After about 20 years in the tech sector, having attended pretty much any and every event there is, and having produced/helped produce my fair share of others, there are a few things that one learns when it comes to planning events & talks in Silicon Valley.
Timing is crucial.
You can’t have too much “noise” (aka competition) from other events at the same time. You can’t pick too fallow a period as often the reason such a time exists is because people are burned out (the good old “event fatigue”). You need to be mindful of the day of the week as well as time of day because even though tech folks tend to work a 7 day work week, those weekend days are precious – especially for anyone with a family.
When Tony Hsieh invited me to come visit the Downtown Project I’d been told that there would be a handful of scheduled activities on the roster. I’d get a Downtown Project tour. I’d get a Zappos tour. I’d get a chance to spend time with some of the folks driving different projects.
I’d also be asked to give back.
What that means in Downtown Project parlance is that the guests who are invited to participate in any of the curated weeks here not only get shown around and get to learn about Downtown, they also get a chance to experience the “return on community” concept firsthand, but spending time mentoring entrepreneurs, offering “office hours”, or giving a talk.
So when Joe Mahon asked me if I would be willing to give a talk, I said yes. Originally it was slated for Friday early afternoon – a perfect summertime time slot. There’d be libations on hand and folks were finished with the week’s work. Figured we’d pack the room. When Joe then said the schedule had shifted and asked if I minded that my talk would be moved to Saturday morning my gut reaction was: Crap. Guess I’ll be talking to myself.
Yeah, I’m jaded like that.
I also could not have been more off base.
That morning I cruised up to Tony Hsieh’s apartment on the 23rd floor of The Ogden. As the speaker theater planned for Downtown Las Vegas is still merely an idea on paper, Tony offers up part of his rather sizable apartment for The Downtown Project to host its tour groups and for speakers who are part of this newly minted series they are developing for Downtown.
Getting there about 30 minutes before my scheduled talk time I found they’d set up the room with about 55-60 chairs. I found it hard to believe that they’d even fill a quarter of that. Imagine my surprise when, 30 minutes later, every chair was filled and there were more people standing in the back of the room.
Besides being taken aback by the number of people who who showed up I also found the audience to be one that eagerly engaged in discussion and seemed to truly welcome going deep and personal – qualities that audiences in more overly saturated markets I’ve experienced just don’t do.
Maybe it’s because the community is new.
Maybe it’s because the community is filled with relatively young people who are less experienced & seasoned (read: less jaded and cynical).
Or maybe it’s just another reflection of this remarkable experiment Tony Hsieh has catalyzed in the desert…
It’s only my third day so the jury is still out … but in the mean time, here’s a look at my session.
Well, this is a little video preview they put together:
And if that piqued your interest, here’s the full session:
As a strange and utterly out of left field side note to this day … As noted in this post, when I cruised around First Friday, I came across a woman in full roller derby regalia. She was handing out flyers for a competition the following evening at The Riviera. Since this entire trip was based entirely on doing things I’ve never done before, it seemed a simple decision to head for this event.
For the record, it was a blast. That I got to attend with my friend Jodi Gersh who, as serendipity would have it, was in Vegas that evening, just made it even more fun.
A gallery of images from my wanderings on day 3 of my Zappos & Downtown Project adventures can be found here.