Creating a Welcoming and Diverse Space Part 1
Do you run a WordPress event, but noticed only one type of person is attending? You’d love to have more diversity in your group, but folks are either not showing up – or they attend once and don’t come back. What can you do to foster, promote, and support diversity and an inclusive space? In this workshop, we’ll cover 5 topics: Shifting the way you think about diversity; how to attract and foster a diverse community; creating a welcoming environment, both in person and online; how to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to step up to be speakers and leaders; and how to be a better ally. You will walk away with an action list to start making changes right away. This is not just for organizers, but anyone who wants to champion this kind of environment, now or in the future! Bring an electronic device or computer: We will be working with a workbook PDF and there will be an opportunity to anonymously submit those questions you’ve always wanted to know but been afraid to ask.
So first, we’re just gonna say a couple words on what is diversity so that we’re all on the same page. At all tech events, and WordPress is no exception, diversity is an issue. Even if your event or community is already diverse, there’s always more that you can do. And what do we mean by diversity? If everyone who comes out to your event all look alike, or come from the same background, then your event is not diverse. It might seem impossible; people aren’t showing up so are there even diverse folks in your community? Or a person might attend once and not come back? What can you do to foster promote and support diversity and an inclusive space? Today, we’re going to answer that question with five topics: Mindset- shifting the way you think about diversity, community- how to attract and foster a diverse community, space- creating a welcoming environment, both in person and online, speakers- how to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to step up to be speakers, and even leaders, and allyship- how to become a better ally. After each section, we’re going to do some exercises so that you can start making changes in your community right away. And we’ll be doing these in our workbooks which you can get at tiny.cc/wpdiversityworkbook. And we realised that it can be hard to do these exercises in the quick timeframe that we’ll be giving you when English is not your first language so to help, we added a translate button in the workbook. And we know automated translations aren’t perfect, but it should be helpful. And secondly, we are using an anonymous tool today for questions. So as your questions come up throughout, please use Slido to ask them, even the ones that you are afraid to ask. We’ll answer as many as we can at the end of the session. So to do this, go to slido.com and use code #A033. And we’re going to have this, this is also in the workbook and it will be at the bottom of each slide if you forget later. Also, at the end, we’re going to ask you for some feedback on what we’ve done today and we’re particularly interested in feedback about the material itself more than things like delivery, as the community team are planning on using this material for self-guided training in the future. So let’s have our facilitators introduce ourselves. Allie?
Allie Nimmons 2:30
Hello. Hi. My name is Allie Nimmons. I probably know about half the people in the room right now so that’s awesome. I am a web designer, developer, support tech, content writer, social media person, all of the above. And I work at GiveWP where I provide tech support and community outreach.
Aurooba Ahmed 2:55
Hi, everyone. My name is Aurooba and I’m a web developer. Right now I’m writing a course on theme development and I’m super excited to be here with you all.
David Wolfpaw 3:11
I’m David. I’m a WordPress maintenance Support Specialist. I own a company called FixUpFox in Orlando. And I am very happy that I was invited to – sorry – to join everybody on this panel today, workshop.
Thanks, David. And my name is Jill Binder. And I’m the leader of the WordPress Diverse Speaker Training group in the WordPress Community team. And my work there is sponsored by Automattic. And I’m also taking that same training to more tech conferences and companies with my business diversein.tech. If you want to tweet about the workshop as we go, our hashtag is the one that we use for all diversity work in WordPress #WPDiversity. And these are our Twitter handles, which can also be found in your workbooks.
Allie Nimmons 4:00
Alright, so to start, we’re gonna do a [inaudible] thank you. We’re going to do a brief icebreaker just to get everybody’s creativity going and get everyone talking to each other. So we’re going to ask you to turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself. And we want to get four pieces of information from that person. We want to ask them what their preferred pronouns are. We want to ask them what their first WordCamp was, what their first concert was, and a nerdy passionate hobby. And the idea behind this is to get us talking to each other. Get us learning about the concept of you can have a lot in common with somebody that you’ve never met. You can have a lot of differences to somebody that you’ve never met but finding that common ground is where it is all about. So we’ll take a few minutes. And maybe if you can introduce yourself to someone that you don’t know, maybe you came with a friend, maybe find someone you haven’t spoken to before and try this out.
Aurooba Ahmed 5:00
Okay, so I’ve always been taught that before action comes intent. So to understand why we must or should do certain things, we first need to examine our intent and make sure that its sound. So at this workshop, our objective is to help you all create a more diverse and inclusive space in your communities, events, conferences, meetups, you know, anything that you might organise, or even if you’re having a dinner party at home. And you may already know why you want to do this or maybe you’re wondering why. So actually, I want to know, how many of you know why you want to create a more inclusive and diverse space? Okay, and how many of you are wondering or are like, okay, maybe, but I need to know more? Okay, good to know, no matter where you’re coming from, in order to create a diverse and more inclusive space, or even to understand why, you first have to get your mind right. Now, when I was in my first year in university, I… my program was computer science. One of the very first required classes I had had 500 people in it, and only, I think, four or five of them were women. So it made for a really weird and interesting experience to be in that class. The class was often really rowdy, really loud, people just talked over each other all the time and, you know, if you weren’t going to shout, you probably weren’t going to get heard or be listened to. All the men in the class were super buddy-buddy. And if you tried to talk to them, they would often.. I tried to talk someone and he just turned away, like, okay? By the end of the first month of school, there was only three women in the left… left in the class. And by the end of the semester, there was only two of us. Studies show that women drop out of computer science programs because they don’t feel welcome and they feel less qualified, not that they are less qualified. I stuck it out. However, it’s an interesting point that in my entire university career, I never made a single friend from my own computer science program. Everyone was from outside that program. So why should you care about diversity, inclusiveness? There’s a lot of reasons why, but I’m going to share the ones that I feel are the most important. A diverse set of people are more creative. They’re also more productive. And they’re way more interesting. And by virtue of being so diverse, they are also way more motivated. In fact, diversity, inclusiveness help people stay, invite others, and be far more engaged than groups that are not diverse. It makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. If you feel welcome, you don’t feel like the odd man, or person, out in a bad way. And people… and you feel safe, then you’re going to contribute more, you’re going to feel more encouraged, you’ll think more outside the box, you’ll talk to each other more. And it’s just a little bit more awesome. Just like that colourful mosaic is more interesting to look at than that other one, a variety of people in your group make for more interesting experiences for everyone.
So in order to cultivate a more welcoming space, or community, you need to rethink how you think, and approach that concept. So there are four key mindsets that form the acronym that I came up with, called A.L.S.O. So that can help you do that. A- acknowledge, L- Listen, S- Speak, and O- Be open-minded. So let’s go through that. You may already feel that your community or event is already fairly diverse. In Calgary, our WordCamp last year, or, well, this year had a 50-50 male to female ratio of speakers. Yet I know when I examined that situation closer, looked at other outcomes, and how the attendees were made up that we can be doing better. No matter where you are, you need to acknowledge that you can always be doing better. We are not at a place in this world where everything is perfect so just acknowledge that you can do better, and that there is some lack of diversity. That is the first step.
You have to be willing to listen and learn and understand different perspectives from those who are different from you. You may be used to doing things in a certain way but if you try something new or listen to your community, you might come up with a new way that is even better. Until we hear opposing, or even just different, views, we don’t fully comprehend our unconscious biases. Everyone has them but you can’t change what you do not know. Listening and learning about other perspectives can help you identify [inaudible] and dismantle your biases that you never realised you had. In elementary school, they talk about how you need to listen to each other, especially actively listen and that’s a skill that many of us are still developing. Sometimes we don’t even realise that, while we’re listening to someone, in our heads, we’re thinking about the next thing we want to be saying. So we need to pause and actually listen with full attention to the other person and what they might be saying.
S- speaking in an inclusive manner. So, if you say something like, “One perspective is,” instead of saying, “I think, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,” you are giving your opinion but you’re also creating a space for someone else to also share their opinion. So this is really important when someone is nervous, or they’re not usually used to speaking out. If you give them that verbal space, they might use it, and you can encourage them that way. The website, youguys.club has articles and research on gender neutral phrases you can use instead of things like “you guys,” and we’re going to be talking about that a little bit more throughout the workshop. And you can also pledge that you’ll try not to use the word “guys,” but it’s okay, if you slip up. I even slip up; we all slip up and then we remind each other or correct ourselves, and try to do better next time.
And last is open mindedness. Now something I know is you have to be open to other people’s opinions, thoughts, and ideas, and even beliefs. Being open does not mean you agree with someone else’s ideas or perspectives. It means you’re willing to accept that there are other ideas that are different from yours that are also valid, or can be valid. Other beliefs and ideas are legitimate and worthy of your respect so you need to remember that, especially when you come across someone who is so radically different from you. Something I know many organisers struggle with is when they come across community members with perspectives that run counter to the open minded ethos that you might be trying to develop. How do you remain open minded to that? Although I don’t have a firm solution for it, the best thing to do is to acknowledge their ideas with respect, and remind them that you welcome everyone, including them. Maybe you can think of experiences from your own events where someone like that was there. But I think David’s story will help illustrate this point a little bit better.
David Wolfpaw 13:03
So in our meetup, we’ve had individuals in our local meetup, people might know who I’m referring, who would come to all of our events be very loud and very boisterous. And this individual happened to wear a particular piece of headgear that’s become very popular over the past few years. Fill in the blanks. Now, this person was not someone who was attractive to me in a variety of ways, both the views that were espoused and also the way that he shared them with us but I think that that made me have a little bit less patience than I might have otherwise had with other attendees at our events. However, I try to be a little bit better listen to this person’s ideas and try to either incorporate them or gently let him down. For instance, one of our organizers of our meetup had her daughter at an event, at the same event that she was giving a presentation at. And it was understandable to me and to the other organizers that she would be bringing her daughter with her, because, you know, she had to be watching her while also putting the event on. At the end of the event, this individual came to me, not to this person or to her husband, who was also in attendance, and let me know that it was not the appropriate venue to bring your child and said to me in no uncertain terms that I should, that I should not allow people to do that in the future. Obviously, its not something that I really agree with, and I tried explaining to him, you know, why it was better for us that she still took her time and energy away from her personal life, to you know, share all of this information for free with us. I understand that creating an open environment means creating an environment where a lot of people can share different opinions. But honestly, sometimes there are opinions that I feel maybe are… I’m tried to find good ways toward this, you know, like we talked about that it doesn’t sound really bad. Some opinions maybe a little bit more valid than others, I’ll say. So, right, so my intent here is to create the best events for the most number of people as possible, allowing somebody to continue carrying on with their personal life, which directly affects the work that they do. Her ability to come and organize our event and give her time for free to speak means making those accommodations for her to be welcome.
Aurooba Ahmed 15:49
So what that sort of shows us, and we’re going to be exploring that a little bit in the next section as well, is that sometimes, because of how you foster your community, or the kind of mindset that you foster in your leadership and in the people that are you surround yourself with, some people will end up self-selecting outside of your community but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like David just said, you’re trying to create an event that is awesome for the most amount of people and some people are not necessarily a good fit for that and that’s okay. So, as we go through the rest of this workshop, remember, you need to acknowledge your lack of diversity, or the fact that you can always do better. You need to make sure that you’re always listening to different perspectives, actively listening. You should try your best to speak in an inclusive manner, which we’ll also cover. And you need to be open minded, because there’s more than one great way to do things. Okay, let’s move on to community with Allie.
Allie Nimmons 16:52
So let’s first start with creating that environment, right. We need to make sure that we are establishing the attitude that we want, first and foremost. We want to make sure that we are setting up instances where people can take part in their similar interests, right. And we want to make sure that people are leaving empowered to accomplish the goals that they want to empower. So let’s talk about WordCamps again. I’ve been to quite a few camps this year. These are not all of them but these are just examples. And I think that we do a great job, right, of making sure that our shared attitudes, interests and goals, for the most part, are reflected in every camp that we go to. There’s a consistency there that strengthens- I believe- strengthens the WordCamp and WordPress community as a whole. City to city, you still feel a part of that community. So fostering these communities, right? I believe that fostering these communities, which is sort of, I think of it as a nurturing right, as you go forward in time, you’re making sure that you’re maintaining the attitudes, interests and goals that you set forth. I think this happens most easily and most common at the leadership level. We want our leaders to live, speak, eat, breathe, exemplify the attitudes, interests, and goals that were set forth in that create phase of the process through every new decision that is made through words, as well as through actions.
So thinking about WordCamps, if we have decided that we want an environment of diversity and inclusiveness [inaudible]. Think about if everyone in this room had the exact same job, the exact same background, the exact same experiences. Would we gain anything from spending time together? Would we learn anything from each other? Would we be able to teach each other anything? Probably not. So when fostering these communities, if we want to foster a community that is diverse and inclusive, we have to make sure that we are promoting that while also maintaining those attitudes, interests and goals, right. So accepting people into the community that are different from us but using those three touchstones as a way to maintain that sense of community, if that makes sense. We want to make sure that we’re continuously highlighting and lifting these sorts of people up and that we’re going outside of the community to bring in those differences. So these are some organisations that in the coming months, I plan to reach out to as I do community outreach for WordCamp Miami. I just typed into Google, basically a lot of the interests that we have at WordCamps, right: code, technology, WordPress, web design, and so on. And I was able to find all of these diverse groups, right. We have women, have African American individuals, we have queer individuals on this list. And so the interests are here. I can tell that the people that belong to these organizations share a lot of the same interests, but I’m able to reach out and find a way to make that diverse and find different kinds of people.
So when all else is done, we need to make sure that we’re preserving the sense of community moving forward. That every year or every month, or however often your community meets, that it’s being preserved over time. So when we’re thinking about WordCamps, we want to make sure that, for example, if our attitude is welcoming, that that is reinforced on a consistent basis through speech and through action. There are things like code of conduct that help us to do that, right, to prevent the community from breaking down. It is okay to prune the tree. It is okay to ask unkind, toxic, inflexible people to leave, because that makes the community stronger. I do also believe that attitude is the most important part of this triangle. And that is because in the past few months of going to multiple camps and meeting multiple people, I’ve met a lot of people, some of whom are in this room that I don’t have a ton of shared interests with. Maybe we’re both into WordPress, but very different parts of WordPress. Maybe we don’t have the same goals. Maybe I’m here to learn, they’re here to teach, so on and so forth. But if our attitude toward WordPress and the industry and each other overlap, that’s somebody that I can spend time with. That’s somebody that I can respect and learn from. And so, when the attitudes are different, that’s where we start having problems. In the past, there have been communities that have broken down because even though maybe the interests and the goals were put at the top, the attitude wasn’t maintained. So, as an example, there was recently a conference that I will not name where the environment, particularly the speaker selection, was entirely too homogenous. There was absolutely no effort to foster an attitude of diversity, inclusiveness, welcoming, anything like that. And as soon as that was recognised, speakers withdrew, attendees cancelled the tickets that they bought, new ticket sales dried up, and that event was cancelled. Because, even though everyone still had the same interests, they still want to talk about the same stuff, they still have the same goals, it was extremely apparent that the attitudes of the leaders of that community weren’t in line with the attitudes of the people who wanted to attend.
So to sum up, when we are creating these environments, we have to first and foremost before anything else, establish what our overall overall attitude and values are. We have to determine what interests need to be highlighted and nurtured. And we have to decide what goals we want people empowered to accomplish when they leave. When we’re fostering our communities over time, we have to determine what attitudes our leaders need to be putting forth on a consistent basis. We have to make sure that we’re inviting people in who have different differences to us. And we have to make sure that we’re providing consistent resources for people in order to accomplish the goals that they have. And when we’re preserving our communities, first and foremost, we have to determine in writing, for everyone to see, how we are going to handle people who challenge the attitudes, interests, and goals that we have worked so hard to set up.
So we’re going to dive into our first exercise in the workbook. So if you have a computer, iPad, phone in front of you, the link again is tiny.cc/wpdiversityworkbook. It’s going to be right there at the bottom. And so I would challenge you for a moment to think about the community that you lead or contribute to back home if you’re not somebody that creates a community. What are your current attitudes, interests, and goals? I think that maybe as I’ve been talking, it probably sprang into your head. But really confront yourself with what that is to you.
So in the workbook, if you don’t have any right now, if you’re drawing a blank, or if you don’t feel like what came to mind was strong enough, what do you want them to be? In an intentional way, write that down. Write down what you want those attitudes, interests, and goals to become and identify, out of those, we’re going to give you guys time to do this, I promise. Identify to the ones that you want, which using could have the biggest impact? Which one would change your community for the better the most? And what are some things you can do to make that happen? Is that calling a meeting with the other leaders of your of your community? Is it research? Is it reaching out to attendees to ask what they need? What does that look like to you? So we’ll give about five minutes for you to brainstorm and jot that down and chat with your neighbors about what you think this is.
Another thing to consider about bringing out more kinds of folks in your community is to have more kinds of folks as speakers. Some people choose which events to go to based on if someone who looks like them is presenting. So we’re going to talk now about encouraging more people from diverse backgrounds to step up to be speakers and leaders. This is my specialty, something that I have a lot of experience now doing. It started in 2013 when it was my first time being one of the main co-organisers of WordCamp Vancouver. We only had seven out of 52 speaker applications from folks from underrepresented groups and then we only had 14% speakers. Folks in the audience were not happy about this and spoke to us privately, and even wrote blog posts about it publicly. The thing is, there’s a lot of reasons why this happens. And one of them is when we’d ask if folks would speak, they would answer with one of two things. They would say, “What would I talk about?” or “I’m not an expert in anything.” There’s this little phenomenon you might have heard of called imposter syndrome, where the opposite of imposter syndrome- well, not the opposite- is something that most people feel but when a member of an over represented group knows a little bit about about a topic, they’ll still feel like they can go ahead and give a talk about it. They’ve seen many faces like theirs up on stage before. But when somebody from an underrepresented group knows a little bit, they frequently feel like they don’t know enough to give a talk about it. They don’t see people who look like them presented as experts. And also many diverse folks set a much higher bar for expert knowledge than other people do. So when we asked folks and their imposter syndrome stopped them, I felt defeated. Then someone suggested I hold a brainstorming session and from there, I started leading the creation of a new workshop. It busts through imposter syndrome. It’s short, four hours, hands-on, and impactful. And in just one year, our WordCamp had three times the number of diverse speaker applicants, and then we had 50% diverse speakers. And that year, 2014, was also a Developer Edition. So that’s even an additional thing. For a couple of years now, I’ve been leading a team in WordPress that promotes and trains this workshop all around the world, called the Diverse Speaker Training group. And I’d love for you to run it in your WordPress community. And the link for that workshop is tiny.cc/WPdiversity.
So let’s say you don’t have a workshop coming up soon, and you are inviting somebody to speak. How do you invite people so that they feel welcome, valuable, and feel like they have something valuable to speak about? People respond best to direct invitations to apply. When you ask if they’d like to speak, you can leave it open-ended, or ask if they can apply to speak on a particular thing that you know that they’d be great at. If they give an answer like most of our folks did, if they say no, because they think they have nothing to speak about, here are some ways to navigate that conversation. Let’s say I was speaking with somebody named Sarah. I would first try sharing with Sarah that at WordPress events, the talks are starting to move to story-based format. They say “don’t teach a lesson, tell a story.” Many people forget the details of how-to talks, especially after a full conference day, but with stories they learn how to learn. And also everyone’s an expert in their own story. If she says she doesn’t have a story, I would ask her what WordPress topics she’s passionate about. And if she doesn’t have an answer, I’d ask what WordPress related things she’s learned about recently, or mistakes she’s made that would make for a great story. If she says she’s new to WordPress and hasn’t learned anything yet, I’d suggest that she takes notes as she starts to learn something so that she can tell a story about it later. And if she’s been in WordPress for a while, and if she still doesn’t answer, I can move the conversation forward by suggesting things that I know she could talk about. Maybe she’s just created a new theme, or she has a story about her journey about learning how to do something. And of course, it’s also great to invite Sarah to your Diverse Speaker Training workshop. It would help her see that she has many things that she could talk about, and will also cover many other obstacles that she may have to public speaking. And lastly, I would also post a list of suggested topics on the speaker application page, so that everyone has access to inspiration. It may not replace a speaker workshop or a direct invitation to apply, but it may reach more people that way.
In addition to inviting to speak and holding the workshop, there’s also some good practices that your group can apply. Consider speaker diversity in your speaker application process. It’s best if you can keep an eye on how many over represented versus diverse speakers that you have in your lineup. Try to aim for 50% or more speakers from an underrepresented group if you can. Some selection committees will still prefer to use blind review and if yours does, at a minimum, you should set clear guidelines for what you’re looking for in applications. Include diverse voices and organisers in the selection committee. This will help ensure everyone gets a fair shake, and folks don’t feel tokenized when invited to apply. Have more than one person in your speaker outreach team. More people looking means more diverse networks and thus a more diverse roster. And have more diversity in your group’s leadership.
Now let’s talk about making speakers feel equal and welcome. It’s terrible if they speak and then have a bad experience. The first time that they speak is the most important but also every single time counts. I know a story of a prestigious speaker who gives talks specifically on the topic of diversity. And she was very upset at her treatment at a non-WordPress conference. She sent in letters of complaints to their organisers. She had agreed to speak for free because she was told that she was gonna be a featured speaker at this huge and important conference. So she was expecting a large turnout and expecting to make a big difference. No one acknowledged that she was there. She didn’t get the swag that the other speakers had received. And her session wasn’t well promoted so no one came to it. And she’s now turned off from speaking at non-paid events. How do you make sure that speakers feel equal and welcome? I have a couple of lists today that are long and I don’t have time to read through them all. But we have a number of great ideas for how to do this, and you’ll be able to find more information about it in the workbook in one of the exercises. And just to summarise for now, it’s all about making sure that none of the little details of how you treat speakers get missed. One of them is a visual detail that I’ll just show you quickly now and that is openly share your community’s goals for making more diverse and inclusive events and celebrate your progress publicly. For example, WordCamp Miami posted these in their camp’s closing remarks and on Twitter. They have… they showed number of speakers, the ratio of male to female speakers, and the ratio of new speakers. And this is inspiring for the community to see them like this.
We’re gonna do a couple of exercises right now. If it would be helpful for your group, go out and go ahead and fill out the form for running the diverse speaker workshop tiny.cc/WPdiversity. And secondly, can you apply any speaker diversity good practices? See if you can answer one or more of the following in this time. How can you improve your speaker selection process for diversity? How can you invite more diverse folks to be on your speaker selection committee and/or as organisers of the event itself? And whom else can you invite to do speaker outreach who has access to different networks. And we’ll give you about five minutes to tackle this as well.
Now that we’ve talked about attracting and developing more a diverse speaker roster, let’s talk about how to make it a physically welcoming environment for your speakers, audience, and organisers. Some of these concepts will apply to only in-person spaces, and some will be both in-person as well as online. And I know most of the room was in-person. And there were a few online spaces here. I grew up in Ottawa where a public transit system was called OC Transpo. They had special, small accessibility buses called Para Transpo and these were terrible. They would rarely show up on time; sometimes they wouldn’t even show up at all. And so people had to book way in advance. And so they’d have to know what all their social engagements are way in advance. They’d have to know all their medical appointments, which often the medical appointments have times change on them. So they would go through all that trouble of booking the Para Transpo and then it wouldn’t even work out. And I just heard story after story from people about what a big pain it was. Also, it was segregating. It’s separated out people with different accessibility needs into different spaces. Comparing that to where I live in Vancouver now, they have accessibility accommodations built into public transit, so everyone’s together. If a bus is late, it’s late for everybody. It’s not so much an issue for only one segment of the population. And it creates an environment where everyone can do everything that they need to do in life. And also, people can get to know each other. Not that Vancouverites ever talk to each other. But they could if they wanted to
Making accommodations in regular spaces opens it up for everybody and makes life easier for everyone. Consider your community to be like a public transit bus. Making some simple changes to your environment means more people will feel welcome and will start to attend. We have a lot of examples of accessibility accommodations that you can implement in your communities, in-person and online. And we’re excited to share these with you. And again, we don’t have time to read them all. It’s a really long list but they’re in the workbook and we’ll be working with that list in an exercise in a moment. There are a couple things that I will mention now. One example is live captioners. The conferences live captioners are working so hard this whole conference and are captioning our workshop right now as you can see. Can I get a round of applause for them, please? And let me give you an example of another one of these items. It also shows how you don’t need to make a lot of changes. Even just one change will make a difference. Our WordPress Vancouver Meetup, for the longest time, was in a charming but very old building. The Meetup was up three flights of crooked stairs. That was not great for a lot of people. Even I, as a mostly able bodied person, but who does have some invisible chronic illness, I would not look forward to having to do those stairs. When we held our first diverse speakers workshop in 2014, we grabbed a space in the college across the street because that had elevators. We made sure to let everyone know in the event description what the accessibility accommodations of the building were. And did it make a difference? Yeah! We had folks in wheelchairs come out, we had folks with walkers who had never come out to our Meetups before attended that workshop. And after that, I asked if we could move all our Meetups to the space that had elevators. And we had much better attendance, the groups have been much less homogeneous, and those speakers out of the workshop have been able to actually access our space and give their talks. Even just one change can make a really big difference. In addition to making the space accessible, it also matters how you treat people when they come out to your events. I’d like to bring David up to the front to share another story.
David Wolfpaw 40:47
Sam, yeah, singling you out! In our Orlando Meetup, we do lecture meetups, but we also do meetups based around going out for coffee and doing a WordPress helpdesk. So we do those every month. And we’ve been doing that for several years now. When we first started that event, we would have people who would come to the event, not join up with our group, you know, simply sit at other parts of the cafe. And then they would go home and leave a comment on the Meetup page that said, “You know, I came here, I sat down, nobody came and helped me, nobody talked to me. And so I eventually left discouraged.” I’m embarrassed to say that that took two months of that happening before we made a change. So our venue that we use for coffee meetups is, you know, an open coffee shop, where some people are just coming to get work done, you know, as they might on a normal day. So I couldn’t guarantee everyone was there for our meetup. But I made a few changes in hosting those meetups that helped eliminate entirely the people, you know, saying that no one came up and help them. First thing is we got a large banner printed, which you can kind of see a little bit back there that we put near where we sat. That gave us a few benefits. One, it made it very clear where we were so people can find us. We were also able to put some information on there, such as all of our social media and our website, you know, useful information that we could just say snap a picture that they could go with later. We put signs on the tables where we’d be sitting so people would know again, where to find us. And from a personal… from a personal perspective, I just found that I got a lot more comfortable just walking up to people who were probably trying to get some work done at a coffee shop and going like, “Hey, are you here for the WordPress meetup?” And then having half of them looked at me confused and then the other half saying, “Yes, thank you. I’ve never been here before.” So it can be a little uncomfortable and daunting to do that. Just like coming up here and giving a talk, I found that it just… you have to put yourself in that situation and it’s not like, you know, anyone’s gonna get really mad anyway. This gave us a few other wins. One we had people who didn’t even know there was a WordPress meetup but were already interested in WordPress. You know, if they’re working on like a website in the morning at a coffee shop, chances are it’s probably with WordPress anyway, right? So we got new people to our meetup who didn’t even realise we’re meeting. We were also able to attract more people to come to the events because we had new people coming, who would invite new people to come along with them. Overall, I found that making the space more welcoming, just by signalling that we were there and by proactively approaching other people, and reaching out to them, made it a lot easier to make the space more welcoming, and to not have people… and not be worried that people were being excluded because they didn’t want to make the first move to approach us.
Here’s some things that you can do to make a welcome… to make it a welcoming environment that people are more likely to return to. When the person comes in, welcome them. Say hello. Tell them that you’re glad that they’re here. If the person is not speaking with anyone, introduce them to others. If they look uncomfortable, ask how they’re doing. When the person leaves, tell them that you hope they come out again. Also invite the person to bring friends. Consider having an icebreaker game at a start to make everyone feel welcome. Ensure that your talks events are welcoming if you can. Speaker slides include diverse images. Panels aren’t all those who belong to the major population of your area. Specific tracks like the contributor day are also diverse and have a diverse representation of speakers, etc. There’s a lot more. Have a code of conduct in place, post a link to it in every event description, and mention it in every events introduction. And the link to the example one for WordPress is https://make.wordpress.org/community/handbook/wordcamp-organizer/planning-details/code-of-conduct/. That’s in your workbooks. Be clear… that’s the thing I didn’t think through in advance about reading out loud. Be clear on what you’ll do if there’s a transgression in the code of conduct, like Allie talked about, and have more diversity in your leadership team. Besides making it a better team and better events, it’ll also help more people feel more welcome. So the exercises for this one, choose two of the accessibility accommodations in your workbook that you would like to implement. To and that that’s for number one. And number two is choose which items of the welcoming attendees and speakers templates in your workbook you will implement and of course you can change anything to work for your group. And also plan to share when you’ll… plan when you will share it with your organising team. We have again five minutes
I lead the Diverse Speaker Training group in the WordPress.org Community Team. We have a workshop that encourages more diverse folks to apply to speak at WordPress events.
I helped organize the first BuddyCamp and for three years co-organized WordCamp Vancouver. I was named one of the top 100 Influencers of WordPress in 2014 by Torque Magazine and one of the top 10 Women of WordPress by CloudWays.
Interests: content-first web development, PHP, JS, React, HTML, CSS
I care about friendly useable websites built with clean and elegant code. Always doing my best to keep learning and building my best.