A Brand(ed) New World for the Enterprise WordPress Community
How we successfully re-launched our signature BigWP event in a post-pandemic world
Events are in my blood. I live and breathe to solve problems, and welcome the challenges and stresses that come with planning a B2B event. In the pandemic era, those problems, challenges, and stresses have been the name of the game for event marketers—scrambling to bring the magic of in-person events to their digital equivalents.
So when we were recently able to bring BigWP—the premier event for the enterprise WordPress community—back in person, we jumped at the chance. Here’s how we did it.
How events have changed
Back in March of 2020 (yes, the beginning of it all!), I wrote an article for PRNews on how to make your virtual events exceptional. At the time, every field and event marketer had to adapt to a brand new world. We spent nearly three years figuring out how to appeal to and captivate our virtual audience, but these digital events often fell short of their IRL equivalents.
As we emerged from the digital world and back to in-person events in 2022, nothing could have prepared me for having to retake Events 101.
Virtual, IRL, or hybrid?
More than two years after the initial global shutdown from the pandemic, people are itching for the opportunity to gather safely in a public setting. But when you combine that with frequent surges from new variants, and raging cases of cold and flu strains—you get a recipe for complicated event logistics.
How do you cater to both the people who are yearning for the time to eat crappy convention center food, and those who still want the comfort of thought leadership from home?
It starts with knowing your audience.
What is BigWP?
BigWP is a community gathering born out of the spirit of WordCamps, elevated to cater to enterprises pushing the limits of WordPress at scale. We’ve hosted BigWP at cities around the world, and were as disappointed as everyone else when the pandemic enforced its hiatus.
While we were able to run two successful virtual BigWPs in 2020, we knew our community was excited to have the event back in real life. At long last, we held BigWP NYC 2022 on November 3rd at the Ace Hotel in Brooklyn. We featured speakers from News Corp, Nielsen, Lede, PMC, and WDG.
The enterprise WordPress community is thriving
Our customers and partners know that when they attend BigWP IRL, they leave with valuable connections and exciting new ways to run their websites. During our packed conference season, countless people asked me about BigWP. “When is it? Where is it? Will we get to be there in person this year?”
The enterprise WordPress community wanted and needed for this particular event to be back in person. As Magne Ilsaas from partner agency Dekode wrote in his article The WordPress Enterprise Paradox: “What if we did business the same way we’ve built WordPress? What if we leverage our biggest asset, which is not WordPress the tool. It’s WordPress, the community, the culture, the openness, and the inclusiveness.”
Being able to learn from leaders in the enterprise WordPress community, our customers and partners knew they would soak up more about leveraging our platform than they ever could virtually. More importantly—and possibly one of the most crucial elements to any event—they knew they’d get the opportunity to speak to other WordPress VIP users and discuss ideas and strategies in a non-sales-y setting. Something that is so much easier when you’re face-to-face.
The importance of this event format from the brand that people know and love was clear, but still left the looming question: Can we get the same value for those attending virtually?
Back to a tried-and-true format
Since our excited audience wanted to be back in person, we decided to focus on the IRL experience.
We hosted five flash talks by expert partners and customers (recorded and featured on our Youtube channel), and facilitated a lively networking session. We also gave everyone who attended a gift bag!
More importantly, people enjoyed the content, the company, and the conversation. As the event was coming to a close, you could hear people asking ‘When’s the next one?” This enthusiasm was proven by a stellar 63% attendance rate.
My main takeaway from this event, which is informing the entire event strategy for 2022, was that the wheel did not need to be re-invented. There was no need to pivot to a completely different event strategy (like we did at the beginning of 2020).
While you do have to adjust your events (I recommend investing in a production company for high-quality video recordings), your audience wants nothing more than to have normalcy back in their lives and to be catered to. We are now back to an era where business and community are being built on a relationship-first basis. Not a cold call or an email.
WordPress VIP was able to revive an event that offered a valuable experience to the enterprise WordPress community, through thought leadership and face-to-face conversation.
We can’t wait to host BigWP London next year!