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AEA Boston Full Up

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news to any potential AEA Boston attendees, but we sold the last available seat just before noon yesterday.  You can still get in touch to request a spot on our waiting list. if you like.  If not, there’s always the Seattle show coming in June, with tentative plans for two more shows by the end of 2007.

Some of you may recall that I prophesied, a few weeks back, that we’d sell out on February 28th—and so we did.  Go me.  I feel like a regular Edgar Cayce.

Speaking Assistance

  • MakeMeASpeaker

    This wiki is intended to be a place where those who are interested in becoming speakers (particularly, but not exclusively, in the web world) can come to get advice, mentoring and help. It is also intended to be a meeting place for those who are interested in helping others become speakers.

    On the same site: an evolving (and evolvable) page containing Advice.

  • UltraNormal: How to Get to Speak at Web Conferences

    …some practical suggestions for folks who want to gain some confidence in their own speaking abilities and how I worked up to presenting at conferences… I’ve spoken at a bunch of conferences over the past year, and well, this might help someone.

  • Bloggy Hell: Calling future speakers!

    Below are a list of some of the events which encourage people to get up and speak about what they love. The list is Australian-centric, mainly because that is the circles I hang with, but I would love to hear of similar things going on around the world…

Back in Seattle Again

An Event Apart is coming back to Seattle in June 2007, and the only major differences are that it will be two days instead of one, and this time we’ve got a roster of nine fantastic speakers.

Of all the Event Apart venues of 2006, I think the Bell Harbor International Conference Center was probably my favorite.  Every place we visited last year had its own unique charms and flaws, but at Bell Harbor I really felt like the charms were maximized and the flaws minimized.  So we’re bringing AEA back to Bell Harbor on June 21st and 22nd, as we announced this morning.

Nine speakers seems to be our target for these two-day events, and fully two thirds of our Seattle lineup will be different than our Boston lineup.  (The repeats are me, Jeffrey, and Jason.)  For your edification, we’ll be presenting:

  • Tim Bray, father of XML and possessor of many fine hats
  • Jeff Veen, Wired alumnus and very tall person, now at Google
  • Andy Budd, leading member of the Brit Pack and our first international speaker
  • Khoi Vinh, dog lover and Design Director at NYTimes.com
  • Shaun Inman, the brains behind Mint, IFR, IPC, CSS-SSC, and a whole lot more
  • Local hero Mike Davidson, CEO of Newsvine and web standards provocateur
  • Shawn Lawton Henry of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

Oh yeah.

That’s all completely awesome, but there is a catch.  There’s always a catch, isn’t there?  The catch is that the seating available at Bell Harbor is strictly limited.  Once we sell all the seats they have, that’s it, all done, finito.  The seating capacity at Bell Harbor is about two-thirds that of our Boston show, and Boston is on track to sell out.  Registration for Seattle will open March 15th, so now is the time to prepare.  See you in Seattle!

AEA Boston Going Fast

The rate of registrations for An Event Apart Boston has been, in my eyes and the eyes of our greatly experienced Event Manager, nothing short of stunning.  I generally look deeply askance at exhortations to “hurry before they’re all gone” or claims that “time is running out”, but they’re kind of warranted here.

That’s not because we only have ten seats left or anything, no; but we have sold a solid majority of the available seats in the 25 calendar days registration has been open.  And we already know of a bunch more people who are planning to register just as soon as they can get all their institutional ducks lined up.

At the current rate of registration, we’ll most likely have sold all the available seats before the early bird deadline arrives on February 26th.  My current projections say we’ll sell out on February 28th, but of course there’s no guarantee expressed or implied by that statement.  Space could dry up faster or slower than I currently predict, especially since I didn’t take the expected last-minute early bird registration rush into account with that prediction.  I’ll be sort of interested to see how far off I was, when the time comes.

So, yeah, the show is filling up fast.  So is the special room rate we negotiated with the hotel.  If you’re interested, then, you know… better hurry before they’re all gone.

AEA To Grow in 2007

Let’s cut right to the chase: An Event Apart is growing to become a two-day conference.  We’ll have at least four two-day shows in 2007; see the announcement for more details.

The first show, in Boston, is already confirmed.  We’ve signed the contracts and everything.  Registration isn’t open yet, and won’t be until early January, so you have plenty of time to get the budget approval and be ready to sign up as soon as seats go on sale.  Like I said, early January.  A more specific date will most likely emerge near the end of December.

You’re going to want to get geared up for this, because the speaker list is flat-out amazing:

Honestly, I can hardly wait to hear everyone on the list.  Well, except me.  I hear me all the time.  But everyone else?  Total gold!

Note that this is the speaker list for Boston; the other cities will have different lineups.  Obviously not 100% different, but I expect each one will be fairly different.  Still awesome, of course.

So what are we going to cover?  Best practices.  That’s really what it’s all about, whether we’re dissecting code or talking about usability or whatever.  Jeffrey and I are going to push every last speaker to pack their talks with insights regarding the current state of the art in their respective fields.  We’re going to push ourselves twice as hard to do the same.  What we want is to have everyone walk out saying, “Now I know where things are and where they’re going”.

The size of the event will increase along with the days, from our usual 100 seats to 400 or so.  AEA is now, as I said, a full-on conference.  It’s a big step, but it’s the right one.  The most common feedback from this year’s attendees was that one day just wasn’t enough, and looking back, we have to agree.  That’s especially true given that the feedback from our only two-day event of 2006 indicated that people really liked the length and the amount of information they got out of it.  So it’s time to step up.

Even from this side of the Atlantic, I hear the cries of our European brethren.  When will we visit your worthy shores?  It’s a fair question.  It could happen in 2007, or it might not be until 2008.  How’s that for precise?  I’m sorry, but I can’t do any better than that right now.  Our original plan had been to run a year’s worth of events to shake out the bugs and then look to other lands.  Instead, we discovered that the events were too small, temporally speaking, and needed to be dramatically revamped.

So now we need to run a few of the larger events to get the bugs worked out before going afield.  The good news is that a lot of the bugs are already smoothed out.  We just need to get a handle on the larger format, which has a whole new set of requirements.

So we’ll be at the Boston Marriott Copley Place at the end of March.  I hope you’ll be there too!  (And if you are going to be there and are a member at Upcoming, add yourself to the listing.  Otherwise, feel free to leave a comment here.  Thanks!)

Austin’s Powers

When it isn’t buried under a flood tide of web geeks, band groupies, and filmgoers, Austin is a nice little town.

Or maybe it’s just a nice little downtown; thanks to a visit with Angela and Dan, I found that the greater Austin area is a good deal larger and more urban than I’d realized, not to mention growing at a rapid clip.  At any rate, being there for An Event Apart Austin was markedly different than the SXSW experience (in which I’ll once again be partaking, come March) just by dint of not being nearly so noisy.

While we didn’t contribute too much noise to the area, I fervently hope that we added a whole lot of signal.  I know that from my spot on the charmingly petite stage at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, the people in the audience really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I at least felt like I was communicating well.  I think the other speakers did too, so hopefully they got the same feeling.

Part of that, without question, was due to just how friendly and welcoming the audience was.  We had a few glitches here and there, but so far as I could tell, nobody let it get them down.  As we said to ourselves a few times, “When you choose quirky venues, you get quirk”.  I still really enjoy putting on events in not-the-usual-suspects places like the Alamo, and I’ll miss that aspect of AEA when it grows larger, but it’s definitely the case that you take your chances at a smaller venue.  I think we did well at the Alamo, and several attendees mentioned how cool it was to attend an event there.  I’m glad we picked it.

It’s still a gamble, though, and after a year of AEAs, I understand better than ever why so many conferences and other events are held in hotel ballrooms.  It may be bland and a little soulless, but as a presenter, you know they’ve done it all a thousand times before.  You know they can handle any routine problem, and in fact have.  It’s comforting.  You give up charm and funkiness, but in return you get stability.

I think there’s an analogy to dating in there somewhere, but I’m not going to pursue it.

After we were all done with the speechifying, the fine folks at Knowbility threw an after-party on the upstairs terrace of The Belmont, and a good time was had by all, what with the open bar and all.  I even got to meet and talk with Jim Thatcher, the man responsible for PCSAID, one of the first screen readers.

If you’re wondering what it all looked like, or if you were there and want to relive the moments, there’s (as ever) a Flickr pool for your perusal.  I threw in a few pictures of my own, including one for those of you who’ve ever wondered about the view from the stage.  The Austin Flickr pool even has, somewhere in its depths, a picture of me being a naughty boy.  Find it if you can!

All in all, the folks in Austin made it a great end to the 2006 AEA season, so thanks, y’all!  I always like to finish on a high note.  We’re going to take a little break in the AEA schedule while the event gets retooled and expanded.  We haven’t officially announced the next show, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, just between us: it looks to be in Boston at the end of March 2007, it’ll be two days long, and I already want to see and hear our lineup of speakers.  More when we have official word, which hopefully should come within the next week or so.

Webmaster Jam Session

Forty-eight hours after landing in Cleveland, I took off again.  I’d come back from AEA Seattle, and was leaving for the Webmaster Jam Session in Dallas, Texas.

I was interested to discover how much Dallas reminded me of my home town.  Both cities have urban downtowns of moderate stature and minimal residence.  Everyone lives in the suburbs, it seems, and at night the city center goes quiet.  People in other cities might read that as a slam, but it honestly doesn’t bother me.  A teeming, noisy nightlife is not the only (or even the primary) indicator of a healthy city.

As for the conference, it was a great time.  The gang at CoffeeCup Software understand something critical: that webmastering is not just about code and layout.  There were sessions on branding, for example.  I got a lot out of the excellent presentation given by John Moore, which drew on his long experience in the marketing department at Starbucks.  I believe that what I learned there will be of use in guiding the evolution and growth of An Event Apart.  There were also talks on finding the right hosting provider, ways to promote your site, and more.  And then there was the keynote, from that Eric wotsizname, you know, the CSS dude.  It seemed to go just fine, given that he was trying to pack ten years into an hour.

The other thing I noticed was that, for a first-time conference, the whole thing was run very professionally.  I know how hard that is to do, and I was quite impressed.  Kudos all around!

Like Seattle, I only was able to contribute a few pictures to the general pool, both because I was often too busy to haul out the camera and because my PowerShot S45 was approaching collapse.  Still, I got a nice picture of the twilit Dallas skyline, so even in near-death, the old battlewagon came through.

AEA Seattle

With AEA Austin looming just ahead, it’s probably well past time for me to say something about AEA Seattle.  Hey, what’s a couple of months between friends?

I’ve only been to Seattle once before, not counting a plane-to-car connection on my way to Vancouver, and that was four years ago for Web Design World.  I didn’t get a lot of time to see the city back then, so I was glad to get in a day early for AEA and hang out with Jeffrey.  As it turns out, we spent most of that Sunday exploring the Pike Street Market.  You might think that wouldn’t be a particularly lengthy or interesting activity, but for Jeffrey and me, there were many and varied delights to be found in the nooks and crannies of the sprawling complex.

Also, we were there just at the height of the Fifth Annual Buskers’ Festival, so there was quite a variety of entertainment to be had.  All in all, I had a great time drinking in some of the local flavor of Seattle, even if I passed on drinking coffee at the original Starbucks.  We put some photos up on Flickr, though not so many of mine as of Jeffrey’s.  There is also the usual event Flickr pool, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

The event itself was great.  The venue, the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, was flat-out fantastic.  I had no idea there was a venue possessing an entire auditorium filled with Aeron chairs and stable wifi, but there it was, and we were in it.  Lights, sound, projection—everything was top-notch and seamless.  For anyone who wants to do an event for 200 – 300 people, I’d definitely look at Bell Harbor.  They have some smaller rooms as well, and while they might not be quite as sweet as the main auditorium, the professional service would be no different.

Our feedback indicates that people liked what they heard, except me during the critiques.  Apparently, I came off as something of a jerk.  I’d been aiming for humorously blunt, which in retrospect was a mis-step—not because it came off wrong, but because it’s a poor fit for my public demeanor, which is why it came off wrong.  Live and learn.

So belated thanks to everyone who came down to the waterfront to see us do our thing, including one person from deep in my past… but that story will have to wait for another time.

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