A WooCommerce Journey to WooSesh with Brian Richards and Patrick Rauland

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When you chat with two Woo builders who have been in the space for sometime, the journey is filled with twists and turn. Throw in 2020, virtual events and you get a conversation that delves even more into the opportunities, as builders, sellers and event coordinators, that are thrown your way.

A Chat with Brian and Patrick

In episode 71, Jonathan and I chat with Brian and Patrick about:

  • How Brian started with WordPress: building a Photoshop tutorial site and then moving into WooCommerce
  • How Patrick’s love of coding and PHP led him to WordPress and on to WooCommerce
  • Why meetups were a pivotal moment in Patrick’s introduction to WordPress
  • What challenges 2020 has brought to both of them, as well as opportunities in WordPress and eCommerce
  • Brian’s experience with virtual events and how that has played out in today’s world
  • The challenges of virtual events, specifically around networking and sponsorships
  • Why topical events are key to the strategy of virtual events
  • What you can expect from the virtual online conference WooSesh this year

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The Conversation

Yes, this is the transcript. But not in the traditional sense, transcribed word for word. We do not speak as we write. Often the flow of transcribed content is hard to follow. So I have taken it a few steps further by seriously editing, at times, the conversation and even using my editorial freedom to clarify some points. So enjoy.

Bob: Hey everybody, BobWP here, and we are back with Do the Woo episode 71.

Jonathan: Whoa.

Bob: Yeah. Hey, Jonathan.

Jonathan: Hey Bob.

Bob: How you doing?

Jonathan: I'm doing much better now, I appreciate the accommodating a reschedule. I had a fun Labor Day weekend but pulled my back a little bit. And got to go to a chiropractor yesterday, feeling much better. And it was worth it.

Bob: So if Jonathan says anything weird, we know he's on meds.

Jonathan: I'm not. Maybe I should be.

Bob: All righty. Well, we have a couple great guests, they're pros in their space and they've been around for a while, but before we dive into that, quick shout out to our sponsor, WooCommerce.com. 4.5 just came out earlier this week and hope you're on that. Minor update, a bit of a change with the onboarding that you will notice.

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And GoWP.com for that maintenance. You need somebody in there taking care of your client sites. They have a great white label service and their support staff, everybody at GoWP, is awesome. So do check them out.

Well, we have Brian Richards and Patrick Rauland with us today. They've both been on my shows before. they've been around forever, it seems like I've known these two forever. How are you both doing? Hey, Brian. How you doing?

Brian: I'm doing swell. Thanks for inviting me today. I'm excited to be here.

Bob: Cool, and Patrick?

Patrick: I'm doing pretty good. So Jonathan, you had a good Labor Day. We had sun it was beautiful, it was 90 degrees. And now it's snowing.

Jonathan: What?

Bob: Oh, no.

Patrick: 2020 is just the year that keeps giving. So I was at the pool on Monday and it snowed last night. So, I'm doing great.

Brian: That's ridiculous.

Patrick: It is.

Jonathan: Where are you, Patrick?

Patrick: I'm in Denver.

Jonathan: Wow, snow.

Patrick: Yeah.

Bob: I heard that was coming so I was wondering if you were going to mention that. I was kind of hoping you would. Wow.

Jonathan: Wow. We had a crazy windstorm pick up, when we went river rafting. Sunday we were river rafting, but the wind was already starting to get fairly strong that the waves were going upstream, so it was a fairly unproductive river rafting, but then Monday, it just picked into a proper wind storm. No snow, though. That takes the cake. Seems a little early for snow.

Brian: But 90 degrees to snowing. That's a 60 degree swing, man.

Patrick: It is. It is.

Jonathan: That's a little extreme.

Patrick: I mean, 2020's just so crazy, and so anytime I can just do a regular, nice podcast with Bob, it's nice. It's calming.

Jonathan: Well, it's not over yet.

Bob: Yeah, really. Hopefully we can bring relief into your life.

Well, how I start this out, always, and with both of you, there's no loss for words to this question I'll start with Brian. Hey, Brian. How do you Do the Woo?

How Brian does the Woo

Brian: A few different ways. For my own site, WPSessions.com, I have subscription-based membership. I'm running my own store there with both subscriptions and memberships turned on and a bunch of custom stuff happening for what I need.

I also have historically helped lots of different clients get their sites up and running. That was always a joy to say, "Oh, yeah. By the way, you could have an eCommerce store. You're selling this stuff? Let's take that online." And to see all of the ideas expand from their mind from there has been a joy. Then one of the things that I do together with Patrick is run WooSesh to teach all kinds of store builders all around the world how they can do more incredible things with WooCommerce.

Bob: Excellent, and I know that, Patrick, for a long time you have seriously Done the Woo. So how do you Do the Woo these days?

How Patrick does the Woo

Patrick: So, I've done lots of stuff in the past, worked for WooCommerce. I've built lots of client sites. I have two new things this year, Bob. I run my own store. So if you go to LaidBack.games, I sell a cute little game called Fry Thief. It's just a personal project that I ran for a couple years, and it's fun to sell stuff on your own site, and also, Bob, I talk about WooCommerce all the time and it's really good to have learned experience. So I'm enjoying that, and I also work at Nexus now. We're a hosting company. We do awesome hosting, including a managed WooCommerce product.

So I'm looking at it more on the speed side now, Bob. I get to learn how to optimize WooCommerce, which is something I just didn't focus on a lot before. So, it's fun to get into the optimization side of it.

Bob: Yeah. So we got some serious Woo-ness here today. This is overflowing, majorly. You both have the journey. We don't want to take the whole show talking about that, but I'd love to hear, in a nutshell, how you got into WordPress and then where did Woo come in along the way? Why don't we start with Brian.

Brians journey to WordPress and WooCommerce

Brian: Yes. So I first started using WordPress when I was in college. I had a roommate who loved WordPress. He was a blogger, and I was looking for something to use for a project. He's like, "Well, you should use WordPress for this." I'm like, "Yeah, but this isn't a blog. I'm building a site with a bunch of content that's categorized and grouped." At that same time, I started to realize that all of these sites that I was frequenting were all WordPress under the hood, courtesy of them saying "Powered by WordPress" in their footer. I'm like, "Oh. Hang on. So it's not just for straight-up blogs. Let me take a more serious look at this.”

WordPress 2.3 and a Photoshop tutorial site

So, I would say, it must've been 2007 was my first year. WordPress 2.3 had just dropped, and so tags had been merged into Core out of a plug-in, and it was an exciting time to figure things out. I used it for myself for a couple of projects. One of my first sites was a Photoshop tutorial site called PhotoshopKid.com. It was very short-lived, but it was a lot of fun. I designed a custom theme, and the layout looked exactly like Photoshop, and the layers pallet in Photoshop was the site menu in this WordPress theme that I designed. It was a lot of fun.

So you'd basically click on the layer in the panel and that was whatever page you wanted to see, and the visibility icon would travel so you could see which page was active, and then I took it a step further. There was this fantastic JavaScript library called Scriptaculous that let you do lots of very fancy animations for writing zero custom code. I made it so that you could rearrange the layout just like you would drag the different panels in Photoshop around, and you could have your own unique experience while you're browsing the site. It was a lot of fun.

Then I used it for a bunch of clients, and now, I teach people how to do incredible things with it on WPSessions. I bring other people in to teach that, and that was born from my agency life and recognizing that i had all these blind spots from being a self-directed learner in web development, and that triggered the realization that everybody has blind spots because we're all self-directed because the web is so new and changing all the time, but none of us have the same blind spots.

WooCommerce extensibility

For the last seven years, I've been learning about learning and helping other people learn the things that I know and other experts know in WordPress, and I picked up WooCommerce right at the beginning, right before V1 even dropped. This is going to be really amazing because it was an extensions-based design, so you have this tight core that's like, "All right. Here's how eCommerce happens. Oh, you need to sell with these payment gateways? No problem. Add those extensions. Oh, you're doing subscriptions? No problem. We've got an extension for that."

I love the extensibility because it was just like WordPress in that regard, and so I picked it up for myself, but also for clients, like I said, and it's just been a lot of fun and experimentation the entire way.

Patrick started his journey with custom PHP

Bob: Patrick, how about yourself?

Patrick: I don't want to give you the whole story because we're going to be here a while, but I'll give you the starting point because I think that's the most important part. I used to do custom PHP development of websites. We had a lot of custom jobs. It was my first job out of college, and it was great. It was fun. It was good, but I got tired of building login pages. There's just certain functionality that doesn't need to be custom. Logging in to your website, you don't need to reinvent the wheel every time. I'm copying and pasting code from previous projects, and that's how I got into WordPress.I don't want to build login pages anymore, and then we had more and more clients who just had regular pages, and they wanted a blog, and you're like, "Oh! This is way easier.”

WooCommerce came along

So I started from the custom PHP side, and then I got into WordPress, and then I found a WordPress meetup group, and I think that meetup group was pivotal for me because it turned me from a person who's using WordPress and just cramming it in. And then I'm learning about Backup Buddy, and then I learned about eCommerce and WooCommerce, and I learned about all these things. I learned about Backup Buddy about a month before my first site was ever hacked. The benefit of this WordPress meetup group was just good timing, and then they recommended WooCommerce for eCommerce.

It was my first eCommerce experience. No, that's not true. It was my first eCommerce project from scratch. I had maintained other people's eCommerce projects, but I hadn't built one myself from the ground up, and I loved it. I loved it so much. Brian, you already said it, but just like the extensions model is a great way to do it where you have the core package and you add on all the features you want. Beautiful.

Brian: Yeah. I forgot to mention, as you just said, the not having to do the same thing over and over again was huge to be able to just say, "All right. Well, here's WordPress core and the six or seven plug-ins that basically I need for every site that I'm building for my clients." The other catalyst was I wanted to give my clients some the ability to update their own site, or at the very least, make it easier for me to update their site versus just static HTML and CSS like I had been writing for all of the years prior to that.

A meetup group for WordPress was pivotal for Patrick

Jonathan: Patrick, your experience feels a little atypical. For some developers, it's counter-intuitive where it's like, "Well, that's where you get paid to reinvent the wheel over and over again." Right? Or do something entirely custom. It's cool to hear. And the meetup group, what was it about it? Was it just the people themselves? Is there anything that stood out to you in those initial experiences that helped you buy in?

Patrick: Sure. I'll answer this in two parts. The first thing is, I love building custom functionality. That's how I got started, just writing PHP and MySQL code to do whatever crazy stuff a client wants. I love that, and if I can spend less time building a login page, I can spend more time doing the cool custom coding stuff. So I think that's the way I looked at it. This client can afford 30 hours of my time. I'll spend two hours setting up WordPress and making that beautiful and 28 hours doing custom coding stuff.

So I think that was the angle, that was the frame I used. The meetup group was--I think the best way to phrase it is, there's an expression here I'm not remembering, but it was an opportunity that was just sitting there. Someone had started a meetup group in a town just south of where I lived, and there was like a hundred members in it, but they had never had their first meeting. It was like a hundred people want to meet about this, and I convinced my boss to say, "Hey, I will learn more from this meetup group than by doing an hour of Googling." I will just learn by osmosis by hanging out with people. So that meetup group was great. I became the defacto leader.

Someone started it, a hundred people had joined, no one had set up the first meeting/ I set the first meeting at a coffee shop. Also, this is cheating. I'm a morning person. It was definitely a morning meetup, having coffee. I was having biscuits and things, whatever, and it was great. I don't know. Does that answer the question?

Jonathan: Yeah. Well, it's interesting. So had you done meetups before that?

Patrick: No. There was a local web meetup. That was everything. So there's like a Drupal person, WordPress people, Magenta people. That was everything. So it was really nice to have a WordPress specific meetup group.

Jonathan: Nice. Nice. That's very cool.

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Now lets head back to the show.

So, you mentioned 2020. 2020 is on all of our minds in different ways, shapes and forms, and for some we would rather it not be on our minds right now. As I've looked at it, it feels like it's just really been an accelerator of existing trends. We've seen this really strong in the world of eCommerce. I'm curious for the two of you, like you have a unique vantage point where you've been in this ecosystem for a long time with WordPress and Woo, and you're both in this. Brian, you have the events focus. Patrick, you work and you're doing day in and day out.

I'm curious of the challenges and opportunities that are standing out most to you within this world of eCommerce. Patrick, I'll start with you.

Challenges and opportunities for eCommerce in 2020

Patrick: Oh, that's a good question. Let me start with the lockdown, quarantine, mid-March--we saw a ton of people sign up. So it's kind of cool that people face this adversity and say, "Hey, you're stuck inside at home. You can't go to work unless you have a work from home job,"

And actually we had a ton of people sign up and want to create either a WordPress or WooCommerce site. That gives me a little bit of hope that people are doing cool things when they're locked down, and I want to help those people so much. We worked on a better onboarding email sequence just to make sure they have all the links they need.

I think this is a reminder that you want to have some control over finances and nurture your own little side business. I had someone message me on Facebook yesterday, and they said--I also make courses for LinkedIn Learning--and they said, "Patrick, I found your course on LinkedIn Learning.

This pandemic has made me realize how important it is to have some sort of financial independence, and I want to thank you so much." And then there was other stuff we chatted about after that, but I love WooCommerce as a vehicle for people to take agency over their life and their finances and have it be a little side hustle in addition to your main job, or have it be your full time thing if it grows that big.

That's what I really like about it and I hope more people can do. I hope more people are creative and sell tutoring, like selling guitar lessons. There's so many things you can do remotely. The last thing I want to say, this is unrelated to WooCommerce, but I've been playing some board games online, and normally I love playing them in person, but don't normally play them online, and there have been these online leagues that have just been forming because of the quarantine. I think there's space for people to make online communities now like there hasn't been before. These board games that I've been playing online, there are giant discord servers where people are just getting on together and playing games, and I think there's still opportunity for you to create your own community and maybe monetize it some way, sell a product or help people out that are playing games or doing whatever they're doing online.

Jonathan: Just want to touch on that for a moment, and then go to you, Brian. I started my Woo meetup here locally in March of this year, and then a few days later sent out the announcement that all the meetups are now switched to virtual. It was an interesting time because the first meeting was physical, and then thereafter, it's been a weekly, and it's been happening virtually. It's been really interesting. The one thing, on the positive side, I've been blown away. The Woo meetups are overall doing really well. They're growing and people have, I think, primed by, like you said, this sense of, "Okay. We need to take some more agency. We need to do things."

There's a lot of interest. One of the unique opportunities that's come about with everything being virtual is people visiting lots of different meetups, and jumping in here, jumping in there. They're traveling to London, they're traveling to India, all from the convenience of their homes. That's been great. I think it's interesting to also think about, as much as I don't like to, some of the challenges and downsides because all of this can be--and I'll bring that back to the opportunity. I love that you brought up the board games. We, as humans, need connection, and the internet can provide us these opportunities. It's not the same. It doesn't have to be, and it's not necessarily better or worse, depending on how you go about it.

I agree entirely. There's a lot of opportunity right now in the community building space where people can connect who wouldn't otherwise. I think and want to believe that once we're back to being able to meet, those who have made those connections now are going to be that much stronger for it on the other side.

Patrick: Yeah. I love all that, and you just reminded me of something about the pandemic. This is a time where people are changing habits, and I'm including myself here where I felt stuck inside. I live in a downtown apartment, so I don't have a big backyard or anything, and so at the end of my workday, now, I take an hour, sometimes and hour and 15 minute walk, and it's just like my, "The work day is done. I'm going on a walk." I listen to podcasts. I walk the dog, and I've been doing it now for like four months.

Jonathan: That's amazing.

Patrick: Probably when this pandemic is done, that habit is still probably going to stay. So I wonder what other habits people are forming where if you can get people to use your product in their habits, you're going to be good to go. That'll be a good business opportunity.

Jonathan: Brian, so you're in the event space. What's the impact? What are the challenges and opportunities that you've seen with this switch to so much happening online?

A veteran virtual event coordinator in 2020

Brian: It's been wild. Quickly, in my local community, it's been wonderful to see all of the local businesses embrace eCommerce, particularly restaurants where it has been historically difficult for them to say, "Oh, yeah. We're going to offer delivery." To now say, "Wow. We can get food from any of the restaurants nearby to our house." It's been really nice. For events, it's been a wild roller coaster. I was originally going to run four virtual conferences this year, just mine. WordSesh split into three regional events for WordPress developers, and then WooSesh, which is still coming in October for store builders, like I mentioned early on.

That was going to be it, and then the world started to shut down in February, was shut down in March, and all of the physical events were now done, and I had so many people reach out like, "Brian, you've done this before. How could we do this? Could you run our event? Could you teach how to run an event?" I didn't realize until that point that I had been spending the past seven years preparing for this moment, and so I have already run 11 conferences this year, and I still have two more in front of me. It's been intense.

Virtual events are not a facsimile for real life conferences

I really feel for everyone who is used to running physical events because virtual events are not an accurate facsimile of what it's like to have a physical conference. They are completely different things, and this is very easily illustrated in just the single point of the hallway track that most conferences have where you serendipitously run into someone whom you might not have otherwise seen and you have, perhaps, I life altering conversation. I've had many of those at different conferences where a few chance conversations completely altered the course of my business for a given year, and had a tremendous improvement. You can't really do those in a virtual event, and to try and do them is very difficult because they're just built in to physical events.

One, at a physical event, someone comes at the beginning of the day. They're probably going to stay for the entire day, regardless of what's happening in the programming, regardless of what kind of emails they get because, "Well, no. I'm here." And at a digital event, that's not the case. They might show up for a session in the morning and then split, or they'll come in the afternoon, and they'll tune in and out. You're not necessarily going to have their entire attention, and that's okay. I've thought about that as I've been designing my events as I need to design them so that it's easier for people to come and go as they need to throughout the day. We've made talks shorter. We've made the entire programming shorter.

For WooSesh, we decided we're aiming for a five hour long day, which still seems like a lot to sit in Zoom, but that's also inclusive of a 15 minute break every hour, so you can completely disengage, and it's basically two talks that you can watch in an hour. I don't know how we'll be able to do this with the actual programming when we're done, but we sort of put similar topics together. So if you're only interested in one topic, you can watch those two in bouts, but you can't still get the real community feel of a physical event because there are so many different opportunities for these individual conversations to happen.

Like I mentioned, in the hallways, you're moving from one session to another, at a meal, afterwards, beforehand, and it's very easy as a participant to walk into a conversation, see what it's about and be like, "Uh, actually, this one's not for me," and then walk to the next one, see what that's about and be like, "Aha! This is it." That's really hard to do virtually outside of having an actual, virtual 3D meeting space where people are moving around, which has been experimented with at lots of conferences, and I thought about that for a little while. That's a layer that I don't really want to add to my events for this year.

It's been bananas seeing practically every event go online or just get canceled.

Topical based conversations, the solution for virtual events

Jonathan: Brian, with how much you've learned about how much works and how much doesn't, where do you see the opportunities in that event space? We in the WordPress ecosystem are dramatically effected by this. Meetups is a big part of this. What's some of the opportunity that you see that maybe isn't being capitalized on yet?

Brian: My current leaning is that topical-based conversations are going to work much better than, like what I've been doing with WordSesh, which has always been most easily related to a digital WordCamp where it's like come and learn about a variety of things for WordPress development, instead, perhaps, focusing on something specific. One of the events I helped with early this year was Block Talk for talking about the Block Editor in WordPress. So every talk was related to that. That was very interesting.

I think narrowing the focus more and having events that are, say, a couple hours long, that's not a huge burden on someone's calendar. They could say, "Well, I could make it to, say, a 90-minute event and really dig in and learn on this thing." It's probably going to be both better for the organizers because it's much easier to organize an experience around, say, a 90-minute schedule and better for the attendees because they could say, "All right. This is exactly what I'm here for. This is what I need. I'm for sure going to make time to come to this thing."

The other thing that I've been thinking about in terms of conferences, and this is broader and even applies to physical events is catering the talks either towards a micro-tutorial, like here's one thing that I'm going to teach you how to do and you're going to do it really well, or a case study where it's like, here is a problem I encountered, these are the reasons that it was a problem, these are the solutions that I considered, this is what I tried and why it didn't work.

Here's what we ultimately did and why I think it was a success because conferences aren't well suited for a deep dive into a topic, but a case study is really well suited for helping people see even if they've not encountered problems themselves, it'll help them to mitigate those, either, ideally, to prevent them from encountering or when they do experience a problem, be like, "Aha! I remember this person talked about this exact thing. They tried these things that didn't work. This solution that they did isn't exactly going to work for me, but at least I have now the right direction to head."

Bob: I've been in some of those networking online attempts. Yeah. It's hard to replicate those. It really is.

Brian: Yeah.

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And now, back to our conversation.

The challenges and opportunities for sponsors in the virtual event space

Bob: Do you see, with as many as you're doing, and I'm not sure how many are actually sponsored, these events. These sponsors that go to these events, both small and large, have thrived on that same thing that almost the hallways track runs on, that interaction, that conversation just comes out of the blue. Of course, taking it online, then, it really does throw a wrench in things. From your experience, is it the same for the sponsors? Okay, you got to realize this is an online event. This is just kind of how it rolls, and we can't get really, really, really too creative with that part of it, or are there opportunities?

Brian: I think there are opportunities. You're right. For people who aren't sponsors, the dilemma here is that sponsors have all of this budget that was set aside to sponsor and be present at events that are no longer happening, that may be happening virtually, and their return on that is way different.

Sponsoring an event is always a gamble because it's really hard to attribute your ROI from being even at a physical event. Let's say, we'll take WordCampUS., for example, where there's around 1500 people who attend. We'll say, maybe, 60% of those people will come by your booth. Maybe half of those will actually stop at your booth. Maybe half of those will actually have a conversation with you. Half of those, again, will actually give you their email address for some follow up stuff, and suddenly this 1500 person gives you 50-60 quality people to talk to about your product or service.

Really hard, but theoretically, those people become really good fans for you, or at least some of them do, but being there, having people see your name as one touch point of many is a really great opportunity because next time they come to think of they know that is what your business does, "Ah! I remember seeing them at this event. Yeah, they seemed pretty neat. I'm going to check them out." You can't track that as a sponsor. You can't say, "Oh, they signed up here because seven months ago they recognized our banner at an event." It's even harder to do at a virtual even where you might have tracking links and things like that where we're going to see if we can get a better feel for the ROI here because people won't remember or use the tracking link. They might just type in your name like, "Oh, I'm just going to Google WooCommerce.com."

So finding opportunities to interact with the attendees is difficult. As an organizer, I've made space for my sponsors during the main event. Each sponsor gets an opportunity to have their own session in the event, and I try to guide them to say, "don't just use this as a pitch. You can if you want. It's your 15 minutes, or whatever it is, to use how you see fit, but you are going to make many more fans by teaching them something and showing, perhaps demonstrating, our product is actually perfect for solving this kind of problem." Besides that, even that's not really enough. I don't exactly know of the solution because having a Zoom Room, for example, having a virtual booth isn't going to get you the same kind of traffic at a virtual event.

There needs to be some kind of component that is interesting and engaging to the attendee, like "Join us for a 15 minute consultation on how to speed up your website." For example. Each person signs up for their own slot. You get some personalized one-on-one time with each of them. They get something valuable out of it, like, "Oh, you should consider optimizing images like this. Try these other six strategies," and now they are theoretically, going to be a fan for life, and they're going to be talking about that, but it's really hard to do. It takes a lot of time to plan and such.

Patrick: Brian, you just sparked some ideas. At Nexcess, we've been trying to do something with events. We love sponsoring WordCamps, and now that they're all going online, that exploded our event strategy. So we tried a lot of stuff. We tried, I think, stump the eCommerce expert where they just ask me eCommerce questions, and they can get a $25 Amazon gift card if they win, and we got like two people. Then we tried other presentations.

We tried a bunch of stuff, and the thing that worked the most for us is Nexcess Nachos. We just cook food and chit chat. That's it. We just turned it into a cooking show, and we got like ten times as many people to our not-a-cooking-show-cooking-show, and they just wanted to hang out and chat.

I think maybe we need to realize that the role of sponsors has changed. I've helped people run WordCamps for many years, and people always come up and they're jazzed, and they're excited, and then they want product features. I think now our social energy is so low, you will get more people to your booth by having a social thing and casually mentioning your product once or twice.

Jonathan: I love that.

Patrick: Yeah!

Jonathan: It's interesting. There's so many interesting things here where this pandemic is also providing the opportunity to rethink things. Brian, you're talking about some of the challenges, the fuzziness of sponsorship at in-person events, right? On the one hand, there is just a difference there, but it's also shining a bit of a light on a symptom of that fuzziness. You could take this idea of a cooking show, for instance, and have done that in person, in theory. Right? Done some thing that's different, but there's something there about the service of the audience.

We were at WordCamp Europe, and I had to think through what are we going to do with Woo for this? It became apparent to me pretty quickly. Okay, this needs to be different. We can't just have a bunch of people showing up, and we had some advantages. There were a lot of inherent interest because of eCommerce. What we did was interesting, but what I heard from others is it was fairly common for sponsors to be like, if there's six, seven people in a Zoom Room, and then one person pops in, and it's like, whoa, okay. People would just bounce. They come into the room and just see six people in company t-shirts and it's quickly overwhelming. Whereas, what you could do in person is sort of casually walk up and you weren't the main focus.

I love the opportunity, here, to rethink and try creative things because what happens with this idea of the cooking show, is that you've sort of lowered the stakes, and it's kind of interesting. There's this relaxation element to it, and people are curious about it. There's a lot of opportunity, I think, to just try more things like that.

My experiment with WooCommerce Live over the past few months is like, this has got to be short, but people are like, "You got to make it longer." Like, "No, no. This has got to be short. It's got to be good. It's got to be tight." We need to think. I'd love to see us draw more from the world of sports and live streaming video games.

Think of it more of how do you create community around these shared experiences? When you go to a sporting event, you're there all day, and the game, at least in my experience, is a sub point. It's like the time you're having with friends. It's the food. It's the long waits. It's all these things around it.

When you're at home, you arguably have a better viewing experience than if you were in person. I think we need to take some of those same ideas and say the thing that you get in person needs to be really good. It probably needs to be a lot shorter, which you guys are already starting to recognize, and then we need to think about creative ways to bring community around that where you can have shared experiences of watching the game together.

That's great. I'm glad to hear that you guys are experimenting, and I hope to see a lot more people experimenting. Don't try to transfer this same thing. It won't work. We already see that. What can you creatively to provide value and put yourself top of mind for the folks you're trying to serve?

Bob: Yeah. I'm thinking if you transfer that back into the real life thing. You walk into a vendor space, "Wow, I smell nachos," type of thing. I'm just thinking through beyond whatever, but interesting stuff.

Well, why don't we hear a little about WooSesh, what you have planned going for that because I know that we're moving up on the time here and wanted to get a little bit more into that and what people can expect. I'll let either one of your start.

What to expect in WooSesh 2020

Patrick: Let me talk a little bit about what as you, an attendee, are going to see here and there. If you've been to a previous WooSesh, it's similar to previous years. It's going to be a two-day event. Day one is for everyone. If you use WooCommerce, you want to come to day one. We're going to have some awesome WooCommerce people, and then a bunch of people from Woo as well as a whole bunch of people who use WooCommerce talking, and you don't need any credentials. You don't need to be a developer, or a coder or anything for day one.

Day two is where we... Speaking of events, I like to make sure the event is deep enough for people who want to be experts. So day two is for people who have the ability to code. We're going to go a little bit deeper into some things. As an example, we have someone who's optimized 20 WooCommerce sites, Luke Cavanaugh. He's going tell us, what did he learn by optimizing 20 WooCommerce sites. Right? He's going to tell us, "Here's these things. Here's these things. Here's these things." And probably about half to three-quarters you could do without any code, but then just 10-25% of those things, you need to have a little bit of coding knowledge to understand to get the full advantage out of it.

That's the content. We have about, Brian, I think it's about five main talks every day, and we have a couple talks from some sponsors that f fill in some of the gaps, but we have basically five main talks. You're not going to be overwhelmed, we're hoping because we all got lots of stuff going on. Day one is for everyone. Day two is for coders. That's that very short and sweet version. I want to see what Brian builds on top of it.

Brian: I'm going to build all kinds of extensions from that because that's the way I operate. Yeah, that's exactly right. If you're building stores in any capacity, you're going to find something of value on day one. You may also find something on day two. Like Patrick said, we're not exclusively talking about code everyday. As I mentioned earlier, one of the realizations we've had over the years is general, broad coding talks don't work well at a conference, but specific tutorials and case studies work extremely well. We've angled ourselves towards those for this event, help people solve as many different problems as they can based on the content that we have.

We are very mindful of, as I said, having breaks every hour so that you're not just plugged in for five straight hours, and we've been talking about, but haven't landed on any specific things to help people get excited at the start of the event and at the end of the event each day so that it's more than just, "Hey. Come and learn these things." We want to have some community engagement. This is something we talked about earlier in the podcast, but of course, virtual engagement is a very different thing. So it's not going to be as easy as, "Hey. Come early, grab a cup of coffee, find some people who are talking about some things that are interesting to you." We're thinking through a digital analog of that, and I don't think I have anything else to add about the programming. You did a pretty tight job of describing that, Patrick.

I should mention, the website is WooSesh.com. The event is specifically happening on October 13 and 14 here in 2020, and it is completely free. You can sign up and attend, and it costs you nothing but time. Hopefully, you'll see a tremendous return on that investment of time, and if you cannot make it for the live event, it is being recorded, and it will be available on WPSessions. We'll share some of the recordings that will go up on the WooCommerce blog. We did that last year. So if you go to the WooCommerce blog now and search for WooSesh, you'll find a few of our learnings and recordings from past events. There's some pretty interesting stuff in those articles.

Bob: Excellent. All righty. Well, I'm glad you were able to throw in that website because that does help a lot as far as...

Brian: One tiny detail, where is this thing? When is it?

Jonathan: I presume it's built on WordPress, right?

Brian: You would presume correctly. In fact the entire registration experience is WooCommerce, but you wouldn't know that if you go to WooSesh.com/register. It just looks like a registration form, but that's actually the checkout page for WooCommerce. Automatically add a product to your cart, has a bunch of custom fields that are related to the event that we're running, and then the order confirmation page and order confirmation email are entirely custom, too. It doesn't look like WooCommerce at all, but it is!

Bob: Whoa. All righty. That's good to know. Now everybody can run there and just look at it. Hopefully, they'll remember to register while they're there, too. They won't get lost in looking at the actual build of the page.

Brian: Right. Too distracted by the uniqueness of it.

Bob: Yeah, really. Okay. Well, anyway. Great stuff. Would've loved to talk even more, especially around events. A lot of stuff going on, but we can do this again in the near future.

Got a lot of stuff going on here on the Do the Woo.

One quick shout out to the sponsor before we head out, WooCommerce.com. Again 4.5 came out. Check it out. Minor update, but hey, there's some stuff in there.

CheckoutWC. Speaking of their checkout page, that's what you can do with this is you can create a custom check out page.

Brian: It's a slick tool.

Bob: Yep. Do something a bit different with it.

And GoWP. Why spend all your time with your clients doing to the maintenance work. Do what you do best. Hire their team to take care of that part for your client's needs.

Well, I think that does it, and I think, Jonathan, I think I'll go ahead and have you close out here.

Jonathan: Awesome. So, connection's more important now than it's ever been. What are ways that people can connect with each of you personally to learn more about what you're doing, what you're working on? Patrick, let's start with you.

Patrick: So, let me answer this with... Man, I have so many things I want to promote. If you want to see where I'm just blogging, SpeakinginBytes.com is where I hang out, B-Y-T-E-S, like computer bytes. I also have LaidBack.games if you want to see my WooCommerce store. Yeah, those are the two I want to promote. That's what I've got going on.

Jonathan: I'll have to check out your Fry Thief game. That sounds awesome.

Patrick: Check it out. It's fun. It's delightful. It's not too hard to learn. Yeah. Thanks.

Jonathan: That's awesome.

Brian: Delightful is the perfect description of Fry Thief.

Jonathan: That's a good takeaway. That's what gaming should be. There's some that are a bit of a slog, but you also want delightful experiences. Brian, how about you? What are the ways people can connect with you personally?

Brian: Probably the easiest way is to find me on Twitter. My handle is Rzen, but it's spelled R-Z-E-N because I'm kind of illiterate, and from there you can find everything else. WPSessions.com is where all of the recordings go for all of the events that I host, and there's tons of exclusive sessions and courses there with really top notch presenters. Then, WooSesh, of course, what we were talking about here. WooSesh.com, W-O-O-S-E-S-H.com. That's coming up on October 13 and 14, free, fun, amazing.

Jonathan: Delightful, even.

Brian: Delightful, even, yes. You may be surprised and delighted if you come to WooSesh and you've never been there before.

Jonathan: Awesome. So that's a wrap. Bob, you have a lot of great things coming up. If you guys aren't already, go to BobWP.com and subscribe, scroll down and find the form to sign up. Bob's got a lot of great things coming up with the Do the Woo community, a lot of fun things to look forward to. Thank you both for joining us, and that's a wrap.

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81 episodes