Saying Goodbye to the MIMA Summit

October 19, 2009

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.