Tag Archives: convention

The Future of Gnomedex

Most events suck – symposia, conventions, expos, summits, et al. Still, I keep going to them to support various causes and organizations. When originally faced with the opportunity to create my own experience, I was bright-eyed and hellbent to raise people’s expectations. Our first “Gnomedex” was originally planned in Des Moines, Iowa for the ill-fated weekend of September 13th, 2001.

Despite eventually having an amazing event at a later point, our team realized that none of us were event planners or producers. Perhaps that’s what made the first one, and subsequent nine, so notable? No matter, we didn’t plan a second Gnomedex until Microsoft stepped up and offered budget for a sequel. Even then, we tried to convince them of other opportunities – but they wanted another spectacularly-hosted conference. The statement “I can’t do another Gnomedex” has been trickling from my lips going back almost a full decade – and I reversed that position every single time.

Before I continue, allow me to assert a truthful statistic: Mashable drove 0% of all attendance and attention to Gnomedex 2010; Gnomedex evangelists drove 100%. It pains me to have this fact in hand – an asset ALL conference producers covet – and yet…

I can’t do another Gnomedex.

Gnomedex 10 - Keep Gnomedex alive

The community wants it to continue – but I am faced with a barrage of nightmare-inducing responsibilities related to EVERYTHING a proper Gnomedex would require to meet or exceed my vision for it. People have generally attended a Gnomedex because they wanted to come – not because they were told they had to be there. And even if the latter were true, those people often walk away with the same spirit of community Gnomedex engenders. Still, that’s not enough to make another Gnomedex happen.

  • Without a dedicated team of rock star organizers and directors, tasks slip through the cracks – and you often won’t realize this until the event happens. When someone’s attention is diverted to other projects, yours will not receive the attention it requires.
  • Without editorial control, vendors and sponsors will demand to be placed on stage (often, to bore the shit out of people with relatively-pointless garbage). You wind up facing a cavalcade of panels spilling over with self-important windbags who drone on and on over how their company does it. YOU, AS A PAYING CONFERENCE ATTENDEE, SHOULD NEVER TOLERATE THIS.
  • Without the ability to drive massive amounts of eyeballs, partners are lukewarm to supporting your endeavor. They don’t always understand how influence works – and that bigger is not always better in this space. IF YOU, AS A PAYING CONFERENCE ATTENDEE, ARE NOT TREATED LIKE A VIP, START DEMANDING IT.
  • Without a modest ticket price, every other bozo will walk through the door and dilute the experience. AND IF YOU THINK A FREE EVENT IS ALWAYS JUST AS GOOD AS ONE THAT REQUIRES A CASH OUTLAY, I DON’T VALUE YOUR JUDGEMENT OR BUSINESS ETHIC.
  • Without a well-executed communications strategy, the Web site and online marketing efforts will falter. You need someone constantly connecting dots for you – everywhere. Volunteers are wonderful, but they often have other responsibilities. Don’t put the future of your endeavor into the hands of people who don’t treat it as though their life depended on it.

Oh, but this short list is but the tip of the “requirements” iceberg.

I have big dreams for what Gnomedex could be in the right hands. There’s no reason a TED experience couldn’t be made more accessible. I’ve been trying to pull it off for years! And before another person suggests it, TEDx is absolutely the wrong model for me (and it’s already being done). If I hear one more person falling over themselves for what they’re doing, I’ll cry. Seriously. When you have a near-unlimited budget, you can do near-unlimited things.

We’ve offered Gnomedex to various event production companies, but none of them are interested (for whatever reason). They have their own brands to manage, and my brand doesn’t treat people like cattle. Or, they want a six-figure outlay from you – just to get started. Get the picture? Yeah. No.

This has been an uphill battle, and I decided to go out on top.

It’s not just getting colossal sponsorship, its finding and managing it. It’s not just locating a workable venue, it’s ensuring we’re not getting screwed on the contract. It’s not just marketing the experience, it’s finding strong partnerships to truly extend the reach. It’s not just finding good content, it’s making sure they match the audience’s expectations.

There are too many balls to juggle – and I’ve dropped more than my fair share in the pursuit of a perfect event.

  • I believe in a single-track experience. I don’t wanna pack the speakers in and split the audience’s attention. This is key to giving rise to the power of community, to eschew the loneliness of typical event
  • I believe every piece of swag should be conversation-worthy. I’ve always wanted to give people goodie bags like the celebrities get. Sadly, this never happens; we are very lucky (and grateful) to get stickers, and blown away when we get something of absolute value.
  • I believe the complimentary conference apparel should not turn you into a NASCAR vehicle, and be very comfortable to boot.
  • I believe the expo floor should be filled with interactive booths operated by people who understand the product or service they are representing. I also believe this could be managed in conjunction with the conference (to allow others to traipse through at a lower admission price).
  • I believe there should be a free, live video feed that is produced better than some television shows are. This isn’t easy to manage, but it’s essential for what I’m trying to do – and that’s producing a conference people should be fighting to get into.
  • I believe in adding a personal touch. I really want to meet every single paying person there. I remember impressing Mike Arrington before TechCrunch even launched – and now he treats me worse than the gum on the bottom of his shoe. Still, I treat EVERYBODY as though they were someone perceivably influential.
  • I believe in giving every attendee free WiFi and a power outlet, too. My GOD, there are actually conferences that force their communities to go without? Uncivilized.
  • I do not believe in press passes. Assigned reporters seldom “get” it, publish thoughts long after the event could use it most, and… armed with “social media” tools, I believe everybody has the potential to be more powerful than traditional press. There have been very rare exceptions.
  • I dislike comping tickets to anybody other than sponsors. The value of a free ticket is… nothing. I’ve ruined friendships because I didn’t offer a free pass to one person or another. Look: you are ALL my friends.
  • I believe all parties should be all-access, filled with drinks and food. I also believe you should not have to struggle to maintain a conversation with someone two inches from you. No (loud) music! I also believe in venues which are conversation starters, themselves.
  • I don’t believe in price-gouging the attendee – especially if you haven’t already set the stage for absolute value.
  • I believe presenters should have their travel expenses covered. In all ten years of Gnomedex, I did not once pay for a speaker. Not because they weren’t worth it, but because my budgetary constraints would not allow me the privilege. Some years, we couldn’t even afford to cover travel. I love finding the “unknowns,” though. Big names in tech don’t drive as much awareness as you’d think.
  • I believe that name badges should show a person’s first name in BIG, BOLD LETTERS – and if you’re going to hang a badge on a lanyard, make sure the name is visible on either side. This is a small detail most organizers forget, but it makes all the difference in the world when you’re meeting someone for the first time, or when you know someone’s face but can’t place the name or awkwardly flip their badge over.
  • I believe that industry announcements can drive attention, but product pitches have enormous potential to plunge a gigantic wedge between the presenter and the audience. Sponsors and partners should know their place and stop elbowing their way onto the mic unless specifically invited to do so.

Maybe I’ve been too picky?

Gnomedex 10
(cc) Kenneth Yeung – www.snapfoc.us

I do believe, however, that a Gnomedex-style model could be applied to any industry, any topic – not just relegated to surfacing general trends in technology. I’d loved to have produced a Gnomedex focused on YouTube, one related to the world of gaming, one specifically for fellow Apple enthusiasts, one for Microsoft Windows fanatics, one for fellow gadget freaks, another for “how to make money online,” and… the list would go on-and-on.

In a few days, weeks, months, years… everyone will forget. That is, until they attend another event and realize just how far we went to spoil them silly.

You're Invited to the Gnomedex Conference

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Most tech conferences would charge you thousands of dollars for the privilege of being inspired. Gnomedex, however, does not! It delivers more bang for your buck, as it has been for the past ten years. This year, the 10th Gnomedex will be happening from August 19 – 21 in Seattle. Will you be joining us?

We don’t know what is going to happen with the Gnomedex brand going forward. We have a lot of ideas, though. I’ve been talking with potential partners, and am looking for potential partners who may want to help evolve the idea of Gnomedex in years to come… not just in Seattle, but possibly elsewhere, as well.

Gnomedex is a confluence of influence – a tapestry of Human Circuitry. We’re surrounded by technology, but it’s becoming increasingly pervasive. We’re surrounded by stories and discussions that usually get glossed over online. Gnomedex is an experience. That is what past attendees will tell you.

We attract hard-core Geeks who love technology and want to meet influencers. We attract influencers themselves. Heck, we even attract the people who don’t realize they’re influencers. We find them before they are influencers of anything – or anyone.

We Geek out over a few days’ time and enjoy ourselves. We relax and open our minds to new experiences, stories and connections.

One of our partners for the past several years has been Eventbrite. They handle registration for us, and have been a boatload of help during past events. This year, they are offering to help drive more traffic towards the conference, in honor of our tenth anniversary. They asked me a series of questions to help them get a better feel for what we do, and I decided to answer them in a video.

  • What IS Gnomedex? – It’s typically a “tech conference,” but really it’s so much more than that. It’s an opportunity for you to explore a side of yourself you may not otherwise have a chance to. You realize you identify with this Geek spirit. Imagine being around more than 300 other people, and being who you really are. You’ll talk about issues that are on the forefront of our industry. We push the envelope, and even predict trends. Back in 2001, we talked of blogs and RSS – long before anyone knew what they were. It boils down to the experiences people have and the energies they take with them back to wherever they came from.
  • How has Gnomedex evolved in the past ten years? – The ethos was still the same in the beginning: treat everyone like a VIP, connect with one another and offer a single-track event. It has evolved to better facilitate the communication online. We’re live streaming the entire conference. We have a much better venue than in past years. You get an awful lot of awesome things for the low cost of $300.00 that we are charging this year. For a 2 1/2 day conference packed full of opportunities, that’s not a lot of money folks.
  • What sets Gnomedex apart from other events? – People come to Gnomedex because they truly WANT to be there. They aren’t made to go. With a lot of industry events, people are sent by their bosses and managers. They feel that they “have” to have a presence there. With our conference, we just don’t get that crowd. Everyone attends because they truly want to experience what it is we’re doing.
  • How do you think the structure of the event serves your goals? That’s something organizers often struggle with. – I’ve seen organizers have seventeen different tracks with thousands of people pouring in. I’m not down with that. I’d rather make 300 people happy than 3000 miserable. In the past, we’ve had people equate what we do with very large conferences and brands, saying that we have done the same thing for a fraction of the cost. I value those connections. I AM about those connections, so that is what I value most. I keep it as small and manageable as I can. That’s centric to community, which is the core component of everything I do.
  • How did you choose and secure the venue? How will the space be set up? – I’m in the process of negotiating the venue for this year. We’ve used it for the past few years. I have no desire to change things, but we’re working out the cost this year. Bell Harbor is an amazing place, and very comfortable. It’s beautiful there, the location is fantastic and everyone leaves happy. They provide awesome food, snacks and drinks all day long. The seating is comfy. There is plenty of room at the tables. Each person has power strips right at their seat and kick-ass Wi-Fi to use.
  • What is your approach to using social media for the event – before, during and after? – I’ve been using various social media outlets for Gnomedex pretty much since the beginning. Our attendees own and create the event. All we do is set the stage. I encourage people to record things, tweet about things and blog about their experiences. It’s always worked out well. Before the event, our volunteers help spread the word as much as anyone. They are excited to be a part of organizing the event and they show it in their conversations online.

I’d love to do other types of events around the Gnomedex brand. It would be amazing to do one for kids and teens, with speakers and presentations geared specifically towards them. This may very well be the last Gnomedex as you know it now – it depends on the partners we get in the future, and the direction they want to take.

If you want a free event, attend a free event. If you want to be treated like cattle, don’t bother to attend Gnomedex. EVERYONE at Gnomedex is treated like a VIP, whether they are a volunteer, an attendee or a presenter.

We have some amazing speakers and experiences lined up already this year. I promise… you will have an amazing time if you join us this year.

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Chic Meets Geek

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Are you a geek living / working in the San Francisco Bay area? Even if you’re not there, perhaps you know someone who is? Be sure to let them know of the opportunity to be sponsored to attend this geeky chic’y evening event. You’ll rub shoulders with people you’d otherwise likely never meet in real life!

Chic Meets Geek is a gathering of two different groups in one room to inspire, share, and connect through a panel of geek and chic influential leaders to talk about their inspirational background. A nonprofit beneficiary is highlighted at every event and themed around the speaker panelists’ expertise to bridge the gap. The night is a user experience. The event presents distinct elements found at a red carpet gala and tech conference in one room. The event challenges the attendees with thought-provoking ideas and situations, in order to inspire good.

If you meet the requirements and live in the San Fran area, why not apply for a free event pass? I’ll be sending ten of you to this event by paying for the ticket. Any other expenses are up to you to cover.

The speakers for the event this year are a pretty cool mix of both chic people and geek people. You’ll find a fashion designer from Project Runway, a dancer from MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, a San Francisco Philanthropist, and the CEO of Serena and Lily.

During the evening’s event, you’ll listen to the speaker presentations, mingle with them and other attendees, participate (if you choose) in a silent auction and attend a runway fashion show. The event runs only five hours… so it won’t tie up an entire day (or more!).

Again, I can only give away ten passes to this event. You need to submit your request by Wednesday at 1p.m. PST.

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Who is iJustine?

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Traci was in Las Vegas last week to cover the CES conference for us. While there, she was able to catch up with none other than iJustine while attending Robert Scoble’s Blogger Party. Justine was, as always, fun and insightful. It ws the first time that Traci and Justine had met in person, which was apparently icing on the cake for Traci! Thanks so much to Daynah for working the Vado 3 that Creative provided to Traci for this conference.

Justine feels that this year, CES was ramped up quite a lot from what it was last year, and was having a great time. When she attends conferences, she doesn’t normally have an agenda of any kind. She just prefers to keep her options open, meet people she’s only ever talked to online, and reconnect with old friends!

Traci was asked to find out what Justine’s favorite snack is. When you guessed the answer, were you even close? I know I wasn’t!

Thanks again, Traci, for handling things so well for us during the conference!

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