A Conversation about WordPress Event Sponsorships

Episode 54 May 20, 2022 00:25:08
A Conversation about WordPress Event Sponsorships
Underrepresented in Tech
A Conversation about WordPress Event Sponsorships

May 20 2022 | 00:25:08

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Show Notes

In this episode, Allie and Michelle discuss the challenges that come with sponsoring events in WordPress. How much of sponsorship decisions are emotional and how much is business-centric? 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:02 Welcome to the underrepresented in tech podcast, hosted by Michelle frache and Allie Newmans underrepresented in tech is a free database, but with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech overall. Speaker 2 00:00:18 Hi all. Speaker 1 00:00:19 Hi Michelle. How are you? Speaker 2 00:00:22 I'm good. How are Speaker 1 00:00:23 You? I'm great. It's awesome to talk to you. Speaker 2 00:00:27 It's always so good to talk to you for sure. Yeah. Well, this week we wanna just start with like a segment that we're just gonna start doing called good news. So what's the goodness. There's enough bad news in the world. Speaker 1 00:00:38 Oh, absolutely. Speaker 2 00:00:40 You know, let's just like share good news every week. So the, so the weird thing is usually we see each other, people Don know this, but usually we see each other we're recording video and we can't do that today because I'm not home on my good wifi, but the good news is I'm in Tennessee spending time with my two youngest brothers who are in high school and getting my dad's place ready to sell. Hopefully we'll sell that soon. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And the view where I'm sitting today right now is a beautiful Watts bar lake right out the back of the dad's home office. Um, like cuz his beautiful, beautiful trees, birds, lovely lawn, and a beautiful lake. And if that's that good news, I don't know what it's. Speaker 1 00:01:22 That sounds really amazing. You have to take a picture and we can, Speaker 2 00:01:25 I tweeted it. I tweeted it was it, I think Monday I tweeted it. So if anybody wants to see it, I could do that again though. Cause you know yeah. Speaker 1 00:01:32 REWE yeah, tweet it again and I'll share it from, uh, the underrepresented and tech account so people can see it when they go, when they're listening to this podcast, it'll be right there. Oh, Speaker 2 00:01:40 Perfect. Yeah, I'll do that. Speaker 1 00:01:42 Cool. Uh, so I have good news too. Um, tell me this, this week, recording this on Thursday. So on Monday I had my very first day as the digital producer for master WP, which is super exciting. I've been doing my own thing, freelancing contracting for the past year, um, like year and two months. And um, yeah, I got a really great offer and I was like, I think it's time to join a team again. So I'm the digital Speaker 2 00:02:12 Producer. Oh, I'm so excited. Speaker 1 00:02:14 Uh, and basically that means, thank you. I, uh, I'm gonna be in charge of helping out with their new podcast. They're gonna be releasing a podcast. Um, and they already do have some courses that they've released. And so I'm gonna help out with, um, getting those even more amazing than they already are and releasing plenty and plenty more con uh, or courses in the future with them. So, you know, if you're not already following master WP, you should go find them and follow them so that you can start seeing some of my work pop up there. Uh, cause I have a lot of really fun ideas and I'm really excited to show them with everyone. Speaker 2 00:02:49 I'm excited to see them over there. I am, you know, blessed to have you as a friend and know a lot of the really cool work that you do. And it's so exciting to see you doing things in different areas and getting some recognition and I'm just so happy for you. Congratulations. Thank Speaker 1 00:03:03 You. Thank you. Thank you. Um, I need Speaker 2 00:03:05 To get one of those podcast things where I can push buttons and like applause happens, you know, like that'll be, if anybody wants to sponsor that, just send it, ask me for my shipping address. Little sound. I'll make a sound word. I'll make sound effects happen. In the meantime, I just go like, Speaker 1 00:03:22 Well, I mean, I I'll, I'll insert in some applause in, in posts for this episode just for funsies. So we don't really do like sound effects and music and stuff, but I'll, I'll insert some of those just for fun. Um, and maybe, yeah, maybe if we do, if we do this as a regular segment, like good news at the beginning of the podcast, I'll, I'll pop in a applause for our good news every week. Speaker 2 00:03:41 Yay. I love it. Speaker 1 00:03:42 Yay. Cool. Um, so diving into actual for the day, um, I wanted to chat about sponsorships, sponsorships. Um, sponsorships are such a huge part of our little WordPress E economy in terms of, you know, being open source. A lot of our events are, uh, run by volunteers. Um, and while, you know, word, word camps do typically charge admission for tickets, um, they're usually kept very low on purpose so that people will find it more easy to attend, but then that means that those events have to rely on, uh, companies for sponsorships to be able to afford, you know, the location, food, uh, swag, all of that sort of stuff. Yeah. Um, and I think that there was some conversation recently about kind of the, the give and take of, you know, how much a sponsorship option for a company should be based on the size of the event or how many people will be there. Speaker 1 00:04:53 Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, which I totally understand from a business owner perspective, if you're gonna, if you're gonna put your money somewhere, you wanna kind of have an idea of how, um, how that's going to benefit you. Right? Cause if, if all companies just gave their money away for any reason that they felt like no company would ever grow or scale, everyone would <laugh> everyone's company would just collapse. Right. But it's an interesting kind of conundrum in our environment where I feel like while the, while that thought process is really important, there's also a thought process of like a lot of sponsorships and a lot of the money that flows through our, through our, through our little economy is, um, is based on moral and ethical decisions as well. Like mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it is morally, um, helpful, I guess I can't think of the exact right word to sponsor, you know, a meetup or a word camp because that plays into the long term benefit of community. Speaker 1 00:05:57 It helps people, right, right. Just point blank at the end of the day, it helps people. And that is a valuable thing to put your money toward, even if you don't have a return on that investment necessarily. Um, you're paying back into the, the lifeline of the software that your business might depend on. Um, yes. True. And so I, I think that particularly because, um, you know, recently there have been additional sponsorships that have kind of been, we we've started inventing this new sponsorship model of sponsoring people to go to events. Right. We have a bunch of comp companies, um, sponsoring individuals. Like I am one master WP is sponsoring my, uh, trip to word camp, uh, us at the end of the year. Um, and I just think it's really interesting how that has come about, but there is also still the necessity to look at like the business side of where your sponsorship or where your investment is going. So I wanted to know what you thought about all that. Speaker 2 00:07:01 Yeah. I think sponsorships are definitely one of those things that it, they never, I shouldn't say never, but they, they seldom feel fair if you will. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because like big companies could afford the top level sponsorships. Um, but that doesn't always mean that companies that are paying for lesser or lower level sponsorships, aren't also doing well. Right. So it's like, oh, they're only sponsoring bronze level. Is that company not doing well this year? Or have they just decided that instead of sponsoring the event overall at the gold level, they're gonna sponsor at the bronze level and pay some for more of their own employees to attend or pay, you know, sponsorship, sponsor other people in the community to be there. So I think there's interesting, interesting way that we look at it and to begin with, with, with the level sponsorship and somehow kind of maybe equating it to the success of a company or the market share of that company. Speaker 2 00:08:00 So I think that's one thing that we kind of have to keep in mind when we look at sponsorships, but I think you're right. I think there is, there are ways to think about it ethically and there are ways to think about it from, you know, an ROI perspective. Um, I was actually on the torque me, um, happy hour podcast last night with doc mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, doc popular. And <laugh> Chris Wigman who lost his internet very early on. So it was just a conversation between the two of us. And, you know, we talked a little bit about the five for the future and that, you know, we were talking about the decline, um, the decline of market share. That's been seen the very, very infinitesimal decline in market share that, um, that, uh, yo has talked about with WordPress. And one of the questions I had was if we were paying people and you and I have talked about this before, and we've ha had conversations, um, about open source and, and whether or not people should be paid, but if we're paying people to move those needles forward, would those new needles move forward faster? Speaker 2 00:09:01 And would we have more market share? Because we were making, um, headway in the development of WordPress in a faster way. And some of that comes down to that five to the future and who are, you know, who, what companies are paying employees to do that? How many people doing it, good, their heart. So, I mean, I think it's a bigger conversation than just like, oh, work camp, us costs this much and work can't Europe across that much. And look, you can sponsor work at McClair and you know, that kind thing, I think there's a lot that goes into it. And we think about overall sponsorship and the growth of the community. Speaker 1 00:09:32 Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I've never really worked, um, in a position or at a company where I was in the room as far as deciding like how much are we gonna sponsor? Uh, actually that's not true when I was at WP buffs and I, I was working there as a community manager. I did have some opportunity to decide about, you know, what we might sponsor and for how much and things like that. But it was very much like I could look at the options and I kind of had a budget and I could say, okay, this is what we're gonna do. And, you know, we'll do the most that we could possibly do while still, you know, not expanding our entire budget all at once. Um, mm-hmm <affirmative> and I, I did make those decisions on a fairly emotional basis right. Of like, yeah, I think this is a good event. I, I look into the people who are organizing it. I look into the work that they've done in the past. I look into, you know, how, how the event is being run. And if I think it is something, um, worthwhile to invest in and mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, that's how I would make my decisions. Have you been in positions where you kind of had to make that decision about determining a sponsorship? And if so, how did you, like, how are, how do you feel like those decisions are made a lot of the time? Speaker 2 00:10:50 So for me personally, I have sponsored a couple of word camps. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, from my own brands, usually, um, once as a photographer and once as, um, uh, a podcast podcaster for WP coffee talk, and both times they were local Meeta or not us local, um, word camps, mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I, I was part of the organizing team. So I knew what the needs were. I knew exactly where the money was and I knew how it was being spent. And that was something that kind of encouraged me to like contribute to the success of my own, um, event, if you will. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I think one of the things that we have in WordPress is that there really is, um, transparency in the way that word camps are run. Right? So if you wanna know the budget, you can ask what's the budget, what's this money being spent for, um, you know, reports are made afterwards after money is spent, so you can see how the money was spent and that it's not just people lining their pockets. There was a, there was a word camp in Toronto several years ago. Um, and all of a sudden like Joseph SEFA and, um, uh, who else was a couple of the, the higher ups in the WordPress community, um, were suddenly on the guest list and were there, because one of the organizers thought he could just charge more for things and split the profit between the organizers, what that is not, that is not how, where camp's work. Whoa. Speaker 1 00:12:16 And I have not heard about that. Speaker 2 00:12:20 Yeah. So I'll probably tell tales, but, um, yeah, I did hear about it and I do know it to be true and you know, that person is not part of the WordPress community anymore clearly. Um, but yeah, it was, uh, it's, it's those kinds of things, you know, because we work in transparency that it makes it very easy to spot when things are not working the way that they're supposed to. Yeah. And so I feel very confident that whatever, you know, the, the cost of the event, nobody is trying to make money. There's not, you know, if there's money left over from an event, cuz you do have the budget, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and sometimes you do end up with a little bit of surplus that all goes back into funding, future work camps. So, you know, work camp Rochester, it's hard to get the funding to get that thing up on, off the ground every year mm-hmm <affirmative>. Speaker 2 00:13:07 So we do rely heavily on, um, the global foundation to be able to, um, those, those well sponsorships, I'm sorry to be able to, um, have help that little tiny camp along, whereas some of the bigger camps, um, people want to sponsor those because there's more people attending. It's a bigger venue, more eyes on the website, et cetera. So yeah. I don't know what the right answer is. I just know that, uh, I think the transparency angle of it is definitely helpful. Yeah. And when people do question, like why does it cost so much to sponsor this event? You know, I think you can ask those questions because somebody's gonna answer you and tell you, this is the breakdown, the venue costs this much. Um, we're in a year of COVID, so there's extra precautions. That's gonna cause this much, you know, the food is costing this much. Speaker 2 00:13:49 This is, you know, we are not doing it in a, in a small city like Rochester, we're doing it in a big city like San Diego. Mm-hmm the cause of living is way more in San Diego than it is in Rochester, New York. So there's just so many things and, and you can't apples and oranges, you know, between Nashville and St. Louis and Philadelphia and San Diego, because they're just different cities and different times, you know, eight years ago, it's, it's a different word world in a different economy. Mm-hmm <affirmative> than it is in 2022. So Speaker 1 00:14:17 Yeah. Do you think that, cause I, I, I, I have this very idealistic feeling or view that, you know, the more meetups we're able to have, the more word camps we're able to have and you know, the, the more funding we're able to put into those events, uh, in terms of like, you know, having organizers on hand and having volunteers and having those events be really great, having them be marketed really well. I have this like pipeline idea of like the better we're able to make these events, the people we're able to bring into these events. And typically just by like statistics, the more underrepresented people, we're more likely to bring into these events. And I mean, these events are totally pipelines and funnels to the community at large. Right. Like, I, I can't mm. How many people I've met, who work in the WordPress space and have been introduced to WordPress or introduced to the, their job, uh, through these events. Um, yeah. Speaker 1 00:15:22 And it, I wonder, like, I wonder what, like the psychology is, or if there's like a, a, a wider concept around the theory of like charitable spending as a company for those sorts of long term goals. Right? Like, do you feel like, because we're an open source? Uh, like I, I feel like if, if we were an industry of restaurant tours, maybe <laugh>, this wouldn't be a conversation we're having. Right. But this is such a unique community that's based on openness and based off of, you know, volunteering and based off of the constant need to bring new people in and, and stuff like that. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, I don't really know where I'm, I'm just, I just think it's such an interesting concept. I don't even particularly have like a set question about it. It's just something, I'm something, something I'm interested in as I started seeing those new tweets, like, I wonder how much do you know what I mean? <laugh> Speaker 2 00:16:28 I do I'm, I'm good. I guess though, that most businesses are all about the ROI mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, I think that the businesses that we, that really want to see growth and want to see that to action are the ones that are already doing a lot, like, um, the fight for the future idea. Right. So like Yost has, you know, the, they they're all in on the five for the future web dev studios is all in on the five for the future. Um, they have specific days that people are just like, you know, once a month they work on, on the open source project. Um, and maybe they're, you know, maybe they're sponsoring events also, or they're not sponsoring events also because that's how they choose to participate. Yeah. Um, you know, and I think, I don't know, I, I it's, it's interesting to think about what that would look like from a charitable, uh, venture that doesn't include also kind of like an ROI on, you know, their marketing, for example, Speaker 1 00:17:21 Like, I, I would be really curious and I'm, I don't think this, this specific information exists. I don't think anyone has particularly collected it, but I would be really interested to see if there's any correlation between, you know, events that do get frequent, consistent, decent amounts of sponsorship and the number of people who attend and really enjoy those events and find them to be really useful. Um, I'm not sure what that looks like, but I mean, I, I know from experience, like my introduction into the WordPress community was word camp Miami. I went to word camp Miami, like three times before I had ever attended any other event and word camp. Miami is definitely one of the bigger ones as far as the U the us based word camps. Um, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I mean, I don't have any insight into how much they're funded, but in comparison, as far as all the ones I've been to comparing it toward camp Miami, it seems like where camp Miami gets a little bit more money or raises a little bit money. Speaker 1 00:18:21 I don't know. I don't know how that works. It just, there's just always seems so much bigger, so much. There's so much more to it than I've seen at any other camps. Um, yeah. And that, that might be an illusion, or that might be that I'm biased cuz that's like my hometown. Um, right. But I felt so, um, I've always felt so moved and inspired going to those events more so than any other state that I'd been to mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and yeah, it just makes me think like, is there a benefit, a direct line between, you know, the, the better that we could make these events, the more people we're gonna get to them and the more quality, um, you know, community members and, and developers and workers and employees and all those things that we're gonna get at the end of the day mm-hmm <affirmative> like, is that a viable way to look at a business investment? Um, Speaker 2 00:19:12 You know, I think that a lot of that has to do too with like, who are the speakers that they've selected, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. So tho there are those of us who, um, who are going for the hallway track and be, and are very honest about the fact that, you know, I, I will sit down on some talks. I'm not saying I don't ever sit in on talks, but I'm almost always talking to people in the hallway track. And I miss a lot of the actual sessions. There are a lot of people that go for the sessions and they want to see those names that they've like heard of. And, you know, like when Chris Lema was at every event and they wanted to go hear Chris speak and that kind of thing. And so I think there, there is some synergy sometimes between how much are we sponsor? Are we gonna sponsor based on, are, is there, are there names that are speaking that are also a draw? So I think there's a lot of layers in it is what I'm saying. Speaker 1 00:20:00 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I'm, I mean, we're just two people. Like we always put out a call in every episode for people to, to let us know what they think, but like, I really, really genuinely wanna hear from, you know, everyone about like how, if you make decisions about sponsorships, what goes into making that decision for you? Like, do you have metrics you look at like, what's the, so I think everyone looks a little bit at the, everyone looks at the ROI as well as the like charitable portion of it. Like this is giving back into the community. I'm really curious what that percentage is. Is it a 50 50? Is it a 60, 40? Is it a 90 10? Like, what does that mean for people? Um, and like, I'd love, I'd love to like, do a deeper dive too into like how sponsorships are structured as well. Speaker 1 00:20:51 Because I feel like, I wonder, you know, there are just like with any other company, like we're not special just like any other industry, um, yeah. Bigger, more successful. Richer companies tend to be led by white men. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and I wonder like, as far as the, the sponsorship levels that are currently being offered, right? Like you can pay into however much that that big sponsorship level is and get your company all kinds of attention and a booth in the, in the sponsor area and shout outs and commercials during the live streams and all of that kind of stuff. And you know, if I'm a small, well, I am, I am a small business owner. Um, mm-hmm, <affirmative> small black female queer business owner. I can't afford the kind of sponsorship that blue host might pay into. Right. But like, what should the minimum sponsorship be? So that companies, smaller companies that might be led by underrepresented people who are in this growth phase can actually like pay into participate. Yeah. Yeah. Participate, pay into an event and get something back that's worthwhile. Cause I've seen like, you know, oh, you can be a community sponsor and you can send in like $50 and you get nothing really. You get like, not really anything back mm-hmm, <affirmative>, Speaker 2 00:22:19 That's Goodwill at that point and nothing more. Speaker 1 00:22:21 Exactly. And I wonder like how, how can we use those sponsorships to help and build up the smaller companies in WordPress and the underrepresented companies in WordPress and give those people more of a leg up into being able to experience that growth and that exposure. Speaker 2 00:22:39 Yeah. No, I think you're right. Yeah. So if you're out there and you're a decision maker and you don't wanna be, you don't wanna, you don't wanna tweet us directly. You can DM us. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, in case you don't want your, your magic secret, your magic sauce, your secret sauce <laugh>, um, released to the whole world, but we'd be curious to hear from you about how you make sponsorship decisions. Speaker 1 00:23:00 Yeah, absolutely. I think it's a really interesting topic for conversation, especially as you know, we're heading back into in-person events again, right? Like we kind of had a break from thinking about this kind of stuff. Um, well there were lots of virtual events that people were sponsoring and whatnot, but the cost to sponsor an in-person event obviously is way more. Um, and so as we're ramping back up into that, um, and people are feeling that like, oh, last year we spent, you know, not a lot on sponsorships and this year it's looking like a lot more, like, I'd be really interested to hear how people are feeling about that and like, you know yeah. Where everyone's at with that. Cool. Well, thank you for joining me for this. Ramly like, not very, <laugh> Speaker 2 00:23:42 Just everyone say, why thank you for joining us. Speaker 1 00:23:44 Yeah. I get something in my brain that I'm like, I'm interested in this, but I don't exactly know the, like the right questions to ask. So thanks for yeah. Anyone who stuck with us through this whole thing. Thank you for, with us. Absolutely. We'll see you next week. We'll see you next week, everyone. Bye. Bye. This episode was sponsored by the following companies. WP wallet, WP wallet is a free, simple, intelligent tool that helps WordPress professionals effortlessly manage all of their license, keys and invoices for all sites and clients never forget a renewal, lose a license key or miss out on a reimbursement again. Join WP wallet for free today. Learn dash learn dash is taking cutting edge e-learning methodology and infusing it into WordPress more than just a plugin learn. Dash is trusted to power the learning programs for major universities, small to mid-size companies, startups, entrepreneurs, and bloggers worldwide. If you're interested in sponsoring an episode using our database, or just wanna say hi, go to underrepresented in tech.com. See you next week.

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