After a 10-year hiatus, WordCamp Houston will return in 2020. The event will run from May 9-10 at the Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake and expects 250-300 attendees. The team behind the Texas-based WordCamp is still in the process of putting the event together and is looking for volunteers, speakers, and sponsors.
With 10 years between events, local organizers had to rebuild their WordPress community. “After WordCamp 2010, the community seemed to have dismantled,” said Christina Hawkins, lead organizer for WordCamp Houston. “I can only guess that because it takes an active community and dedicated volunteers, that if any piece starts to have trouble, it becomes challenging to continue,” she speculated as to why the original event never continued.
Hawkins began the Sugar Land meetup, located south of Houston but a greater part of the Houston area. The overall area has several regular WordPress meetups. “John Peterson and a few others were instrumental in building the community again,” she said. “They were dedicated and made sure we had regular monthly meetings with quality speakers.” Currently, they have 12 wranglers who are working to make sure this year’s WordCamp runs smoothly.
Considering that Houston is the hometown of Matt Mullenweg, the co-creator of WordPress, it would seem like the city would be the ideal location for an annual WordPress event. He is not involved in the event or currently on the speaker roster, which is still open. Hawkins hopes that he can at least attend the event in an unofficial capacity. “I want to iron out any wrinkles first and present a flawless WordCamp for him,” she said. “We expect 2020 to be a WordCamp that knocks it out of the park, but I want to make sure we represent WordPress in the best light and formally invite him as a keynote next year.”
WordCamp Houston is currently accepting speaker applications. The process will remain open until February 29. Those who want to speak should submit a topic and plan for a session that lasts 30-40 minutes.
“Heather Baker is our Speaker Wrangler,” said Hawkins. “Since this is the first one in years, she has been actively training future speakers. We had an in-person workshop last fall and we are preparing a webinar series soon that will be broken up in chunks.”
Thus far, the event organizers have received 29 applications and are expecting more. They will evaluate applications from the first of March and let speakers know if their session is approved on March 15.
The team is still on the hunt for sponsors. “We have the national sponsors, which is very helpful, but we are in the process of getting the word out locally,” said Hawkins. “Most of Houston has never heard of WordCamp so it’s up to us to start knocking on doors. We have a long list of people and companies that we are reaching out to.”
Individuals or businesses who wish to sponsor the event can sign up via the sponsorship page. There are four tiers, ranging from $150 to $3,000, with various perks for each level.
The team chose the Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake venue for this year’s event. The location was ideal because it had a good room setup, which could allow them to expand in case they had an increase in attendance. They can also add an extra room if they need to add another speaker track.
“It’s also close to NASA which fits our overall theme of ‘Taking Off!’” said Hawkins.
The team initially had some trouble finding a venue that met their needs, budget, and location. “Houston is a vast city, and it is not very easy to manage so many people that live all over,” said Hawkins. “I am sure other cities like Atlanta, LA, and Chicago have the same problem with having a vast city that can extend to an hour drive in each direction.”