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Friday, February 1, 2013

Conference Adventures Part..: en Cours (in progress)

It's the Friday after the event is finished, and I'm finally getting a chance to sit down and relax long enough to to write a summary of how the event went during the week.

How did the event go?

I have been asked the same question several times throughout the course of the week. The first morning of the first day there were only a handful of people in the audience. I had spent the evening before setting up the room and the audio visual until midnight and didn't get to sleep until well after 2am. With just 3 hours of sleep (I spent another 1.5 hours typing up notes for the next day)  I walked up on stage welcomed everyone, explaining a bit about the conference, dove into announcements, and then introduced our first mini-Keynote Irene Koehler. I am always worried about the first speaker of the event. The speaker and the subject chosen is what sets the tone for the remainder of the event. Irene is a seasoned and very respected speaker. She is an expert in her field, and knows more about social marketing on Linkedin and anyone I know.  I think Benj's tweet summarizes the one word used during the remainder of the event that Irene provided us all: "Stalking"
The room filled up as people trailed in throughout the day. The VIP room was a hit, and no one tried to sneak in for lunch. I didn't hear a single complaint, and none of the volunteers said anything to me about anyone being upset. I have to give a special shout out to Tracy, Lydia, Brenda, and my daughter Katie for all their help on the first day. Especially Tracy who's car was randomly dinged by a crazy driver in the parking garage. Poor Tracy was so distraught that she couldn't come back the remainder of the event. 

Everything went so smoothly the first day that one by one, my volunteers said "It looks like you have everything covered, so I won't be coming tomorrow." or something similar. The evening of the event was one of the best nights after a conference I have ever had. The Speaker's Dinner was great (despite our food coming 85 min after arriving and my steak being very, very well done). Bill Leake and Aaron Kronis blew through the wine, and entertained my daughter while I moved onto my Birthday party with my co-workers and a few other friends. All-in-all Day one is going into my record book as a perfect first conference day.

As the sun rose up the next day I was already busy getting ready to head over to the hotel. My daughter got ready for school but then crashed and said she felt very ill. I told her to stay home, and went onto the event. I struggled with the problem of how to check people in when I needed to be on stage most of the day. I asked our hotel rep and she sent one of their staff, but the staff that arrived was clearly very upset that she had to be there. I asked Stephan (who I work with and had a pass to the event) if he would help out by checking people in. We moved the table into the room so he could watch the talks and hand people their badges as they trailed in. It worked out great!

At some point in the middle of the day I was hit by a ton of bricks and could barely get my energy up enough to even introduce the speakers. I hadn't had anything to drink the night before, so had no idea why I was feeling so ill. Hoping it was stress I powered through. The Meetup organizer showed up and I talked to her about getting set up for the talks that evening and then leaving. I asked Aaron Kronis to help her out that evening, and I eventually went home to bed. I really don't remember much of that day - I remember waving to speakers and saying "just introduce yourself" and checking the video camera, taking pictures, and then sitting down to rest until the next speaker went up. 

The last day was the quietest day I have ever experienced at any of my events. Even my workshops had a better turnout than this conference. Was it the free passes that kept people from wanting to come to the event? If they all pay, then will they show up and stay the whole time? Bill and I talked about where this conference should be headed. Cutting it down to 2 days, holding it just in Seattle, and look into other cities (like NY or Vegas). The conference has an "eclectic" (as Bill called it) array of speakers and topics and as a result we get such a mix of attendees it's quite refreshing. It took over 10 years for TED to finally gain some notoriety, perhaps this event is on the same path.