My WCEU 2024 story: First-time speaker, meeting awesome people, & more

My WCEU 2024 story: First-time speaker, meeting awesome people, & more

I just got back from the WordCamp Europe 2024 conference in Torino, Italy, in which I was a speaker for the first time ever.

Several people on X have asked me to publish a roundup of my experiences, particularly relating to being a first-time speaker. Keep reading to discover how I became a speaker, all the fun things I did before and during the conference, and how my presentation went.

How I became a speaker

I co-host the WP Product Talk podcast with Matt Cromwell, Amber Hinds and Zack Katz.

A few months before WCEU, Matt asked if I'd like to apply to do a talk with him about what we'd learned from doing the podcast. While I had never spoken in front of a large audience before, I felt like it might be an opportunity so I said yes without really thinking it through.

The speaker application process

We created a proposal for the talk and gave it the title "We spoke with over 50 different WordPress product owners. Here’s what we learned". The proposal included a detailed outline, which made it very clear that it would provide lots of actionable advice for WordPress product owners. We also added a note saying that: "Flagship WordCamps sometimes lack business-relevant topics, despite the fact that WordPress product owners are one of the largest segments of attendees and sponsors. This session is laser-targeted towards that segment and will help WCEU to fill the gap."

While we had tried to make the outline as effective as possible, after submitting it we heard that over 400 people had applied to speak and there was a very low chance of success. I forgot about it for a few months - and was therefore astonished to hear that our talk had been accepted 😲

And that is when I started thinking about whether I actually wanted to do a talk!

Planning the presentation

While I knew that I would be ok on stage and wouldn't freeze up from nerves or anything, my main worry was that I wouldn't seem natural. While I do a lot of podcasts, I'm sitting still and you can't see my hand gestures or body language. As a result, I was concerned that my body language and way of speaking would convey my discomfort and I would seem forced or robotic.

I watched a few YouTube videos about body language and hand gestures when giving presentations, and the advice seemed very forced. How can you plan and remember how you will act and move during an entire presentation??

In the end, I stopped planning that side of things. A few weeks before WCEU (yes we did leave it that late...) Matt and I wrote the full presentation and created the slides.

Once the script was ready, we recorded the first section of it and shared it with some colleagues for feedback on the overall format. Unfortunately that wasn't a great idea for my confidence because we had only just written the script and I hadn't made any effort to learn anything yet, so I was intentionally reading from it. Because of that, people fed back that I looked like I was reading a script and needed to speak more naturally. I already knew that I had to practice without a script, but it still wasn't nice to hear.

After that, I started practicing with bullet points only and became familiar with everything I needed to say without learning it word-for-word. I even posted a brief snippet on X and received lots of helpful feedback:

While watching back, I found that my gestures and body language were more natural than I expected. I instinctively did the same gestures that I had seen in the YouTube videos, so this isn't something that needs to be learned after all.

Fun before WordCamp

I like to arrive at WordCamps a few days early to catch up with people and explore the city. I was a bit worried about being on my own because Andy had decided to arrive on Thursday right before the conference, but as always there were plenty of WordPress people to hang around with.

The lost suitcase

After traveling to Torino on the Monday, I went to collect my suitcase from the luggage belt and it was nowhere to be seen. I had a rucksack with me, but it literally only contained my iPhone, wallet and MacBook Air 😱

I hadn't even needed to bring a big suitcase, but for some reason it was €200 cheaper than bringing a big hand luggage case. And now I was on my own in Torino with no spare clothes, chargers, toiletries, make-up, contact lenses...... nothing. Thanks for that, Vueling Airlines 😠

Luckily, WCEU took place in the old Fiat Lingotto factory which contains a large shopping mall and supermarket. This meant that it was easy to buy everything I needed, although that took a lot of time that I could have spent doing something more fun.

Replacing my Barn2 t-shirts was harder, but fortunately my colleague Sam's wife has one in my size, so I asked him to bring it for me.

After checking the status of my lost luggage claim for 3 days, I thought that my suitcase was probably lost forever. However, I received a phone call on Thursday saying that it had been found, and then another on Friday saying that it had been delivered to my hotel. (The Friday call actually came during my presentation while Sam was using my phone to take photos and I hadn't put it on silent - oops 😬)

An emotional reunion

This experience has taught me some things about traveling which I will use in future:

  • Only check in bags when you really have to.
  • When checking in bags, make sure you have one of each essential item in your hand luggage.
  • Put AirTags on your checked luggage (it's incredible how many people told me that AFTER I lost my bag, as I'd never heard of doing this before!).

Extramarital fun (apparently 🙄)

On Monday night, I met with Xaver Birsak from Mailster and Jamie Madden from Awesome Motive for dinner. That was fun, but unfortunately an interesting character on Twitter was offended by it and questioned my morals, which was hilarious 😂. They obviously know nothing about the WordPress community, in which women can comfortably meet up with men without worrying about people getting the wrong idea:

Shopping & dinner

I spent Tuesday shopping to replace my lost possessions, and then had a nice dinner with members of the Ellipsis team plus Rich Tabor from Automattic.

A mystery tour of Torino

On Wednesday, I met James Kemp from Woo for lunch and then we met up with Ajay D'Souza from WebberZone who we had got to know on X but never met in person.

James and Ajay

To explore the main historic sights of Torino, we did World City Tour's Turin Outdoor Escape Game. This involves installing an app which guides you around the main sights while you answer clues and puzzles, and read information about the various buildings etc. I like exploring cities in this way because as well as making the experience more fun, it makes sure you don't miss anything important and helps you learn more.

After that, we had dinner and then went to my hotel bar where we ran into members of the StellarWP team and some other people like Alex Panagis. We ended up going to a random Irish bar called The Dubliner with them 🍻

A not-so-great escape

Katie and Zack in lift
Even the lift was like an escape room (and just as scary)
On Thursday, I walked along the river with James Kemp and Zack Katz from GravityKit, who were the only members of my Mastermind group attending WCEU this year.

We had lunch at a nice vegan restaurant and then did an escape room in which we attempted to defuse a bomb in order to escape.

Strangely, the first part of the escape room involved being handcuffed together and then looking for the key. I have been getting closer to the members of my Mastermind group over the years, but had never anticipated being literally handcuffed to them 😂⛓️‍💥

Escape room

Unfortunately it wasn't the best escape room I have done. A lot of the clues didn't make much sense, and we did not successfully escape 😔

Barn2 team meal

Barn2 team meal WCEU

On Thursday night, Andy and I took our team members (plus honorary team member James Baldaccino from Ellipsis) out for a meal at a fancy restaurant. The food was excellent and it was good to get to know them all better.

The conference

WCEU 2024 family photo

After several days socializing and exploring Torino, it was probably time for an introvert break. But no, it was time for the conference to start!

This year, WCEU was attended by an incredible 2,584 people. That's not the biggest WordCamp ever, but it wasn't far off.

Barn2 didn't sponsor WCEU this year. That's because we sponsored WordCamp Asia instead and have decided to do one per year for the time being. However, we still managed to have a prominent presence at WCEU even without sponsoring. (More on that later.)

My talk

WCEU talk 2024

My presentation was at the end of the first day of WordCamp Europe 2024.

Organizational problems

The talk didn't get off to a great start because everything seemed to be very badly organized. This surprised me because I normally find WordCamps to be very professional. However, in this case there were several problems which let us down as speakers:

  • No gap between talksNormally there's a 15-minute break between talks, but for some reason Track 3 had scheduled the talks back-to-back. I know that's common for lightning talks, but ours was a full-length 45-minute presentation and we needed time to prepare (e.g. to decide where to stand on the stage). As a result, everything was very rushed and we weren't given water or anything even though I could see it to the side.
  • I was introduced at the wrong timeBecause of the lack of a gap between talks, we couldn't have our headset microphones fitted until after the previous talk finished. I was in the sound room at the back having mine fitted when I heard the MC introducing Matt and I - and I wasn't ready to go on stage! This created an awkward moment while Matt was on his own and I was nowhere to be seen 🤦‍♀️. I made a joke about it when I finally arrived and think it was clear that it wasn't my mistake, but it wasn't professional.
  • Audio problemsMatt had come up with a unique format for our presentation, in which we would play audio clips from previous guests of WP Product Talk before discussing the learning points from each one. We had communicated this very clearly to the organizers beforehand and they had assured us that they could play the audio no problem. Matt then double checked several times on the day. However - surprise surprise, the audio in the slides didn't auto play like it was supposed to. This meant that every time we reached a slide with an audio clip, we had to ask the sound engineers at the back to play it manually. For some reason they were very slow and it added a lot of delay. Every time, you could see them very slowly moving a cursor towards the center of the slide and eventually finding the play button and clicking it. It was quite painful to watch, but also funny. The first few audio tracks had a lot of echo and were difficult to hear, but fortunately the sound engineers managed to improve this.

But the talk was a success 💪

WCEU presentation
Despite the above problems, the talk was a success. Matt and I received lots of very positive feedback.

People said that we presented it well and provided lots of actionable advice. Several said that it was a nice change compared to a lot of WordCamp talks which are very high level, which I was pleased about because that was exactly what we had wanted to achieve.

I hope the talk has genuinely helped new and existing WordPress product owners to make their businesses more successful, which was the goal.

WCEU talk with audience
The room was packed and it was standing room only at the back!

My first time as a panelist

WordCamp Connect Panel
While I have been a panelist on various podcasts, I had never had the opportunity to do it in person before. I was flattered when the WCEU organizers asked me to sit on a panel discussion about the ROI of sponsoring WordCamps. They said it was because they liked my previous posts about the ROI of sponsoring WCEU and then WCAsia.

Being on a panel felt much more comfortable than being a speaker. I didn't have to do any preparation and fewer people were watching.

It was nice to see that several audience members participated and asked questions, which is a good way to know that people are interested. Overall, it was a good discussion and an interesting conversation.

Booths, interviews + many, many conversations

I spent the rest of WCEU as follows:

The Barn2 team at WCEU

Barn2 Team WCEU 2024

I really like the color of the Barn2 team t-shirts because they make us so easy to spot, even across a crowded room. This gives us a more prominent presence at WordCamps and helps people to find us.

Apart from organizing one team event, I tend to have a fairly relaxed approach to my team at WordCamps. While I did give them a short briefing document with some networking tips etc. (which I doubt anyone read!), unlike some companies they didn't have networking targets or anything like that.

However, I was pleased to see my team members being very active at WCEU and speaking with lots of people. Everyone did some effective networking, and Sam made 2 videos designed to spark engagement:

It also makes me really happy to see my team members voluntarily building relationships and spending time with one another. As a remote team, that's really important ❤️

Helping with the Do the Woo booth

Do the Woo booth

While there was no Barn2 booth, I am a co-host of Do the Woo's Woo BizChat podcast. This gave me the opportunity to help Bob with the Do the Woo booth, which was fun.


I did one pre-arranged interview and two spontaneous ones.

The pre-arranged one was with Nathan Wrigley from WP Builds for the WP Tavern podcast. He interviewed Matt and I about our talk.

I also did some ad hoc recordings for videos by Jamie Marsland from PootlePress and Mr Web.


I tried not to over-schedule myself during the conference days because I already knew how crazy they would be. However, I did have a couple of pre-arranged meetings about potential collaborations, and with one potential client.

The Hallway Track

And most importantly, I spent a LOT of time networking with people in the hallway track. This becomes a stranger experience for me every WordCamp I attend!

When I started attending WordCamps back in 2016, no one knew me. I soon learned that WordCamps were a welcoming environment where I could comfortably approach absolutely anyone and start a conversation. However, while I got used to doing that, it was quite draining to constantly approach new people.

In contrast, the more WordCamps I attend, the more people know me and approach me instead of the other way around. That's partly because I've been to so many WordCamps, and also because I'm known from places like X, podcasts and Barn2 livestreams.

Now if I walk around a WordCamp then within 30 seconds (or less) I will either find someone I already know, or someone will approach me and introduce themselves because they know me from X etc. It's like being a celebrity but on a very tiny scale 😎! I couldn't cope with it all the time, but it's quite fun for a couple of days at WordCamps before returning to my normal life where no one knows me.

Andy's news

Shortly before WCEU, my husband and Co-Founder Andy announced that he will be stepping down from his role of Technical Director at Barn2:

We had decided not to formally announce the news to customers because it's not very relevant to them, but that it would be of interest to the WordPress community. In the end, he only announced it on X where he's not very active, so we expected that a few people at WCEU might ask him about it but that it wouldn't be seen as big news.

Surprisingly, practically everyone we met at WCEU knew that Andy was leaving and either congratulated him, wished him luck or asked what he would be doing next. Several owners of major WordPress companies even said that they would like him to work for them! He's not sure of his next steps yet, but that's good to know.

Lots of parties

While I'm not a big party animal and prefer quiet parties where I can have a conversation, I do enjoy WordCamp parties.

For some reason, each WordCamp seems to have more parties than the last and it was a bit crazy this time! I think I signed up to 7 or 8 parties in total, and managed to attend 6 of them. It helped a lot that the ones on Friday night were all in the same building, right across from the venue, so I could move between them.

WCEU 2024 schedule
A packed schedule

The Freemius Makers Meetup is always my favorite because it's specifically for WordPress product owners like myself. They always choose good venues and provide good food and drink, too.

Freemius Makers Meetup Party
At the Freemius Makers Meetup

I also enjoyed parties organized by Gravity Forms, Elementor/NitroPack/Cloudways, WooCommerce, SiteGround, plus a Woo meal specifically for people who work with WooCommerce. I didn't make it to Yoast's Pride party because there were so many other parties on at the same time - and to be honest, while it's a good cause, I tend to find Pride parties a bit loud 👵

The WCEU after party was quite good and initially wasn't too loud (although it got loud later so we had to stand outside in the cold, just like last year). I was particularly excited to meet Syed Balkhi, CEO of Awesome Motive, for the first time. We had previously had one call years ago and exchanged a few messages more recently, but I was surprised that he knew who I was. I was even more surprised that he knew about Andy's plans and shook his hand and congratulated him.

After party
Why are the most successful people in WordPress so tall? I can't possibly compete...

And then it happened again...

2 days after being reunited with my long-list suitcase, Andy and I flew back to Mallorca via Barcelona. When we went to collect the infamous suitcase, it was nowhere to be found - AGAIN 🤬🤬🤬

Lost luggage 2

Fortunately, by now I was familiar with Vueling's process for tracing lost luggage and already had everything I needed at home. Apparently it will be delivered to my house tonight.

Will I speak at or sponsor future WordCamps?

As you've probably gathered, I had a fantastic time at WordCamp Europe 2024 in Torino. This was my 5th WordCamp Europe and my 8th flagship WordCamp, and I would say that this year's WCEU generated more buzz and excitement than any other WordCamp I have seen.

Would I speak at a WordCamp again?

Being a speaker and panelist was a new experience for me. It went better than I expected and I'm proud that I now have a new skill. But would I do it again?

My presentation with Matt was easier than many WordCamp talks for several reasons:

  • There were 2 of us, so I had someone to share the work with during the preparations, as well as having someone on stage with me which made it less scary.
  • The format of our presentation was very structured and the audio clips did some of the talking.
  • It was in the smallest of the 3 tracks.

These things made it much easier than having to talk alone on a huge stage for 45 minutes.

I think that the next step for me might be to apply to do a lightning talk at a WordCamp, and perhaps offer to be on more discussion panels. A lightning talk is only 10 minutes long, so that's less intimidating than doing a full-length talk on my own. Watch this space to see if it happens...!

To sponsor or not to sponsor

It was interesting to see how much I could raise the profile of Barn2 without sponsoring. This led to an interesting discussion on X about the future of WordCamps and whether it's worth being a sponsor. When I questioned this, several people expressed concerns that fewer companies would sponsor and the negative impact that this would have on the community. And they're absolutely right - WordCamps depend on sponsorships and wouldn't exist without them.

The decision on whether to sponsor should partly be based on giving back to the community that has given us so much. However, it also needs to be beneficial to the business because we are all on a budget.

Almost everyone agrees that sponsoring WordCamps doesn't bring a direct ROI that you can measure in terms of new sales and customers. Despite this, it is generally accepted that the long-term brand-building benefits are worthwhile.

James Giroux wrote an interesting article with some suggestions on how to calculate the ROI of WordCamps. For example, he suggested using a "cost-per-touch metric" to calculate value based on the number of people you communicate with.

There are lots of ways to increase the number of people you "touch" at a WordCamp:

  • Having a sponsor booth introduces many people to your company who you may not have met through general networking. For example, when we sponsored WCEU 2023, several agencies approached us and seemed genuinely interested in our plugins. Even though no one used the discount code we gave them at the event, they are probably more likely to use our plugins when they have a relevant project in future.
  • Speaking at WordCamp or being on a panel introduces you to everyone who attends or watches online.
  • Networking in the Hallway Track is an opportunity to meet many different people, especially if you're brave and approach people you don't know.
  • Pre-arranging meetings helps to make your networking more effective by ensuring that you meet relevant people such as potential customers/clients and partners. I have got lazy at this in the past few years and need to spend more time identifying people to request meetings with.
  • Visiting other companies' sponsor booths is a good way to build mutually beneficial relationships. The people running them are there to meet people and build partnerships, so it's easy to get the conversation started.
  • Sharing photos and updates on social media helps to generate a buzz online and raise awareness with people who are attending and those watching the event from afar.
  • Organising an event is an interesting alternative to sponsorship which Freemius have made good use of. Instead of sponsoring, they give back to the community and raise awareness by running parties aimed at their exact target audience.

Sponsoring is an excellent way to bring your brand to lots of people, but it's not the only way. There are also many ways to give back to the WordPress community - for example, WordCamps need speakers too. You can buy a "Micro-sponsor" ticket which reflects the true cost of attending, rather than the subsidised cost of a standard ticket. Some WordCamps also offer lower sponsorship tiers for people who want to contribute financially and raise their profile without having a booth. And just as importantly, you can volunteer to be an organizer and physically help to make the WordCamp a success.

I will reflect on this over the coming months and consider the different ways that Barn2 can both contribute to and benefit from future WordCamps.

In the meantime, I hope my reflections on WCEU 2024 were interesting and useful for you. See you at WordCamp US, or at WordCamp Europe 2025 which will be in Basel, Switzerland 👋


  1. Again this blog post is great. It's unfortunate that the group photo of all the attendees is embarrassing. The big W is hidden by one person. Is there a group photo where the hash tag is fully visible? I love how you highlight each one of our employees and there contributions. It shows you as a thoughtful and caring leader. Good job. I look forward to reading more,

    • Thank you for the feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed it and found it thoughtful. You're right, the hashtag should have been fully visible. We appreciate your understanding and will make sure to keep this in mind for future events. Highlighting Barn2 employees' contributions is something we value deeply. Thanks again!

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