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PressNomics Conference 2019 in Tucson Arizona

PressNomics 6 exceeded my expectations

In September 2019, I got the opportunity to attend PressNomics conference in Tucson, Arizona, because I won the Gravity View Diversity Grant. Although I didn’t know what to expect, it did exceed my expectations. But there’s room for improvement too.

What is PressNomics?

PressNomics is a business and WordPress focussed conference. In 2019, it was organised for the 6th time by Pagely Managed Hosting. Joshua and Sally Strebel and their team made a big effort to make sure everyone felt comfortable during the conference. Attendees from all over the world flew into Tucson, Arizona to attend PressNomics at Hacienda del Sol. 

One airbnb, 8 WordPress women?

For once I was the only Dutch person. After a 15 hour travel via Los Angeles, I arrived at the Airbnb I shared with 7 other women: Cathi Bosco, Tracy Apps, Angela Bowman, Tara Cleys, Eveline Powers, Michelle Schulp and  Chris Ford. This in particular brought a lot of added value to me, since it was my first time and it felt more comfortable to stay with them. We had good laughs, amazing meals, cozy coffees and shared both business and personal stuff. From the start, we were called the WordPress Women from the compound. We even launched the idea that we could do what remote companies do: see this as an annual retreat for us independent business women. Why not? 

PressNomics 6 – conference day 1: Why don’t you just walk away?

‘Why don’t you just walk away?’ asked Morten Rand Hendriksen’s therapist. The WordPress project apparently affected him in many ways. He clearly lost hope. When someone tells you to walk away, it usually sounds easier than it actually is. 

Morten Rand Hendriksen on Ethics in open source at PressNomics 2019
Morten Rand Hendriksen on Ethics in open source at PressNomics 2019

People who have been around the WordPress community for a few years, may know him as someone who recently launched the WordPress Governance Project with Rachel Cherry. 

It was a very powerful talk, and I am sure it left all attendees with enough stuff think about. Unfortunately, the talks at PressNomics are not recorded, but Morten is working on a written follow up that will definitely be worth reading.

Not all of the talks applied to me as a European attendee, or as someone who runs a small business. For instance the talk on choosing bootstrap over venture capitalists as funding for your company, was of no interest to me. I have no intentions of growing a company the size where this would apply. Therefore I don’t need much funding, as I’m not launching a product or idea, nor am I planning on becoming a large agency.

There was another talk on retirement and taxes. Which could have been interesting, if I lived in the US. Hence I ended up missing most of the talks.

What audience is PressNomics aiming at?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure. Is it for people working at enterprise level? People looking to sell or buy a company? Millionaires? Small business owners? US residents only?
Does it have to do anything with Gravity Forms or WooCommerce? (Since Gravity was a sponsor, this attracted a lot of add-on plugin developers for Gravity Forms. I wasn’t sure if I was a good fit with the rest of the audience (besides my compound ladies).

According to the PressNomics website, it’s “The conference for those that power the WordPress Economy“. I’m still not sure what that really means.

Upon arrival, it seemed like an incrowd to me. Even though I knew quite a few people, I didn’t feel very comfortable stepping towards certain people. And I’m very outgoing. Later I learned that the conference originally was invite only. Unfortunately, in a way, that’s still in the air.

Networking as a purpose: room for improvement.

What everyone kept telling me was, that the network you have available at the conference is what’s most important. This is where I see room for improvement. Although some of the talks were nice, I don’t see the added value as much. I’d rather have seen more network facilitating, to make it easier for new attendees to mingle with others, regardless of background or company size. Some ideas:

  • Hand out the ‘wrong’ badges and make people look for the person with their badge.
  • Attendee speed dating.
  • Attendee round table discussions around WordPress and various business topics, outcome to be discussed with others (and have people randomly assigned to groups/topics to mix and make it more diverse.
  • Include (a walking) lunch in the conference, and use this as an opportunity to let people network.

If you are attending PressNomics, it’s also good that you think about your own values and wishes. What am I bringing? What would I like to get out of this? See who’s on the attendee list. Is there anyone who you’d like to speak to? Pick their brain? Ask for advice? Thinking about this in advance, could help you get the most out of it.

Working on a more diverse audience

One of the topics raised in the Solutions Room at the end of day 2 was the small number of women attending the conference. Although there were some, the majority were men. Rebecca Gill offered her help on recording a vlog for the next edition, and tell other women why they should attend. There was a brief discussion on how the website could be improved to attract a more diverse group of people. I’m positive that the organisers had all good intentions here, so it’s not them to blame. But I do believe there’s work to do. Not only for the organisers, but also for some companies attending PressNomics.

The Gravity View Diversity Grant

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, the reason I got to attend the conference, was me winning the Gravity View Diversity Grant.

The Gravity View Diversity Grant was created in recognition of the extra challenges certain groups face in succeeding in technology fields. We believe in diversity and inclusivity in the WordPress community.

Zack Katz, owner of Gravity View, got so much out of attending PressNomics conference in 2015, that he wanted to share that experience with someone new. Besides covering the conference ticket, accommodation and travel, Zack also offered a business consultation that was of great value to me. It gave me a good idea on where to go next with my company.

The connections I make at PressNomics are the most valuable of my career. I want to share that opportunity with others.

Zack Katz

So if you have the same experience, why not be like Gravity View? Sponsor someone for the next edition!

Me and Zack Katz

What I learned from PressNomics

PressNomics is what you make of it. You definitely need to be able to present yourself and look for opportunities. LIn the end, the conference took an unexpected turn for me, so I did get some interesting leads and collaboration out of it. If I attend again, I will definitely prepare more.

What other people wrote about #PN6

If you want to see what other people wrote, I’ve collected some blog posts below. If you want your blog post included, please send me an email.
You can also take a look at #PN6 on Twitter.

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