My original plan was to write a follow-up post on BIGOmaha itself, and my take on each of the keynotes. But..as Jason Fried says, “inspiration is perishable.” I don’t want to write about that anymore.
Instead, I think there is a lot to be said about *why* BIGOmaha turned out to be so awesome, beyond just the content of the keynotes.
Furthermore, I think anyone can follow some of the tactics Dusty and Jeff used to host their own regional conference and make it awesome. Here’s what you have to do:
Keep it intimate
When all the Ruby developers in NYC get together, or the new-media types congregate for SXSW Interactive, you get a crowd of hundreds if not thousands.
With BIGOmaha, albeit not by design but more because they’re just starting out, they sold out to their capacity of ~300.
This meant a crowd of locals (and a handful from far away), that got together at the conference and first felt a feeling of serendipity (“oh my..you’re in Omaha and you love Ruby too?!”), followed by a feeling of intimacy since as this small crowd of cool people all went through the journey that was BIGOmaha.
Make it a journey
BIGOmaha was more of a journey than just a conference.
It started with an opening wine show along with a live band. Breakfast was served in the morning, we all travelled across the street for lunch, had a post-conference wine party and then had a closing party at a lounge come art gallery.
As we walked from event to event, ate food, drank, listened, talked and shared, it all become much more than just going into a conference; it became an experience and a journey.
Strange unknown faces or what once was just a Twitter username you followed became familiar faces and even friends. Sweet.
Think User Experience
To go from Keynote #1 to Keynote #2 for SXSW, I once had to take two escalators, and elevator and then jump into the staircase only to realize I was on the “wrong part of the building.”
Be a gracious host
Dusty and Jeff didn’t look at their jobs as just throwing a conference together with hot speakers, I think they looked at it as hosting a party in their own hometown.
I felt like I was invited to their own living room, where they gave us a tour of their house, made sure I was comfortable, and took me to all the hot places in town to make sure I have a good time.
This not only made BIGOmaha great, but also gave it a humanistic feel, where it made a New Yorker traveling to Nebraska feel like I was visiting an old friend…rather than a strange city for some random conference.
With all that said
I think Dusty and Jeff came across an incredibly awesome formula for throwing a conference.
It wouldn’t have been as awesome as it was without their hardwork, but I think there is lots to learn from these two. With their techniques, I’d love to see a BIGNewYork, BIGAustin or even a BIGIowa.