September 29, 2008
Now that I have returned from Blog World Expo 2008, have had some time to catch up and process the experience, I thought I’d write a detailed personal recap, to share how the trip went and, also, to document it for myself, in the future. This is a super long, highly detailed post. Emphasis on personal and long. You have been warned. :)
I was due to fly out late Thursday morning, on September 18. Only thing… my entire family was coming down with a nasty stomach bug. So, while I attempted to sleep, the sounds of them being sick woke me up and kept me up all night and I ended up receiving around four hours of sleep, or so. Not only that, but it felt like I was coming down with it because, an hour before I was to leave, I was sick. Lovely.
The main thing I thought of was how much planning had gone into this trip. I wasn’t just attending the conference, I wouldn’t just be out of a substantial amount of money. I had two panels and a book signing and I had other people that had worked for me to be there and were relying on me to be there. If there was any way I could go, I was going to go.
I basically told myself it was nerves, not an actual illness like the rest of my house (some might call this denial, heh), and pushed myself to get ready and go, make the hour and a half car ride and get to the airport, nauseous much of the time. Worse yet, I had a horrendous flight path. Norfolk, VA to Washington, DC to Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV. About 10 hours in all, from start to finish. I gritted my teeth and made it. The last one and a half plane rides were not bad as I started to feel better.
From the airport, the cab driver seriously – seriously ripped me off. I had no basis of what the proper fare was as I had forgotten to look into that. We’re talking double the regular fare rip off.
I got to the hotel, the Las Vegas Hilton, around 6 PM local time and met with my friends Brandon Eley and Chrispian Burks, for dinner. I hung out with Brandon and Chris for the vast majority of the conference. We had planned to head to a meet up hosted by my pal (and fellow panelist) Jason Falls, but we were dead tired – I was half falling asleep at dinner. So, that is where my first night in Vegas ended – in bed before 9 PM. But, I fell asleep the moment I hit the pillow and slept 8 hours straight – this turned out to be the only good night of sleep I’d get while at the conference.
I got an early start, thanks to going to bed so early, and took my time getting over to the conference. Once over there, I headed to the speaker’s lounge to check it out and met Jason for the first time. He was seated with Jim Turner, who I had met at SXSW earlier this year. I also met and talked with Don Crowther and Liz Strauss while I was in there.
The speaker’s lounge was basically cold beverages and coffee and tea. Jones Soda sponsored it and that was pretty cool – they even had soda bottles with various bloggers on them, including my friend Jeremy Wright. I ran into him that day and said I had been drinking him and… well, he had no idea what I meant.
Besides attending panels I’m interested in, I also like to attend panels featuring people I want to support. Often times, these two things come together. So, my first session of the day was part of the b5media track where I attended “How to Find Readers For Your Blog,” where Darren Rowse and Muhammed Saleem spoke. It was exactly what I’d expect from them – a good presentation. After they were done, I went over and introduced myself to Shai Coggins.
After that, we headed to the keynote luncheon, featuring Guy Kawasaki and Steve Rubel. Talked with Rick Calvert, John Chow and Howard Greenstein while I was waiting for it to open. I was so glad that Howard came up to me as I wouldn’t have recognized him, since I’d never seen a picture. I met up with Jim Kukral while we were waiting for it to start.
Afterward, I also got to talk a lot more with Jason Falls, which was great, as he’s just a really cool guy. We taped an episode of Social Media Explorer TV, as well.
My last session of the day was another one with Darren called “How to Hire a Professional Blogger For Your Business.” It also had Jim, Gregory Go and Will Chen.
Gary Vaynerchuk gave the closing keynote and, while I sort of wanted to attend, it wasn’t possible, since we wanted to get to the digital Photography School Las Vegas PhotoWalk and needed time to change and get over there. Before leaving, I met Chris Brogan for the first time.
So, we skipped the keynote and headed back to the hotel. I picked up a three day pass for the Las Vegas Monorail and that is how we got around for the duration of the trip. Good deal.
dPS is a site run by Darren and it has quite a following. I had spoken with my friend Lee LeFever earlier in the day and I had turned him onto it, so we were going to meet up there. One problem: we couldn’t find the place. At about the time it was set to start, I get a call from Lee asking me where it is again and … well, I have no idea. “The three fountains in front,” I said. But, the front is like the size of the city I live in. Heh, I’m such a good friend. But, it all worked out as Lee found the group first and then myself, Brandon and Chris found them, too.
We walked along the strip a little bit, spending a lot of time in front of the fountains at the Bellagio, watching the show they put on and taking pictures. To be honest, I had the most pathetic camera there (Canon PowerShot A720 IS). But, I had fun and took some pictures and enjoyed my first time on the strip. I talked with Robert Scoble for a minute during a break.
After the photowalk had ended and we were all sweaty from walking around in the Las Vegas, we headed back to the hotel to wash up and head back out to the after hours party at the Bare lounge at The Mirage.
If there is one thing you’ll notice about me when I’m at these conferences, it is that I am about the conference and about the networking. I don’t drink, smoke, gamble or stay out into the wee hours. Not to say I wouldn’t gamble a little bit, but it’s not something I’m going to spend much time on. 11 or 12 PM is good for me. Then it’s time for me to get back to the hotel and get some sleep.
You may also notice that I don’t generally care for these venues. Bare was a cool place and all, but it’s always packed tight and the music is playing far too loud to have a conversation. I like breathing space. That’s me.
Anyway, we got to the party at around 10 or so and talked with all sorts of people, as you do at these things. Jim Turner, Lee, Jeremy Schoemaker, Jason Falls, Christina Jones, Tris Hussey, Jason Bean and others. I was glad to meet Connie Bensen and her husband, Stuart, for the first time in person, as well.
In the middle of Bare is a pool. But, no one was ever in it because that wasn’t allowed. One woman jumped in, right next to me, and a bouncer came right over and must have told her it wasn’t allowed (I didn’t hear the conversation).
Around 10 past 11, I checked out and set out for the hotel. Executive and Entrepreneur day over!
In the next time slot, there were some cool panels put on my various people I know, and Darren had a book signing, as well. But, I decided this was probably a good time to walk the exhibition hall, so that’s what I did, stopping at various booths and talking to people. This included Website Magazine (I asked if Pete Prestipino was there, as I wanted to meet him – he wasn’t), Zemanta and WidgetBucks.
When panels started again, I attended “Making Money with Podcasts: Video & Audio,” with Jim Kukral, JB Glossinger, Gary Rosenzweig and Rob Walch. Gary Vaynerchuk was supposed to be on the panel, but did not stay after his keynote the previous day. I liked the panel and all of the speakers, especially Jim and Glossinger.
At some point during the day, I went over and hung out at the Sparkplugging table, at the break area in front of the exhibit hall, for a little while. Sparkplugging’s CEO, Wendy Piersall, who I’d seen earlier, was busy doing things as she had her entire team (or quite near, at least) in town for the event, thanks to Epson. Check out their coverage.
Originally, I went over to the table to say hello to Lynn Terry, who I had scheduled an interview with on Friday, but we were unable to hook up. We never did get that interview done, but we did chat for a good 10-20 minutes or so and it was nice to finally meet her. Wendy snapped some pictures while we were talking.
While at the table, I also met the incredibly nice Gwen Bell (who wrote a blog post where she said some really, really kind things about me, leaving me with little idea what to say, but thanks) and Kristie McDonald. Before leaving the area, I said hello to the in conversation, Jessica Smith, who had mentioned my book on Twitter in July.
I moved to another table, sat next to Brandon and met the fellow he was talking to, Rob Lloyd of Bloggeries.
After some dinner, we headed to the opening night party which was conveniently in our hotel. I spent maybe a half hour or so in there, walking around the room and talking to various people. I met Jeanne Dupuis and Chris Turner from regator.com.
With Sunday being the big day for me, I decided that it was best for me to get back early and get ready for tomorrow – including getting some good sleep.
For some reason, I woke up at 1 AM and felt like garbage and couldn’t get back to sleep. Way to start the day! But, I got over to the convention center in time for the morning keynote, which featured Timothy Ferriss, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Rohit Bhargava. I stayed for a little while, but it didn’t get going until maybe 15 minutes after it was supposed to and it was supposed to run until 10:00 AM, when it was on time – and that was the time that the signing was set to start. I wanted to make sure I got over there a little early.
The signing was a dual signing with Rohit, who was signing copies of his book, “Personality Not Included.” Due to the keynote running late, that pushed the signing back a bit, though I was there just in case. Rohit came at about 10:30 and I sat down behind the table.
It was my first signing, but I think it went well. I talked with maybe 20-30 people and sold some books. It didn’t seem like much to me, but the people at the store said that, besides Rohit, it was the best one they had had. Though, I’m not sure if they were just being nice to me.
I actually had more people come up and say hello, than I did people actually buy books. But, it was cool to sign and to get that experience. People who stopped by included Dave Taylor (who I had been trying to meet the whole time), Lee, Jason Bean, Wendy, Jim Turner (I think), Jeanne, Connie, Stephanie Bell, Rachel Masters (VP of Strategic Relationships for Ning), Andy Wibbels, Kim Dushinski and several others (please leave a comment if you came!). I am grateful for everyone who came by the table.
It was cool to get a chance to talk to Rohit during breaks, as well. His book was published by McGraw-Hill and mine by AMACOM, but McGraw-Hill handles much of the international distribution for mine.
I noticed that he was giving everyone two business cards. One for his day job and one for his book. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that. But, I want to do it.
Another thing I learned from him was that he offered to sign stock and asked me if I did. I said no, as I had heard that the bookseller might not be able to return the book if I did so. He said that wasn’t true and the lady from Barnes and Noble (who managed the store) confirmed. So, from now on, when I have some free time, I am stopping by B&N and offering to sign stock, whenever I am near one. I signed maybe 20 copies, in addition to the ones I sold, as well as the sign from the event, as the B&N salesperson had requested it, so that they could display it in one of the Las Vegas stores (if anyone I know lives in Las Vegas, I want a picture!).
With the signing out of the way, I grabbed some lunch, hanging out with Brandon, Chris, Lee and Jason Bean. I think that was that day, anyway. It was then time to head to my first panel of the day… and also the first panel I’d ever done.
It was “How to Deal with Trolls, Spammers & Sock Puppets,” and it was moderated by Rick Calvert with John Chow and Jeremy Schoemaker, as well. Jeremy ended up being late and we had to start without him, unfortunately. Before it began, though, I met Libby Durfee of Blog World Expo, who had organized a bunch of things for me, especially the book signing.
In the crowd, I noticed Gwen Bell, Lee and Zac Johnson. I thought the panel went well and we had some good questions afterwards, as well. Thank you to everyone who attended and asked questions. Following the panel, I did a video interview with Abby Johnson of WebProNews.
After the panel, there was a networking reception on the show floor and I went to that for a little while. I was glad to run into Jeremy Wright, and we talked for a few minutes. I also met Logan Kugler. With the second panel of the day nearing, I headed to the speaker’s lounge and was pleased to see all of my fellow panelists either in there or arriving within a minute or two, for the upcoming panel.
That panel was “Avoiding Disaster: How Not to Use Social Media.” It was a panel idea that I had conceived, with some inspiration from a blog post Wendy had written previously. I had approached Jason Falls about doing it, early on and he had agreed and then I approached Lee and Darren and they both agreed, as well, with Jason taking on the role we called “quasi-moderator.” Des Walsh introduced the panel.
Though I felt I was looking at my notes a little too much, I thought it went great. Darren, Lee and Jason were extremely insightful and genuine as I’d expect them to be and it was a lot of fun. The funny thing was that we were done, with an hour slot, in maybe 40 minutes. My first reaction, inside: “holy… did I/we not come up with enough content?”
But, what I thought may be bad was actually a strength of the panel because the Q&A portion was awesome and a lot of fun. Afterwards, I spoke with a few attendees, including Lynn, Ricardo Bueno (who I did a quick video interview with in the hall), Mari Smith and Bonin Bough (Pepsi’s Global Director of Social Media). Once again, thanks to everyone who attended.
Chris and Brandon dutifully (read: forced by me) attended my signing and panels and took photos and videos for me, that I hope to be able to share soon (I have most of the panel time recorded, so I’ll need to break that down for YouTube). I definitely appreciate the help in capturing the moment (and the content).
Here are a couple of videos from the “Avoiding Disaster” panel, as well:
But, that wasn’t the final thing of the day. The last thing was the “How to Sell Direct Advertising on Your Blog” panel, led by Wendy. It also featured Dave Taylor, Steve Hall, David Peralty and Lynn Truong. A solid, enjoyable panel to close out the conference.
With a flight at 7:20 AM the next day, I headed back to the hotel and finally relented on my general distaste of buffets, going to the aptly titled, The Buffet, with Chris and Brandon. It was alright. Not that great. I didn’t eat that much. Suffice to say, the Hilton got their money out of me. I retired early to pack everything and try to get 5 and 1/2 hours sleep. I managed to accomplish said objective.
Monday went pretty much as planned. I actually got out of the hotel 15 minutes earlier than I had wanted to. This was a good thing because when I got to the airport, the line was insane. I had a serious concern that I’d miss my flight. There was a long line just to get in the long line. Heh. I got there about an hour and 45 minutes before my flight, rather than an hour and a half and it took me an hour and 10 minutes to get to my gate. Ouch.
But, besides that, the return flights went really well. I had an easier flight path: Las Vegas to Cincinnati, OH to Norfolk. Thank goodness. And with that, my trip was over. (Though, it’s amazing how much work piled up while I was away for just 5 days!)
To close this out, I’d just like to thank everyone who helped to make the conference both possible and enjoyable for me. The Blog World Expo people, of course, including Rick Calvert, Libby Durfee, Katie Calkins, Kimberly Coerr, Dave Cynkin and everyone else involved. Paula Levine at AMACOM for getting the book signing, well… booked. Thanks to everyone who attended the panel and signings and all of my old friends and new acquaintances who really made up my favorite part of the conference: networking. It was a good experience and I look forward to being part of it again next year. Thank you.