hotel. When I checked in, they said, Hey, let me help you get that to your room.

Michelle Frechette (00:24:36) – And I said, Thank you. So there are definitely options as to how you can get it there, but most likely you’re going to be finding a destination and shipping it directly. Yeah, I’m.

Drew Griswold (00:24:45) – Going to add to that real quick, Michel. Yeah. Don’t have you don’t have nearly as many friends as all of you guys do in the WordPress community, so don’t have the luxury of shipping it to my friends all over but the store or hold for pickup if you ship hold for pickup ups in the US is amazing. Internationally, very helpful and you could just ship it to one of their other locations with hold for pickup on it, show up and do that. And then on the swag thing, just wanted to mention we’ve really tried to focus on products that have a little bit more utility than just something that’s disposable. T shirts are a great example because it turns people into walking Billboard. People aren’t really inclined to just throw away a t shirt, but think where people have gotten really disillusioned. It’s just the cheap, really cheap plastic pens or something that they’re just going to throw away in five minutes or a stress ball or something like that.

Drew Griswold (00:25:38) – We try to get products that have utility at work camp. It was like a little travel bag or something like that. WordCamp will have something similar, but giving people a reason to hold on to it, keep it and then have your logo show up at unassuming times to reinforce your brand value. Right? So those are my two quick sense that wanted to throw in there. On top of that.

Michelle Frechette (00:26:01) – Absolutely. Something that I want to bring up on the tail of that is when somebody sees when somebody’s attending WordCamp, they can see how much sponsors paid to be in the position they are. So they know if they paid 5000, 10,000, 250, whatever it is, whether it’s local camp or not. But I think sometimes people forget that sponsor didn’t just pay $1,000 to have that table. They paid $1,000 to have the table and the space. They paid thousands of dollars, at least hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the swag on that table. And then they paid somebody to be there. They paid somebody to the travel cost for somebody to be there and and stay in a hotel while they’re there.

Michelle Frechette (00:26:40) – So if if let’s on average say I’m going to ask you this one, Drew, because I know that you are keeping our budget and things, but and then everybody else can chime in, of course. But when when you say that you’re sponsoring a $1,000, let’s say local WordCamp, how much does that really cost in terms like ballpark figure, budget wise?

Drew Griswold (00:27:00) – If I’m just pulling numbers out of thin air, I’d say it’s easily four times the cost of the sponsorship. Mean it all depends on how many folks you want to send there. We typically have a rule where people don’t do it by themselves, so you have to go with someone else so that the booth is always properly attended, things like that. But when you’re looking at two people, if we just pick Montclair, for example, if we want to send two people out to Montclair, New Jersey for a day, it’s airfare, it’s the hotel, it’s the per diem, it’s the costs of the the little things that add up. It’s the swag cost.

Drew Griswold (00:27:33) – And that really quickly can get to be a lot more than just the sponsorship fee cost for four times the fee is just what popped into my head and things like that might be a pretty fair, wild shot in the dark, but I would be curious what other people would say. Is there blind guess for how much the additional costs stack up?

Michelle Frechette (00:27:55) – I want to ask Katie, having done it for just the first time, was there that sticker shock when you started to add up all the additional costs of actually attending?

Katie Keith (00:28:03) – Yeah, with the swag. I wanted to do something good, not rubbish. Plastic. I wanted to do something a bit environmentally friendly and I had some quite strong views about the branding. Like even like a notebook, if you have one, you know, the ring ones that you turn it over. Well, your brand is gone as soon as they open it, whereas the one on your desk, you kind of have to close each time and it’s only a fairly cheap one. But even that, I was trying to think will they regularly see the brand? So that narrows it down.

Katie Keith (00:28:36) – And so I got so cost wise, I spent 1800 on the swag, but the total we spent on WordCamp in total is 13,000. So that’s more than four times, but that includes six team members. We would have done all that anyway if we weren’t sponsoring Andy and I went for a week. So it includes our holiday as well. So, you know, so the direct cost of sponsorship was $4,300. And in terms of shipping it, I, I decided I needed to see it. I needed to quality check it because I hadn’t done this before. I was choosing a random company on the Internet and I’m really glad I had it sent to me because there were quality problems. Things like, Yo, yo. I think it was your idea for toys, wasn’t it? Taco on Twitter, Do something for the kids. So we did yo yos and they were like off center, half of them. So I had to return things and complain. And if I just had it sent to Athens, then I’d have got there and been really embarrassed to use it.

Katie Keith (00:29:43) – So if you do this a lot and you know the company and trust them, then fine. But I think it was worth the extra effort to have it sent to me in Mallorca, Spain. And I got the weights of it all before I ordered it. And I worked out that it would fit into like a suitcase, like a 30 kilogram suitcase. So I paid for an extra suitcase and brought it with me. And I believe that was the right decision because of the quality issues.

Michelle Frechette (00:30:11) – Yeah, definitely. Taco, what do you have to add here?

Taco Verdonschot (00:30:13) – Yeah, well, the quality thing sounds really familiar, especially with yo yos. We messed that up completely once before where there were super light, cheap plastic. And trust me, that doesn’t work with the yo yo. Um. In terms of the cost. Looking at the last word computer, I think, uh, the four times is the optimistic guesstimate. Um, especially if you include time preparing, time spent creating the boot design, creating the spike design, all of that.

Taco Verdonschot (00:30:56) – Um, so, yeah, no, it definitely gets expensive fast. Um, in terms of what swag works well. Um, well, the type of swag that still gives me nightmares. Worked best because all around the world, people keep asking for baffles.

Michelle Frechette (00:31:21) – And I didn’t get any this year. Oh, my goodness.

Taco Verdonschot (00:31:24) – And there’s a good reason because edible goodies are probably the worst decision you can make. Um, especially those. Those waffles had a whole story to them. Um, but long story short. A lot of venues do not allow edible goodies because you’re either competing with their, um, their catering services or you’re offering something where they can’t control ingredients and allergens and all of that, or you’re trying to ship edible goodies outside or into the European Union, which is a nightmare on its own. So whatever decision you make, stay away from edible goodies. If you want stop raffles, come to the Netherlands and will happily get you fresh ones.

Michelle Frechette (00:32:20) – Turns out you can buy them on Amazon as well.

Taco Verdonschot (00:32:22) – Absolutely, yes. As long as you find the diamonds brand, you’ll be fine. Perfect. Um, not affiliated. Um, the other thing that really worked well for us in the past were the little Lego minifigs. That’s also one of the types of swag that we still get questions for. Like, Hey, do you have any, any Legos with you? Um. It worked really well. But as Katie said before, I’m environmentally friendly. Well, they’re not easily thrown out because people keep playing with Legos forever.

Michelle Frechette (00:32:58) – Some of mine.

Taco Verdonschot (00:33:00) – Uh, a lot of people regularly still show the old, old Legos. The thing is, they’re crazy expensive. And that’s another factor that you have to take into account is, especially with the larger events where you’re talking about volume, um, a couple of bucks per piece. Means a lot of money for a 2000 people event.

Michelle Frechette (00:33:30) – It sure does. Absolutely.

Taco Verdonschot (00:33:31) – Yeah. So and with that, what we typically do is take the expected number of attendees and depending on.

Taco Verdonschot (00:33:41) – The event and prior experience and how safe we want to be will bring about a third to half the number of attendees in swag items.

Michelle Frechette (00:33:55) – That makes sense. And there are people who don’t want to take swag because they don’t. They want to. They only have a carry on. And so they don’t want to have to pack a bigger suitcase and things like that. So not everybody that’s attending is going to take swag for sure, and we understand that. But there are people who just really like things, right? And so they’ll walk around and having those things in their hand is absolutely beneficial. Lincoln, what did you have to add to this?

Lincoln Islam (00:34:18) – Uh, before that went to Taco. Taco? There was a time when I used to think, yes means Lego. Didn’t know. That’s fair. It came to my mind. Yeah, about the cost. So we recently sponsored the work camp in Bangladesh at a local WordCamp. So what do you all see up front? Except, you know, my companies are pretty big.

Lincoln Islam (00:34:47) – We don’t have a budgeting and everything. So what do you see? The sponsor amount. But what on the backstage is, you know, accommodation, swags, your boat decoration and everything. So I should say in my data it normally the forex, the sponsor money. Um, about. And the swags. I believe after t shirt water bottle is the second thing that people want to take and they want to use on their desk every day. So at least it has a better use because we drink water and if the water bottle looks nice, you know something I should say blackish or something. So we want to have it on our desk and use it. Um, what is the last question about this percentage? At what is the safe percentage of swags someone should carry to WordCamp? From my experience, I should say 60% of the attendees in the safe zone. You’re not hitting the lowest amount or the highest amount, but it you don’t want to carry back the work that you’re carrying to the WordCamp, right? So from my opinion, just my, you know, experience.

Lincoln Islam (00:36:12) – So 60% safe number.

Michelle Frechette (00:36:16) – I think it’s funny when you’re the person representing your company and people approach you so timidly like, Can I, can I have one? And you’re like, Oh my gosh, just take it. I don’t want to bring it home with me. Right? So yeah, yeah. I didn’t purchase it for me to know about my company. I purchased it for you to know about my company. We got a question from, I hope I say his name properly, Muhammad said Khan. And his question is, is it’s a good question. And I and I’m going to ask Lincoln as organizer first to address this and then everybody else can kind of chime in. But his question is, I don’t see many sponsors having their own speaker or panel participant in different talks at word camps. Would it be an interesting way to make the most of sponsoring an event, maybe a speaker slot, just not talking about the product, but the problem they’re trying to solve? So there’s a lot of reasons why that is intriguing and a lot of reasons why that won’t work.

Michelle Frechette (00:37:12) – But from an organizer standpoint, Lincoln, can you address that question?

Lincoln Islam (00:37:19) – Yeah. Um, so for selecting, sponsor and selecting speaker, both are different, right? We have our own internal process, so we are going to select. So if we talk about selecting a speaker, right, we want to have a speaker who has a good topic, you know, really related to our audience. So, um, I mean, even though it could be an option, but I think this might be a conflict of interest, right? So, I mean, there is no rule. I guess that sponsor cannot be Speaker if you have good topic, if you have, you know, something related and exciting for audience, why not? But sponsoring WordCamp doesn’t guarantee that you will have a place for yourself on the.

Michelle Frechette (00:38:10) – Exactly.

Lincoln Islam (00:38:11) – And there is no. Ultimate what you guideline that would be, you know, giving a chance to the sponsor first.

Michelle Frechette (00:38:24) – So I’m going to pose this question to all of you and you can fight over who unmute first.

Michelle Frechette (00:38:29) – But do you as a company Taco’s already unmuted, Do you as a company encourage your employees who like to do public speaking? Do you encourage them to apply to speak if you’re going to be sponsoring a WordCamp? So Taco, you first.

Taco Verdonschot (00:38:45) – Yeah. So before answering that one, a little step back from a sponsor’s perspective, having a paid sponsor slot definitely is interesting because the rates that you get from the stage is usually bigger than the biggest booth. So having a speaker is definitely extremely valuable to your brand. Given that you have a good presentation, a good speaker, that you bring value to the events. What’s interesting is that, um, work camps are not allowed to offer paid speaker spots and in that we are probably unique in the conference space because outside of work camps out of outside of WordPress. I cannot recall a single event that doesn’t offer something like that. So we are quite unique there. And the idea behind it is really good because you want to prevent that. Those with the deepest pockets claim all the spots.

Taco Verdonschot (00:40:05) – But maybe it’s time to reassess whether this is still the best rule for everyone, because what we’re seeing is that also the sponsors are typically super knowledgeable in their own areas and. I would feel bad using my own company as an example. But taking Barn two as an example, I think you have some amazing talent on your dev team. And it is super valuable to have them on the stage. And to the audience. It doesn’t matter if that developer was picked from. Um. Submitting a talk and then going through the whole blind selection process being selected, or whether that spot was bought by the company. As long as it’s adding the value to the event, to the attendees. However, guarding that is super hard because a barn two I would fully trust in doing that. There could be companies in our space that take the opportunity to make it a sales pitch that doesn’t add significant value whatsoever, but especially for. Plugins that have to serve a specific niche. I think they are the experts on their area where patch stack, for example, or Subquery or one of the other security brands, they are the experts on security.

Taco Verdonschot (00:41:54) – So having them on the stage is valuable to your event. But yeah, there’s it’s a trade off.

Michelle Frechette (00:42:03) – Do you at least encourage people to apply to speak?

Taco Verdonschot (00:42:08) – Yes. Not nearly enough yet, but that’s one of the programs that we’re developing this year with the community team to help more people become speakers at events.

Michelle Frechette (00:42:21) – Excellent. What about you, Katie? Have you encouraged people to apply to speak?

Katie Keith (00:42:25) – Yeah, we were even supposed to have a speaker at WordCamp Europe, but his visa was declined so he couldn’t come. He’s in Iran and we found out about a week before. So yeah, I would encourage sponsors to get their team who were good public speakers to submit an application to be a speaker to supplement the benefits of their sponsorship. And um, it’s a separate process. You don’t get any benefits because you’re sponsoring. But um, you know, my guys talk was accepted and because it was genuinely useful and everything. And so I think that would really help. But I would be interested to see kind of maybe an additional track for sponsors to have talks so that everybody knows these are not the independently selected talks.

Katie Keith (00:43:18) – These are slots given to the sponsors where you can find out more about the sponsors. So I think maybe that would be less of a conflict of interest because they’re not taking over the other slots and people know what they’re signing up for when they go and watch these talks. So I’d be quite interested in that as an additional benefit of sponsorship.

Michelle Frechette (00:43:37) – That’s a great idea. I actually like that a lot. Drew, you have unmuted I know you have something to add. I love I love Zoom for that reason. It’s like, you know, who wants to say something? Because they unmute.

Drew Griswold (00:43:48) – It’s such a less embarrassing way of raising my hand. I was just going to sit here like this, but it’s not really a good look. Um, to echo what Katie and Taco said, I think it’s a great idea for sure. I find myself becoming I can slide towards being shamelessly promotional at lots of times. I don’t think it’s because I’m a just a salesman at heart. It’s because I’m pretty passionate about Stella and our products and our people especially.

Drew Griswold (00:44:15) – But I think that’s one of the benefits of encouraging. Exploring an avenue like paid speakers is you get some of the most passionate and knowledgeable folks in the WordPress space at Stellar. We’re very, very lucky where we have a lot of people deeply embedded in the community that happen to be speakers. They don’t need encouragement to go out and apply to be speakers. We do encourage it, but people are naturally just involved in the community wanting to do it and think, not just ones we’re sponsoring. It’s good. It’s good practice to have people applying to WordCamp speak all over the place, even if we’re not going to be a part of it. But I do love the idea of having a well curated version of a paid, you know, paid speaking options, just making sure that it’s monitored so it doesn’t slide to a shamelessly promotional talk about how great stellar WP is. Right.

Michelle Frechette (00:45:08) – Exactly. We’re closing in on our time. I want to ask another question that’s that nobody else posed here, which is the additional benefits of sponsoring in the ability to meet people and recruit new talent through word camps.

Michelle Frechette (00:45:25) – I joined WP in 2018 because in 2017 I made connections with them as a sponsor at two different events and as a result opened up communication for me to begin working with them. That would not have happened had they not been sponsoring and speaking. And I was also in attendance there. Have you ever had similar experiences? Do you attend with the opportunities thinking about that opportunity for recruitment or mergers and acquisitions and all of those kinds of things? I’m not asking you to tip your hand and give us any, you know, trade secrets. But generically, has the has that been an opportunity or a focus for you when attending WordCamp and somebody on mute so I can call on you? PD I’ll ask you as a as a new person, a new person sponsoring, was that on your mind at all at WordCamp Europe?

Katie Keith (00:46:20) – It was because at the time we were looking for an SEO and marketing manager and I always intended to find a job board, but I never saw one. Normally there’s a job board, isn’t there? There wasn’t.

Michelle Frechette (00:46:32) – One there. I didn’t see one, but there were all of these Yoast people walking around in Yoast T-shirts. Did you? Just kidding.

Katie Keith (00:46:41) – Do some poaching? No. I had one person not from Yoast come over because she’s seen the job on Twitter or something. Wanted to know more. But generally, it had very, very little impact in recruiting. But that was a marketing role and the majority of people coming over were more like developers and so on. So I think probably if we’d been hiring a developer, we would have had a better chance of finding somebody that way.

Michelle Frechette (00:47:07) – Yeah, that makes sense.

Taco Verdonschot (00:47:08) – Seriously, doubt that. Okay. Because and that’s especially for the flagship word camps, because two of the people going to a flagship word camp are typically not all of them, but typically sent there by their employer. Which means that most people at that event will have a job that allows them to travel. Um. Which means they’re not easy to poach. Local events. Different story. Local work camps think it should be slightly easier.

Taco Verdonschot (00:47:49) – But especially for the flagships poaching people there is is probably hard.

Katie Keith (00:47:57) – Interesting because some people pay for themselves to go, but I suppose that’s less common.

Michelle Frechette (00:48:03) – The more expensive it is, the less likely they’ve paid their own way. Think is is the point. But yeah, I even saw I did see at least one booth. I can’t remember who it was. Now at work, camp Europe had a sign up that said they were hiring so that if people were interested. And have you have you done or thought about that before? Taco If you’ve done that with Yoast at all?

Taco Verdonschot (00:48:22) – So the interesting thing is that pre-COVID, we were a very office focused company. We had a few people remote, but that was our support team and some people working on WordPress core full time and that’s about it. Now over Covid and post-COVID, we’ve switched to a more hybrid model, which means it would make more sense for us to find people in other areas. But before it would be just worth coming to the Netherlands, where we would have somewhat of a hiring mindset because that was the only place where where it made sense.

Michelle Frechette (00:49:05) – Absolutely. What about you, Lincoln?

Lincoln Islam (00:49:11) – I think one of the campaign that we did during work camps, like it’s like doing an exchange campaign. Like if someone is coming first to act, we ask them to share our campaign on Twitter or Facebook where it says we are hiring. So even though we didn’t get anyone instantly right on the spot, but it did give us result in, you know, later months. So yeah, I’d say definitely it’s possible, but not instantly.

Michelle Frechette (00:49:43) – That’s pretty cool. I just so as we wrap up, I just want to give each of you an opportunity to share a thought about something that we didn’t talk about or that you would want to expand on and and then we’ll wrap it up when everybody’s had an opportunity to do that. So, Lincoln, you’re still unmuted. I’m going to go with you first, but something that you would still like to add to the conversation that we haven’t talked about yet.

Lincoln Islam (00:50:07) – I’m not sure if it’s going to be recorded, but I still want to disagree with Taco about paid Speaker in a slot.

Lincoln Islam (00:50:20) – You know, imagine there is an option to, you know, get a speaker slot. So all the big companies is going to come and, you know, have all the slots fulfilled. So definitely not something that ought to see, even though, like what Katie said, having a dedicated track for sponsors. So we know that all the sponsors are going to speak there. That’s totally fine. Okay.

Michelle Frechette (00:50:49) – Excellent. Katie. About that. Oh, sorry. Did you have more to say? Yeah.

Lincoln Islam (00:50:54) – No, I’m good.

Michelle Frechette (00:50:55) – Okay. Katie, how about you?

Katie Keith (00:50:58) – I would say that before you sponsor, think about how you’re going to describe your company, because you may never have done it before. Um, saying it like in a sentence or two. And also, what point are you trying to put across? We have like 22 plugins and so it’s not that easy to say to decide what are we focusing on and we focusing on one product or multiple. And I’m not sure we got it right, but we had to think that through because it could become very confused.

Katie Keith (00:51:28) – We’re also not even clearly one thing. We’re mostly WooCommerce plugins, but our best selling plugin is not WooCommerce. So it was actually a challenge to think about how we present ourselves. So I’d say think about that and come up with a few kind of one liners to give your team for when people come up and say, So what do you do?

Michelle Frechette (00:51:49) – And that’s that’s great advice. I love that. How about you, Drew?

Drew Griswold (00:51:53) – I’m going to echo the perfecting the elevator pitch and just to sing Katie’s praises more. My last thing that I was going to put in is that blog post that Katie produced about sponsoring WordCamp You for the first time was so incredibly informational. I’m not just saying that because there’s a picture of me in it, although that was a benefit for me, but it was so transparent, it was so honest and it was so educational that I highly recommend if anyone is considering sponsoring working for the first time. It is just such an excellent resource. I just wanted to give you props.

Drew Griswold (00:52:24) – Katie It was just such an awesome blog post and I was really impressed to see it, even though do it for a living. I was enthralled watching reading the blog post and seeing how the process was for you.

Katie Keith (00:52:34) – So thank you. Yeah, and everyone should read it to look at the picture of Drew staring hard and be a pump.

Michelle Frechette (00:52:44) – We will make sure.

Drew Griswold (00:52:45) – A medieval themed bar in Athens. That’s a conversation for another time.

Katie Keith (00:52:50) – Your favorite bar. Yeah.

Michelle Frechette (00:52:51) – Well, we’ll put the link to that to that post in the show notes for this this webinar as well. And Taco, how about you?

Taco Verdonschot (00:53:00) – Yeah. So there’s there’s a thousand things left to say because I don’t think this is a topic that you can fully discuss in an hour. Um. I would love to see more of the the new companies, the smaller companies that are just emerging in our space or just entering the WordPress space to find their local events and play with sponsorships. Um, I would also love to see more local companies who have a WordPress website sponsor their WordCamp and then go there to learn from people who’ve been in this space longer.

Taco Verdonschot (00:53:44) – So that’s sort of a new category of sponsors where they don’t have a direct, uh, sales pitch towards WordPress users, but they are a WordPress user themselves and in that way help local events being organized because as the world around us is getting more expensive, we will need to find fresh sponsors to keep organizing our events because they’re simply becoming more and more expensive. Um, to the point where it. Is impossible to organise them without any local support. Um, the other thing is calling upon creativity, and that is both on the organizing teams, but also on the sponsors to come up with your own thing. Find something funny to do. Find something that stands out. Do something you haven’t seen before. Um. Make it worth going to your booth. Make that when people see your brand, they’re like, Oh, they had something amazing last year. I’m curious what they will offer this year. Um. Get that creativity in in your spike, in your activities, in the way you tell your story and stand out in that way by offering an experience to the events.

Michelle Frechette (00:55:13) – Absolutely. And before I wrap it all up, I will say as a pin collector and a sticker collector, never underestimate the value of a pin, because there are traders out there who are trading while Pooh pins like myself. And yeah, they may not be everybody, but those pins can actually carry a lot of weight. And I have over 300 on the bulletin board that you can’t see right now. Um, and it’s and I think fondly on all of the ones that I’ve received from other people. So thank you all for your insights. I think there’s a lot more that can be said. Maybe we’ll do another one of these six months down the road or after WordCamp US and see how that goes. But Taco Katie, Lincoln, Drew, thank you so much for joining me and we appreciate all your time and we’ll we’ll see you all when you have an opportunity to comment on any comments that come through on the blog, please feel free to interact with those. Thank you so much for being here.

This article was published at Post Status — the community for WordPress professionals.

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