Are WordCamps affordable for everyone?
WordCamps are one of the cheapest events in the IT world. But are they truly affordable?
Let me start this article with a short introduction for people outside the WordPress bubble. If you are a regular at WordCamps, you can skip it.
WordCamps are the official WordPress events organized under the umbrella of the WordPress Foundation. Volunteers organize them, and they have to follow this handbook. There are some unique rules regarding finances:
As I mentioned - all the organizers and speakers are volunteers
There is a maximum ticket price - right now, it's $25 per person per day
You can't buy a talk by being a sponsor
You'll always get global sponsors that help to finance your event
WordCamps are cheap for the attendees
This is absolutely true - WordCamps have one of the cheapest tickets from the attendees' perspective. Let's compare some events:
WordCamp Europe in Athens - 50 Euros
JSWorld in Amsterdam - 750 Euros
We Are Developers Congress - 550 Euros
The events don't differ much - big events with many speakers, workshops, etc. But the ticket cost difference is enormous.
It was quite a shock when I saw the difference for the first time.
But not for speakers and organizers
One of the reasons for those cheap tickets is that the speakers and organizers don't get any money in return for their work. This is unique in the conference market, where covering the costs of transportation and the hotel is something "normal."
This means that speakers, one of the event's magnets, must pay for almost everything (apart from the ticket).
As a result, if you want to talk at a WordCamp, you either have to be prepared to cover all the costs or work at a company that does it for you.
What are the consequences?
In theory, this approach isn't that bad. It makes WordCamps affordable for the masses. So, if travel and stay costs aren't too high, everyone can attend. The problem is that the prices of stay and transportation have skyrocketed lately.
Also, attracting speakers outside of the WP bubble is getting more difficult with this approach, mainly since they are used to some standard of covering costs.
It also limits the possibility of introducing speakers from different countries. Let me share an example - I'm still waiting for the response from WordCamp Netherlands if I will speak there or not. A few days ago, I did some math:
100 Euros for the flight to the Netherlands
additional 80 Euros for a train
200 Euros for the hotel
Being a speaker costs about 50% of the minimum pay in Poland. Quite a lot, right? Of course, I earn more than minimal pay, but still, it's a lot of money.
It's time for changes
We can still make an affordable big WordCamp that will cost 100 Euros. Is it twice as much as now? Yes, but still seven times cheaper than JS World. Raising the price will make the event organization easier. On the other hand, they could cover some costs for speakers and organizers - maybe let's cover up to 100 Euros for stay/travel/whatever.
It's also time for some alternative ideas. For example, ArmadaJS has something like this:
If your company would like to sponsor your travels and accommodation, we would like to list them on our website as friends-sponsors.
This is fair because companies behind many speakers and organizers are spending their money right now - I think it would be fair for them to get recognition.
The new, cheaper WordCamp format is also worth mentioning - you can read more about it here. I have some thoughts about it, but I would prefer to wait until a few events like this will happen.
And last but not least - more companies like Yoast or MasterWP should be trying to help people by removing financial barriers, especially if we would raise ticket prices. I would even say that WordCamps itself should help here.
Are WordCamps affordable for everyone?
WordCamps tickets are cheap, but this doesn't mean they are affordable. Attendees are in the best position - their "only" problems are related to transportation and stay. Also, they can always watch WordCamp online.
On the other hand, speakers need to spend time preparing their talk or workshop and cover all the costs apart from the ticket price.
Organizers have to spend most of their time to prepare the event. Organizing a WordCamp can be a nightmare if they don't have a considerate employee. So, even if you live in the same city as the event, you still have to spend many hours for many months.
This means that we have to help speakers and organizers more - it's because of them we want to visit those events.
At the same time, other conference organizers should look at how WordCamps work. WordCamps are organized not for commercial gains but with the community in mind - they are also a bit different. This means that we all can learn from each other - we can find the middle ground making all the events more affordable.
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