Starting a conversation at a conference

I’ve been asked a few times how to start a conversation with people. It’s not easy or always natural or something you want to be in the mood for so I’ve compiled some stuff i share with people when i give talks. 

Make sure you eat well and stay hydrated!

Make sure we’re fuelled up and not hangry.If I’m hungry i’ll be in a bad mood, starting conversations with people only makes peopel dislike me. I can usually solve this with food and a cup of tea.

Assign yourself the Greeter role.

Toastmasters have this role called a Greeter at their meetups. When it’s a designated role that you are assigned, it helps me give myself permission to talk to other people.

The Greeter's role is to welcome everyone to the club meeting, particularly visitors and people who are new. Making everyone feel welcome at our club is important, as this may be the start of their journey.
Toastmaster’s definition of the  Greeter’s Role 


Tweet out you want to meet new people.

It might seem wierd, but many people attend events on their own and are looking to meet new people. Use the Hashtag of the event and tweet out that you want to meet new people and would love to talk to people about partiulcar topic.Include a picture of what you are wearing  so people know what you look like and can find you.

Start a conversation.

Starting a conversation isnt easy. Having conversation starter questions helps. Here is a bunch of questions I frequently ask:

  • Have you travelled far?
  • What kind do you do with WordPress?
  • What session are you planning?
  • Been to any interesting sessions?
  • What did you think of the topic?
  • How did you get started with WordPress?
  • Comment on the weather.

Engage Pac-Man rule

If you haven’t heard about the pac-man rule, then read more about it  on Eric’s blog post about it.The it tries to solve the problem of allowing new people to join conversations, by giving people explicit permission to join groups.

The rule is:

When standing as a group of people, always leave room for 1 person to join your group.

More memorably, stand like Pac-Man!

The new person, who has been given permission to join your group, will gather up the courage, and join you! Another important point, the group should now readjust to leave another space for a new person.

Leaving room for new people when standing in a group is a physical way to show an inclusive and welcoming environment. It reduces the feeling of there being cliques, and allows people to integrate themselves into the community.

Eric Holscher

Break the Clique

It is habit that we all hang out. we’re comfortable with each other as a company as its less effort for us overall. Eric also wrote a post called Break the Clique.

The Community++ Rule [1]

The rule is:

For every year you have attended the event, you should try to meet that many new people each day.

An example makes it clear:If you have attended this event for three years, you should try to meet three new people each day.

Consider this your encouragement to do the Community++ Rule.

Eric Holscher

People are just people

People don’t always want to talk about work, or tech, they are people afterall, so ask a random question to break the ice.

Set yourself a challenge to meet X number of new people and find out if they prefer cats or dogs, if they are Team Tea or Team Coffee.

You’ve got this.

You at some point already met a bunch of new people. We are continually doing this and the event you are going to will be no different.

You’ve got this.

Have a personal favourite? 

If you have any tips or tricks on how you start conversations with people, please share them. I would love to know how others cope with meeting new people. 

Framing the diversity problem as a inclusivity problem

In the tech industry, we often talk and complain about the lack of diversity in our communities and rightly so. We also understand that we need to improve diversity in our sector. 

Diversity –noun
– the condition or fact of being different or variedvariety
genetic/biological diversity
a wide diversity of opinion/ideas
– social studies Diversity is also the mixture of races and religions that make up a group of people.

Cambridge Dictionary

If we look at what diversity means, I’m not sure we can make a community of people more diverse. If we look at the word inclusive, we find ourselves with a word that is more in line with what we, or at least what I, want and with something actually actionable. 

Inclusive – adjective 
– ​including everything or all types of people : 
The governments want to reach a settlement that is as inclusive as possible.

Cambridge Dictionary

By reframing the problem, we have a chance to find a solution that gives us the outcome we want. By picking a different word to use, we enable ourselves to ask the question – how do we make an inclusive community?

If we were talking about inclusive code then we would know the answer.

Build an accessible community

The reframing allows us to have an actionable thing to do. The great thing is that by having something actionable, we are more likely to see the outcome we want – a more diverse community. 

One example of this is in regards of event tickets. If we say “we have X about of diversity tickets, we are saying we have tickets for people who are different. We remind the minority that they are different. Its not as if minorities need reminding of that fact.

When we choose to say “we have X about of inclusive tickets”, we are from the outset telling the reader that everyone is welcome to attend.

By switching the content to highlight inclusivity, people just might feel like they are welcome to become a part of industry and community. 

It’s going to be ok – thoughts on WordPress 5.0

Morning! 5.0 is set to launch today.

It’s the release of hard work across the community-vocal & non vocal. Thank you for that hard work regardless in what format.

It means we can stop debating when the release is which will at least curb my anxiety.

I hope it means we can move forward and ship other improvements that are not Gutenberg related.

An upside is that it means Gutenberg codebase will be less violatile, which means we know what we are getting.

Another upside is that this is not a security release which means it will not trigger WordPress’s auto update. Which means ( I don’t believe I’m saying this ) you don’t need to update to 5.0 straight away. Do it when you are ready and comfortable.😀

I suspect once the release is out, many people will be blogging and writing tutorials of how to do stuff as we learn together.

Let’s make a conscious effort to make our tutorial and blog code examples show off accessible code. You know we’re going to be copying it. 😜

I haven’t fully kept up to date with the progress of core, because i have faith in the team. They are not concerned so I’m not. The HM team will have 100 paper copies of our Gutenberg white paper at , find a HM team member for a copy.

This WordPress release is not where I would have liked to have seen it or what I would have hopedto have invluded, but my focus has been elsewhere and I wasn’t the release lead.

Once Gutenberg has been shipped and is out of the limelight, we can get back to shipping other things. E.g. the Site Health Check project, which means we can encourage everyone to understand and continually update their version up to 7.1 and above.

Also means all the privacy teams work can go back in and I heard the multisite team have a bunch of improvements too.

I’m really grateful we’ve all been vocal about our concerns and many of us are excited by the new editor but dissatisfied with some of the process around it. Whether that’s the accessibility, HTML markup, the moving target date, the communication, the long form experience etc. People will learn from it. I’ve seen improvements, and there’s room for more improvements.

I’m excited by and other projects people have spun from all this. I think choice is great ( as long as it’s an open source choice ) Our sites and our content is our digital memories and we need to own these things rather than giving ownership to others.Open source allows us to own our own content. And that’s what I care about. The choice of open source CMS is ours and I look forward to a more colourful future of choices!

🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻