WHAT’S THE POINT — “I love it when a plan comes together.” The famous line from John “Hannibal” Smith of the A-Team is one of those cultural gems that speaks so much more than its words. For anyone who has ever put on a large event, there comes a moment when that phrase slips from the lips and a deep sense of satisfaction spreads through you. I’ve done many events in my life and that is the moment that makes it all worthwhile for me.
I started Toastmasters a few years back and was with the Westside Toastmasters club to kick up my public speaking ability. After a year of participating I decided I wanted to start moving in the direction of paid speaking gigs that did not involve courtrooms. But paid speaking gigs are harder to come by at first than one would imagine. So like many a budding public speaker I started a speaking career with doing outreach to groups and being willing to share my knowledge at events for the city, and to various organizations throughout North America.
My latest speaking gig will be for a local event called WordcampLAX. It’s a conference of programmers, designers and writers who specialize in the WordPress open source software. It’s being held the weekend of Sept. 5-7 on the campus of Cal State University Los Angeles.
The event is part of a growing trend of social capitalism. There’s a trend in the tech sector, especially those areas that are more open source, to bring people together for the main purpose of expanding knowledge and usability. I saw this same thing last weekend when I was in Dallas at Podcast Movement – a conference for podcasters. There, people were coming together to learn how to start a podcast or improve the one they already had.
This coming Wordcamp is doing a similar thing but with blogging and websites. It’s for people who want to start a blog, and use the WordPress platform, or people like me, who use WordPress but know it can do so much more. Tools are only as good as the craftsman who uses them.
Wordcamp LA has been organized by a group of volunteers, just like a TEDx event is done. This year’s organizer are a group of hardworking people who have come together for the purpose of making something of benefit to the community. I had the chance to speak with Natalie Maclees about her experiences in doing events like this. She has a close history to the city of Santa Monica having worked on three different KCRW campaigns with her Purple Pen Productions company. She’s worked on the capital campaign and the blogging efforts so she has an affinity for helping the public non-profits grow and sustain their missions.
That experience is what led her to being a WordCamp champion. It looked like there was going to be a leadership void this year, but she stepped up and gathered some troops to make an event happen. When you consider what’s involved, recruiting volunteers, organizing speakers, getting videos, developing a website, advertising and marketing, finding a location, it’s a heck of a lot of effort and the more people you having involved the more complex the role of leader becomes.
These local non-profit type events, WordCamp and TEDx’s are truly beneficial to the community at large and they provide a great opportunity for people to gain exposure for their individual talents, but also are great ways for individuals to expand their skill set. These are opportunities to learn how to create events, be an organizer, work with others. The role of volunteer at an event like this exposes people to new opportunities and individuals who can then become good connections in one’s chosen profession.
As I was chatting with Natalie, I thought it would be great if we could bring next year’s WordCamp to Santa Monica College. In a similar way, the TEDx community I hear is planning on bringing more events to the city which would be wonderful since we have so many great venues like Cross Campus, Co-Loft, SMC, the hotels and corporate event spaces. Having a vibrant volunteer community that we have in Santa Monica, we should have more events like WordCamp and TEDx to bring us together.