WordCamp Europe Demographics and Selection Process

Some people have expressed interest in the overall demographics of the speakers at WordCamp Europe. Since all of the speakers are now confirmed it’s a great opportunity to share some of them with you. I’ve been coordinating the speaker submissions and selection process. I’ve also had a number of questions about the process which I’m happy to detail.

The Aim of WC Europe

When we started discussing WordCamp Europe, we had a number of aims in mind:
1. To showcase speakers from across Europe at a large-scale WordPress event
2. To bring in overseas speakers that people living in Europe would normally have to travel to the USA to see
3. To provide an environment for creating cross-European collaboration and collaboration with the wider international community.

These were all kept in mind while carrying out the speaker selection.

The Data

Let’s start with a basic table. Below are the demographics of submissions alongside the number of speakers. Note that this is based on where people currently live, as WordCamp Europe constitutes a local WordCamp for anyone living in Europe.

Country Submitted Speaking
Non European
South Africa 3 1
USA 25 6
Israel 1 1
Japan 1 1
Australia 2
Canada 1
Zambia 1
European
Italy 2 2
The Netherlands 14 4
Belarus 1 1
Bulgaria 3 1
Switzerland 1 1
UK 11 6
Luxembourg 1 1
Norway 3 2
Germany 6 3
Serbia 1 1
Spain 6 2
Portugal 1 1
Austria 2 1
Ukraine 1 1
Belgium 1
Denmark 1
Estonia 1
France 3
Ireland 1
94 36

The figures work out as follows:

  • European speakers: 75%
  • Non-European speakers: 25%

spread_speakers

The WordCamp central guidelines around speakers state that “If you aim for at least 80% local/regional and no more than 20% visiting, you’re doing great”. WCEU is pretty close to that, which we’re happy with.

We can also compare the number of people speaking to the number of those applied:

  • European submissions: 64%
  • Non-European submissions: 36%

spread_submissions_simplified

Europe had a 64% submission rate and 75% of speakers are from Europe. This means that there is a higher success rate among Europeans as opposed to non-Europeans. This isn’t surprising since we heavily weighted the decision-making process to Europeans.

We did get a lot of submissions from outside of Europe, particularly from the USA. We had 25 submitted from the USA, the next highest was 14 from the Netherlands! It’s great to see that people from all over the world are supportive of WordCamp Europe, and willing to pay the high travel costs required to fly in for the event.

Decision Process

The decision process worked as follows:

  • the team constituted 11 people from the following countries: UK, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, Italy
  • all members of the team voted anonymously, allocating a Yes, No, or Maybe
  • Points were allocated: 2 for yes, 1 for maybe, 0 for no
  • Points were tallied.
  • as a group we reviewed all of the applications. When two presentations were similar and the speakers of a similar quality, the European candidate was chosen.

Lots of talented people were turned down. It was a difficult process and there was lots of back and forth discussion to get it right.

In the end we’re confident that we’ve got a good balance of speakers, including demographics and topics.

I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments about process and overall demographics. However, it wouldn’t be fair to comment on individuals so please don’t single out speakers for discussion.

13 Comments

  1. Just out of curiosity, when the committee was submitting their votes on the speaker applicants, were they given the names and/or nationalities of the applicants, or just the abstracts of the proposed talks? I’m wondering how much of the selection process was (and this isn’t the exact word I’m looking for, but it’s close) influenced by the reputations and locations of the speakers versus the strength of the applications without that information.

    Get my meaning? Thanks.

    Reply

    1. The committee had all the information about the speakers. We didn’t just review the abstracts and talk titles as this only provides information about what people will talk about. It doesn’t give any indication of whether they’re an engaging speaker, or their capacity to produce slides.

      We also reviewed videos and slides from applicant’s previous presentations, which makes it difficult to preserve anonymity.

      Reply

  2. I’m noticing, with positive thoughts, that the sex (male/female) and other demographics weren’t considered in the process.

    Reply

    1. Gender was a consideration, though geographical spread was the priority. Out of 94 submissions, only 13 were female. 10 are speaking.

      I would have preferred if we had more female submissions but we were lucky that the ones we did get were of a high quality. I hope that next year we can get more submissions from women.

      Reply

  3. I don’t get it why we still think in nationalities. We are WordPress-Adicts. And that matters.

    Reply

    1. The WP “community” is quite US-centric, large history of WordCamps, many experienced and strong speakers as a result. If we picked purely on content and an individual’s WC history, there’d be more US speakers. Many of the EU countries have a young WP community, but there’s plenty of talent and new names. The fact that you see the nationalities above isn’t a reflection of trying to have a perfectly balanced list, but much more the result of an effort to enforce and promote opportunities for all.

      Reply

      1. I always wanted to hear & see, that “plenty of talent and new names” as you wrote, Noel! This was a great chance, not taken at all!

        Also, as Siobhan writes “Lots of talented people were turned down” — that’s just exactly my point: WHY?

        Are we no longer good at promoting new talents? Are we more and more going the safe old ways?

        I don’t like this safe-old (and also a bit higher-faster-bigger…) mentality that seems currently in place. We had the chance of avoiding any non-European speakers for OUR FIRST European WordCamp, just for the sake of initiating our community ourselves.

        I’ve NOTHING against ANY of the current speakers and whatsover. I am only upset that lots of newcomers and lots of other European communities/countries are missing. I had high hopes for so much more!!!

        Reply

        1. David – to respond to your points:

          – “lots of talented people were turned down” – the majority of these were from the USA because we wanted to have a strongly European WordCamp (which we have achieved)
          – “Are we no longer promoting new talents?” – we are very much supporting new talent. There are people speaking who have never spoken at a WordCamp. In fact, two attendees have never spoken at an event before. We’re mentoring them through the process, helping them with their presentation and slides, and holding a rehearsal for them before the event. So yes, promoting new talent is very important.
          – “We had the chance of avoiding any non-European speakers for OUR FIRST European WordCamp” – as I stated in the post, the aim of the event was not to have a purely European WordCamp, but to bring people from overseas who people from Europe would normally have to see high costs to see. It’s a common complaint that the big US WordCamps, WCSF, for example, are beyond the price range of many in Europe. Also, the USA is prohibitive for many people because of visa restrictions. We wanted to make up for that by bringing people in.
          – “I am only upset that lots of newcomers and lots of other European communities/countries are missing. ” There are countries not represented who we would have liked to have seen speaking. However, we could only go on the applications that we received. If there were no applications from a country or none were of a high enough standard then they aren’t represented. We can certainly do more work next year getting the WordCamp promoted in countries that aren’t represented this year.

          Reply

          1. Still not convinced.

            Another year waiting…

          2. Today a more detailed response to your points, now I have more time.

            – “because we wanted to have a strongly European WordCamp (which we have achieved)”:
            For me personally that point seems clearly not achieved.

            – “There are people speaking who have never spoken at a WordCamp. In fact, two attendees have never spoken at an event before.”:
            Wow, that really surprises me, especially those 2 that never spoke at an event before. And now they get an audience of 500 each…? Really?
            I’ve spoken before people and also large audiences half of my life, especially at party conferences, churches, non-profit organizations etc. I just have no recorded video of any of those (I am not in a position to complain about that fact). I know of at least one other community speaker who submitted for speech and was rejected, this member thinks also because of missing video… And then you rather choose speakers with obviously no experience… Nothing against those, maybe it will be awesome sessions?!? Yes, and I am all in for promoting new talents as I commented before but I remember your speaking submission page clearly stated that we should have some experience already. — But now I am really surprised to learn all that!

            – “the aim of the event was not to have a purely European WordCamp”:
            Isn’t that some discrepancy to your other statement (“a strongly European WordCamp”)?!?

            Also, as stated in another discussion thread on Google+ back from May of this year, some people were complaining about not receiving any emails if their submissions were received etc. — I am still one of those! I never received any email, if my submission was received and nothing if my submission was accepted/ rejected. The only email I ever received to date regarding “WordCamp Europe” was from PayPal/WordPress Foundation that my ticket payment was counted as a donation. That was all! — In the mentioned G+ thread some of your organizers promised to change that. Obviously not? I just don’t know. I came to know that my submission was rejected on August 7 when you published the full speaker list. That is over a full month after submissions were closed!
            This feels very unprofessional to me, especially compared to other events (including some from WordPress community…) where I spoke etc., and especially then when you planned and promote this WordCamp as “a large scale event”. Another time surprised.

        2. Not sure why you’re trying to discriminate? WC Europe is a location and a concept, not a wall on the border to stop speakers from coming in. Either way, I don’t think anything we say will make you happy, such is the plight of this dramatic community sometimes :(

          Reply

          1. - “not a wall on the border to stop speakers from coming in”:
            I’ve not written or intended something like that. In my opinion the most important thing is, to bring the European community more together. And for the first event – and only for the first one – I personally would have only taken speakers from Europe itself. Just to “initialize” the community and its first bigger event a bit better. Not what your thought was. I just should have been explain that better the first time…
            – “I don’t think anything we say will make you happy”:
            I guess you’re right with that. There’s a big level of frustration because of some things.

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