Where to start? Perhaps late, late in the sense that the planning for this year’s BlogOrlando started much later than previous events. I was even concerned that we couldn’t pull it off. But thanks to some help from some great folks like Chris, Rob, Danny, Ryan and yes you Alex…..we did it. Our tracks grew from four to five, our registrations grew and so did the turnout. A big thanks to all our sponsors, especially Ideablob and Voce
In the end 238 of us showed up at Rollins College this past Saturday to learn from each other. As my colleague Mike Manuel said, “Leave your brand at the door, bring your brain.” What makes this event so different? Spike from Brains on Fire probably put is best:
I’ve never been to a free conference before. And the difference of engagement levels between a free conference and a fee-based one is night and day. I guess it might be because everybody that’s there WANTS to be there. They CHOSE to go. They CHOSE to give up a Saturday and engage other passionate people. I’m afraid most conferences I go to are full of people that have been sent there from their company. They’d rather be checking emails or anywhere else. But it’s part of their job description or a requirement. The result is sometimes a very low engagement level.
BlogOrlando was the exact opposite.
Thanks Spike. Also, a big thanks to all the session leaders. Each of you contributed something, and I hope many of you learned something from your audience as well.
Jake McKee kicked us off with a story about how LEGO learned to listen to its fans and became better for it. Yes it was a bit marketing/communication focused, but it’s also part community, and well it’s LEGO…..geeks love LEGO. Even the non-marketing types learned something. From there it was off to the breakout tracks. Just about every session I checked in on was packed.
Room size is always the big debate. Last year we had a few rooms that were packed to the gills, but sometimes those close quarters breed better, more lively discussions. While I like the increase in attendance, it’s the smaller discussions that are sometimes the best. I never want to get away from this format. That’s one of the reasons we split into five tracks, I wanted to keep the groups smaller.
It was also important to split tech into two sides, basic and advanced. If you keep having the same conversations year-after-year you end up alienating the veteran attendees, you need to give them something new. However, you still need the core stuff for the newbies. Striking that balance is the key.
Highlights for me were the sessions professionalism/identity sessions by Amber Rhea and Jake McKee. I also heard great things about Alex Hillman’s session as well as Spike’s session on WOM and Geno’s session on movements. There was a reason I invited Geno and Spike, they’re great guys who do great work. I hope everyone who attended their sessions agree.
For most of the day I ran around making sure everything was running smoothly. Luckily we had no major wifi issues, thanks to Mike from Rollins IT, who many of you met. During my downtime I would check out the ongoing Twitter-stream and appreciated all the discussion and positive comments the event was receiving. Today looking over all the recaps, it’s much of the same…thanks.
We ended the day with Erik Hersman. I picked Erik for some specific reasons, one he’s from Orlando, but most importantly because the work he’s doing spans so much of the discussions of the day. As I said when introducing him….most of us were at the event for different reason, pr/marketing, journalism, personal expressions, business, etc. A project like Ushahidi makes all our ‘personal’ and ‘business’ needs seem trite.
I hope at the end of the day everybody that attended learned something and made some new friends.
Will we be back next year? We’ll see, give me a few weeks to rest and catch-up with my work-life and family-life.