WordCamps are back – and the community is split about attending.

The first US-based in-person WordCamp on the schedule is WordCamp Y’All (Birmingham, Alabama). As I write this there are only 86 tickets left to claim. This tells me that there are plenty of us ready to go back to in-person events…but still, that’s not all of us.

I ran a Twitter poll about this. And although not scientifically significant, it still gives me an idea of how some of the community is feeling when it comes to being back in person with our peers.

According to my poll, 71.4% of respondents aren’t ready to venture out to in-person camps yet. Interestingly, every person who commented on that poll was ready to travel, but wouldn’t be able to go to Alabama for other reasons (children, distance, visas, expenses).

What Keeps Us From Attending WordCamps?

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The usual culprits will always be present: finances, distance, time away from work and family, and even anxiety about crowds and imposter syndrome.

But this year is different.

A global pandemic changes everything. In addition to the issues that may have kept us from attending events in the past, we now have to take into consideration exposure to Coronavirus and it’s variants. In some cases, international travel is affected and may intervene in plans, but mostly where people are making personal decisions, it comes down to fear of the unknown: how are venues and organizing teams preparing for the safety of attendees, and what can attendees do to prepare themselves for travel and attendance?

I recently wrote a post about COVID preparation for WordCamp Europe, scheduled for June 2022. It included the following:

In preparation for WCEU, please be aware of the following:

  • We will continue to monitor the COVID situation in Portugal and the world, and, of course, make decisions based on the safety of our community and in accordance with local mandates.
  • Assuming we will host an in-person event, we will comply with all rules, regulations and laws regarding meeting in public places, including any restrictions concerning vaccination, mask-wearing, and other sanitation/security protocols.

Although this post doesn’t have specifics yet (it’s still too early to know what June 2022 will bring), it does remind us all that COVID is still real, still a threat, and still something to not only be aware of – but that will require clear protocols for attendance and safety.

In the title of this article, I promised you the GOOD, the BAD, and the FEARFUL. So here it is:

The Good

It’s good that WordCamps and other events are planning for in-person events. Whether you choose to attend, or not, this is a sign of hope for a safe future, and one that includes spending time together and not just seeing others through computer screens. It’s a sign that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. And it’s a sign that we can persevere and move forward together.

It’s also good that event planners and venues are taking protocols seriously. If a venue requires a mask, make sure you bring several, so that you can change out your mask daily. Although you can’t carry much hand sanitizer on a plane, you can pack it in your checked luggage or buy some at your destination, so be sure to have that on hand. If venues require vaccination, be prepared to be vaccinated and carry proof with you. And as always, respect others’ decisions not to hug or shake hands. Safety should come first.

The Bad

Things may never be as they once were. We have a new way of assessing where we go and how we behave now based on two years of being sick, losing loved ones, and precautions against both of those.

Some people may not be comfortable in attending live events for quite some time. Others will jump in with both feet to be there. Sadly, both may be judged by others for their decisions.

As people opt in or opt out, please be respectful of each others’ decisions. We have all been through a lot in two years. We’ve experienced personal losses. We’ve had to deal with emotions and mental struggles. We’ve made plans that have been canceled. We’ve celebrated milestones alone. Everyone’s decision for themselves is valid and deserves respect.

The Fearful

It’s normal to move forward in fear. It’s easy for organizers to say “trust us…we’ve planned for your safety.” But what does that even mean if they don’t spell it out?

Here is how to move forward to in-person events in spite of some fear (if and when you’re ready to).

  • As I said before, bring several masks with you – one for each day. For your own safety, and because you breathe through your mask daily, either clean your mask daily, or wear a new one each day.
  • Sanitize your hands frequently. Soap and water is best, when you can, but carry hand sanitizer with you for when you can’t wash with soap and water. If you do choose to shake hands with others, sanitize your hands afterward. If you touch door handles, stair railings, elevator buttons, etc., sanitize your hands immediately afterward.
  • If you are medically able to, get vaccinated. Carry your proof of vaccination to events with you in case that is required.
  • Ask questions. If your event doesn’t lay out their sanitation plans on their website, it’s within your right to question them as to their plans. Will masks be required? Will hand sanitizer be plentiful? Are their chairs spaced out from one another? Is vaccination required? Ask the questions that matter to you.

In Closing

Whether you choose to attend in-person events sooner or later or not at all, find ways to stay connected to others. Attend virtually when you can. Zoom with others. Text and call one another. 

And when you’re ready to venture out, we’ll see you there! (And I’m feeling pretty confident that there will be a LOT of hand sanitizer swag this year!)

Photo by Emerson Vieira on Unsplash

Written by Michelle Frechette

Director of Community Engagement for StellarWP at Liquid Web

In addition to her work at StellarWP, Michelle is the Podcast Barista at WPCoffeeTalk.com, cofounder of underrepresentedintech.com, creator of wpcareerpages.com, the president of the board for BigOrangeHeart.org, team member at PostStatus.com, author, business coach, and a frequent organizer and speaker at WordPress events. Michelle lives outside of Rochester, NY where she’s an avid nature photographer. You can find out more at her website WorksByMichelle.com.

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