It’s a new year – a new decade too, so we thought it was the right time to bring back our popular series of community interviews for 2020.
For those that haven’t heard about or read our interview series before – we put these together to find out more about the key members and leaders of the CMS communities we work within.
We sponsor a number of meetups (in particular WordPress but we’re now reaching further afield too 🙂) and like to give a bigger platform to the people who work so hard to put these events together in their spare time!
So, with that in mind, let’s welcome our first interviewee of the year Jan Koch, WordPress Agency Summit organizer.
Hi Jan, could you tell us a bit more about the WP Agency Summit and who’s behind this event?
The WP Agency Summit is a virtual conference that I organized in 2019 to help agency owners scale their businesses. You can think of it as a virtual WordCamp. Over the course of 10 days, the Summit published interviews and presentations from industry experts, covering topics from lead generation and process automation, security, web design best practices, to coding, mental health, and building fast loading websites.
I got inspired to run this event when I had a conversation with Cloudways and Blogvault at WordCamp Europe in 2019, who both supported the first virtual summit I ran back in 2015.
Being an agency owner myself, I know how stressful and challenging growing an agency is. So I wanted to create a free resource for entrepreneurs who face the same struggles as I do. Based on that premise, the WP Agency Summit was free to attend while it was live from Dec 6th to 16th and I’m proud that over 2,000 WordPress professionals registered!
With the help of sponsors like Weglot, I was able to pull off the first of many WP-related summits and I’m humbled by how well the event was received by the attendees and the WP community.
What’s your background and what should our readers know about you?
I live in a small town in Germany, close to the North Sea shore. The beauty of living here is that my wife and I have a property big enough to accommodate our house, a secondary smaller house (divided into home office + horse barn) and plenty of space for our two dogs and my wife’s horse.
We’re fortunate to be in this situation and we don’t plan on moving into a bigger city anytime soon!
Besides working on my agency and learning stuff related to WordPress and dev ops, I like fiddling around with my smart home. We have motion sensors, temperature sensors, smart power outlets, smart led bulbs and all sorts of fun tech around the house.
How long have you been using WordPress? And why did you choose WordPress?
I first got to use WordPress during my studies for an integrated degree in Business Informatics in 2011. I loved the capabilities of the system, how easy it was to extend, and how quickly I could find information about WordPress in the online communities.
Leaving my job as business consultant after 5 years, I became self-employed and started building WP websites for customers across the globe.
To be honest, I never seriously explored any of WordPress’ competitors (like Ghost for example), because I was just pleased with how I could extend WordPress to fit the needs in the projects I worked on.
I don’t see myself moving away from WP in the future, especially not with headless WP becoming a thing more and more.
How did you get involved in the WordPress community?
At first I joined active Facebook groups about WordPress and just started answering questions. I was blogging about WP and online business since 2013, but that never got any relevant traction to this day – due to lack of consistency on my end.
With my first WP Summit in 2015, I became somewhat more known in the community and started my own Facebook group called WP Mastery.
Now with the WP Agency Summit and the upcoming summits, I hope to contribute more value to the community – as all the events will be free to attend while they’re live.
Giving back to the community in this fashion and through answering questions in Facebook groups is important to me, because I learned a lot from the community when I got started on my journey – and still am.
Tell us more about the biggest challenges and the new trends when it comes to hosting and organizing an online WordPress Summit
The biggest challenge certainly was orchestrating all the speakers. I ran the entire summit on my own, with the help of a mentor and the knowledge I got from the Virtual Summit Mastery course from my friend Navid Moazzez.
The course and my mentor helped me a lot to cover my weaknesses, e.g. copywriting (I’m not a native English speaker) or running paid traffic campaigns.
Personally, doing all the interviews and organizing the presentations and keynotes took up most of my time – as well as managing the community while the event was live.
It was fun to build relationships with all these fantastic experts and leaders like yourself, Thomas. Even just for those connections, it was worth it to invest roughly five months of work into the WP Agency Summit.
For you, what’s the magic recipe for a successful WordPress event?
Hands-down it’s having an engaged community. When I attended WC Europe, I was blown away by the energy at the coding day, and the openness of all attendees during the sessions.
I got to meet people I knew online for years, which was great and a ton of fun.
The same was true for the WP Agency Summit. Without having a passionate Facebook group (that is still active and growing) and seeing people enjoy the sessions, I would have had a tough time running the event.
I loved seeing WordPress professionals from across the entire globe connect and help each other, share experiences, and provide advice without expecting anything in return. To me, this helpfulness is what makes the WordPress community so valuable.
What’s the future of the WP Agency Summit?
I will certainly run the WP Agency Summit again in 2020 but also plan on running summits on related topics.
For the WP Agency Summit, the plan is to bring back the sessions in Summer of 2020, because their content still is relevant to this day.
I’m also already preparing a new summit with a specific angle on ecommerce, and I’ll likely have another summit related to a more technical topic (which I cannot share more about at this point).