Saying Goodbye to the MIMA Summit

Like a recent high school grad packing up to go to college, the process of putting to bed my fourth and final MIMA Summit has been one tinged with nostalgia, laughter and some sadness (but surprisingly, few regrets).

From my first Summit back in 2006, (Me to MIMA: “Can I see the budget?” MIMA to me: “Um…budget?”) to watching a crowd of over 1,000 people geek out to Seth Godin a few weeks ago, it’s been a long and exciting journey.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way…

1. User Experience Doesn’t Just Apply to the Web

In my world, “users” live on and off line. Anytime I create an experience that someone is going to interact with, explore and well, live within, I call that a “user experience.”

And when it comes to planning events, creating a good user experience is my number one priority.

Think about it, the best events (like the best web sites) are designed in such a way that you don’t even know why you like them, you just do.

It’s the little touches and attention to pre-event details that make that happen.

Before each event, my team and I walk through each step of the day with the user/attendee in mind…

Photo courtsey of TKA Photography

Photo courtsey of TKA Photography

  • What door will they walk through when they arrive?
  • Should there be a sign there?
  • How big should the sign be?
  • Will the facility be O.K. if we mount a sign or do we need to have them supply us with an easel?
  • If we need an easel, how much will the facility charge us for it?
  • Will our budget allow for that?

And so on…

Multiply this process by hundreds of decisions, and you can see why this process is labor intensive, but also critical to each event’s success.

2. Fortune Favors the Brave

Since my client has been a rotating cast of MIMA board volunteers, it would have been pretty easy to play nice and produce a safe and tidy event year after year.

Unfortunately, “safe and tidy” hold little interest for me.

Each year, I brought some big ideas and goals to the MIMA table and fought hard to gamble on taking the more difficult road in order to achieve the bigger success.

My pitch to MIMA?

“I’ll handle the guts, and you guys will get the glory. Please, just trust me.”

And you know what?

For the most part, they did…year after year.

So thank you MIMA. I am tough and I push. But I also know that you’re sitting at the top of a much higher hill than when I started working with you back in 2006, so it wasn’t all for naught.

3. The Bigger They Come, the Softer They Fall

I’ve dealt with hundreds of speakers while producing the Summit. And I’ve seen my fair share of douchebags and divas from among their ranks.

Interestingly, the speakers who cause the most ruckuses are the ones I never expect to be a problem. The more famous they are, the nicer they end up being (yes, I’m talking to you Mr. Godin. You are a delightful and quirky little dude).

If I’ve learned anything about working with speakers who are “internet celebrities,” it’s that you need to watch out for the mid-level fame chasers.

(That, and, the end of the day, everyone still needs to have access to a bathroom before they go on stage.)

4. Technology and Conferences Were Made to Be BFF

One of the best parts of producing the Summit was the opportunity to create experiences for people who love technology.

Since this playing field is constantly changing, it’s been hard work to keep up and keep it relevant. And it’s forced me to look at tools not just as pretty cherries that we can plop on top of the Summit experience, but as vehicles for increasing dialogue, interaction and the exchange of information.

It’s been a challenge, but I must admit, I’ve loved every geeky minute of it.

The intersection of on and offline experiences via events is a rapidly emerging playing field and I intend to keep my company firmly in the center of the all excitement in the years ahead.

5. You Can’t Do It Alone

Here’s the truth, 2006 Summit presenters…you didn’t meet me in person when you spoke at that Summit because I couldn’t walk.

(Yep. I ran that sucker flat on my back with a spinal cord injury, on the floor of little room in the corner of the Depot.)

Want to know how I pulled it off?

I got peeps.

I’ve probably worked with over 100 volunteers in my four years of planning the Summit. And I owe each and every one of them my thanks for helping me get the job done.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to the people who’ve signed up for multiple tours of Summit duty: Kary Delaria, Andrew Banas, Nate Mueller, Jackie and Brian Johnson from Fresh Color Press, Story Tellers Media & Communications and past and present MIMA board members Kelly Burkhart, Kristina Halvorson, Julie Vollenweider and Matt Wilson.

Bonus lesson: People don’t read programs.

Seriously. What’s with that?

That’s all….my big revelations and remembrances from four years of Summit excitement.

Thanks to everyone involved with the conferences for the memories, the support and even the bitchy survey results (I read every last one of them).

Good luck to MIMA on their plans for the 2010 event and don’t worry about me folks….

…me and my peeps? We’re just getting started.

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12 Responses to Saying Goodbye to the MIMA Summit

  1. Ivan E Nunez says:

    I’ve had the good fortune to attend the last four MIMA Summits and each was a great experience. Thank you for your hard work.

    Also, I think your comment on user experience not just applying to the Web is right-on. It would seem common sense, but I see companies and organizations eager to make an impact online without first evaluating their offline customer service practices. Anyway, that is not the focus of your post, but it came to mind as I read it.

    Thanks again.

    • I’ve been thinking that user experience might be worthy of a blog post all on its own too. As you mentioned, it’s a big topic and one that could be explored from many angles.

  2. Dear Jennifer (& Kari D & The 100 peeps)

    You did a superhuman, over the top, AWESOME job of pushing up hills, up and over and (I’m sure around obstacles) to make the MIMA Summit such a fun, creative, productive, intelligence gathering, networking whirlwind with like-minds event. The Summit has grown exponentially each year and that wouldn’t have happened if it had failed to deliver on expectations. Your energy and “style” (not the right word to describe you 😉 but I can’t think of a better one) stamps a certain imprint of surprise and fun to each of the many events you’ve produced that I have attended. They are going to need some very big feet to fill those shoes! But you’ve given them a great start.
    Cheers to you.
    Jill

  3. Dear Jennifer (& Kari D & The 100 peeps)

    You did a superhuman, over the top, AWESOME job of pushing up hills, up and over and (I’m sure around obstacles) to make the MIMA Summit such a fun, creative, productive, intelligence gathering, networking whirlwind with like-minds event. The Summit has grown exponentially each year and that wouldn’t have happened if it had failed to deliver on expectations. Your energy and “style” (not the right word to describe you 😉 but I can’t think of a better one) stamps a certain imprint of surprise and fun to each of the many events you’ve produced that I have attended. They are going to need some very big feet to fill those shoes! But you’ve given them a great start.
    Cheers to you and to your next endeavors.
    Jill

  4. Kary Delaria says:

    I am honored and proud to be one of your “peeps.” It’s been a fun, wild and very rewarding ride. Thank you, MIMA for holding your breath and letting Kane Consulting (Jen) do her thing. Thank you to the team who helped pull of this monster event this year. Thank you, Jen, for trusting me enough to bring me along for the ride that has only just begun. I’m beyond giddy with excitement to help write the next chapter.

  5. Thank you for all the hard work you put into the event. I was unable to attend last minute but with all the technology infusions you made into this conference it felt like I was there! So if I felt like this 30mins away from Minneapolis image the people sitting timezones, countries, and days away felt the same thing.

    Nothing replaces the face to face user experience and for the people I have chatted with the touch,smell,sounds,taste,sight of the Summit was something to behold (sad I missed it), so congrats on having the sticktoitness of your vision and proving a little trust in the people that know what they are talking about pays off big time. If you dont trust why did you hire them in the first place. Trust, Faith, and relying on relationships you have built goes a long way in making wonderful “user experiences”

    Thank You for everything you do for the community Jenn. I notice and I love it!

  6. Dude…you’re going to make me cry 🙂

  7. Nate Mueller says:

    Jen,
    You made volunteering for the craziest events of my life over these past four years one of the easiest questions to answer. If your in, I’m in.
    You brought such confidence to the table that these were going to be mind blowing events and they always were. Except more so than you gave yourself credit for. Thanks for taking me along on this crazy ride and I’m still in for whatever your future brings (which I am sure is going to be a bunch of crazy fun!)

  8. Rachel Medina says:

    Jen. You are the bomb.com. I absolutely love working with you and thank you so much for the experiences. You are definitely a good mentor/role model and to echo Kary, I’m proud to be considered one of your peeps 🙂

  9. Phil Wilson says:

    Jenn,

    You have always put up a first class event. One that not only includes the MIMA Summit, but many others as well. (That’s right, those of you who may know Jenn only as “the one who puts on the MIMA Summit” are putting her in a box that is far to small to hold her. Personally I think that’s how she injured her back. Damn those small boxes.)

    It should also be noted that your passion for “user experience” transcends events and slops over into many of the services that Jennifer Kane Consulting offers and that does not go unnoticed either. Keep up the great work Jenn!

    I look forward to the many things you have planned here or “all over the country.”

    Cheers!

  10. Minnesota Monday – Communications Bloggers Posts From Last Week…

    Interesting posts from Minnesota commmunications bloggers for the week ending 10/24/09.
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