Last week I had the pleasure of returning to Baltimore for their annual WordCamp event. I have fond memories of my first time in the city in 2016 as it was where I met several of my WordPress community colleagues and friends, not to mention the after event fun at Medieval Times.

This year’s event was even better than my previous experience! Organizers did an amazing job of choosing high-quality content for the presentations, and each session was packed with actionable takeaways that attendees could start implementing right away. That sounds like the perfect marketing lead-in, but I also had the pleasure of speaking. I can only hope that I did my part in providing high-quality content too;)

The Event

You may be wondering about the title of this post. Not only is Baltimore the city where the Star-Spangled Banner was written, but it also happened to be Fleet Week. A United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard tradition in which active military ships recently deployed in overseas operations dock in a variety of major cities for one week.

Because the location of WordCamp Baltimore was on Pier 5 at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), it meant that we were surrounded by all sorts of activities and amazing views like the one below:

WordCamp Baltimore 2018

The Sessions

As I said above, I found the quality of the sessions to be excellent. They ranged from beginner to advanced seamlessly and there was something for everyone.

Getting Comfortable with the New WordPress Editor

Eileen Violini did an excellent job describing Gutenberg, the new editor coming to WordPress 5.0. As we’ve written about previously, this is going to be a big change to creating content and this session’s purpose was to prepare new (and existing) users for what to expect.

Building WordPress Themes with Advanced Custom Fields (ACF)

Tessa Kriesel is a well-known figure in the WordPress community and very talented developer, holding the title of Developer Outreach Manager at Pantheon.

In her session, she showed us the best practices for developing WordPress themes but more specifically, how to create incredibly advanced layouts while still making content creation easy for clients.

The “secret” was the use of the Advanced Custom Fields plugin. She told us the why and then showed us exactly how. It was an enlightening talk for all that attended.

Image Is Everything: Perking Up Your Website

Laura Byrne Cristiano is an avid WordCamp traveler, volunteer, and speaker. Every time I see Laura speak it never fails to impress. Not only is her delivery spot-on, but she also does a masterful job of mixing humor along with the useful content she shares.

In this session, she discussed the many ways in which using images on your website is not only necessary to keep your visitors engaged but how using the wrong images or image display techniques can actually hurt your website and your business.

Along with stopping the use of sliders, another of her many tips was to go get a free Canva account and start using it. Canva provides beautiful templates for any use case and makes it incredibly easy to make professional looking images.

And did you know Canva also has an app for your smartphone? This is what I created and posted in minutes while watching Laura speak…

Making Your Website Accessible with Amazon Polly

Many times accessibility talks focus on the nuts and bolts of making your rendered HTML friendly to assistive devices such as screen readers and can be a bit technical for non-developers. This talk was different.

Rahul Nagare from Scale Dynamix showed us how, by using the Amazon Polly text-to-lifelike speech service from AWS, along with the Amazon Polly WordPress plugin, you can easily make your content more accessible to your sight-impaired website visitors.

An interesting bonus is that the Amazon Polly plugin will also create a podcast feed during the text-to-speech conversion, resulting in the ability to create audio podcasts from your written blog posts to gain further reach with your content.

Making Security Make Sense to Clients

I was happy to once again talk about the why’s and how’s of including website security as part of your clients builds makes sense for you, and also your client’s website businesses.

To learn more about how to talk about security to clients, have a look at my series of posts by the same name, Making Security Make Sense to Clients.

As you can see, WordCamp Baltimore was filled with a wide variety of unique content for attendees, and even more unique options for enjoying your non-event evening hours.

We can’t wait to be back again soon!