Roller Coasters, Conference Innovations & Your Thoughts on Engage

February 16, 2010


A bit less than 10 months ago I was invited to attend Ignite Portland by two of my colleagues Justin & Michele. To be completely transparent I didn’t know what to expect and suffice to say I was blown away.

A little history on how Ignite began
Ignite got its start in Seattle in December, 2006, as a personal project of O’Reilly’s Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis. They dreamed up an event where people could share their ideas over beer, and sent word out through their network. On December 7, two hundred Seattle geeks looking for “a fun night of geekery and networking” squeezed into a bar on Capitol Hill. They found beer, but so much more. First up, a friendly but intense competition to build the sturdiest popsicle-stick bridge. Then 25 intrepid locals took a turn on the stage for their five-minute Ignite talks. The consensus was that it was a blast. Word got out, and other communities wanted Ignite in their cities. Brady and Bre turned the event over to O’Reilly, and nearly 200 Ignites have been held, about half of them in the past year. As Ignite enters its fourth year, O’Reilly is launching Global Ignite Week to celebrate, amplify, and share the Ignite phenomenon.

The video below is from an Ignite in Seattle and it’s one of my favorite examples of what Ignite’s are all about.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had many opportunities to speak publicly and I’ve attended no less than a couple hundred conferences during my professional career. As both a speaker and an attendee I’ve struggled with the traditional conference setup that is more often than not highlighted by a 45 minute keynote. When was the last time you didn’t start fidgeting when you listened to 45 minutes of anyone talking at you?

“Be brillant, but make it quick” is Ignite’s tagline and make no mistake Ignite was never and probably will never be billed as a a corporate event still, there is something special about the format that inspires. As I experienced my first Ignite in Portland I couldn’t help but think there was and should be a translation to the tired conference format we’ve all come to know.

On our cab ride back to the office Justin, Michele and I brainstormed about what we could do to innovate on the format of our customer conference Engage. We decided then we’d use Ignite as our muse and try to turn our conference on it’s head…in a good way of course.

If you’ve ever ridden on a rollercoaster there is a point, right before it drops into the first (and usually biggest) drop. It’s quiet with anticipation and all you hear is the ‘click…click…click…click’ of the chain pulling the cars to the launch pad. Right when you look over the edge there is a moment of anticipation, some would even say fear, that make the first drop amazingly satisfying. Last week, myself and the team were pulling our way to the launch pad and the anticipation was palpable.

Here we are 11 months later and a week after our Engage conference in New Orleans, where we introduced the concept of a ‘sprint’ a 5 or 10 minutes opportunity for marketing leaders to be brilliant and we invited some of the best minds in marketing and customer intelligence.

Here is an example of one of my favorite sprints by Steve Woods of Eloqua:

Suffice to say I was thrilled with the outcome.

It was a great pleasure for the Webtrends staff and myself to host our customers, partners, and media at Engage 2010 in New Orleans. Many thanks to our speakers and sponsors for making this event the most fun and informative event we’ve ever held.

We’re already thinking of ways to change the game again next year in San Francisco!

While this one is fresh in everyone’s mind, we’d like to ask for your feedback on how the conference was for you.

How was the space?
The speakers?
Was the food good?
Did the wifi hold up well?
Anything you thought was missing?
What was your favorite part?
What should we try next year?

Please let me know by commenting on this blog or on our conference network or hit us on twitter.




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This post was mentioned on Twitter by WTEngage: RT @WebTrends: Roller Coasters, Conference Innovations & Your Thoughts on Engage from @kaykas. Let us know how #wtengage went for you

From uberVU - social comments on February 16th, 2010 at 9:49 pm

great post as usual!

From TomPier on May 4th, 2010 at 5:44 am

[…] team via an acquisition of Widemile and we’ve thrown one of the best customer/industry conference I’ve ever attended. On a whole we’ve rebranded and relaunched Webtrends and we’ve increased the relevance of the […]

From My Personal Journey: The Next Webtrends Marketing Evolution at Marketing Iteration by Jascha Kaykas-Wolff on June 15th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

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