eComm America 2010 was hit by the blanket ban across most of European airspace due to Icelander's not looking after their volcano or a misinterpretation of a British request for "cash" being mistaken for "ash". Whatever the case, it all unfolded over the weekend leading to the event. The timing could not have been worse. And just to make matters even worse, I got stuck mid-way across Europe as my transit airport got closed 30 minutes after I arrived. I then spend the night attempting to re-route without success leading to the last resort decision to turn and go back via train. Out of 400 registrants, 50 others also cited that they could not make it. This included a proportion of speakers.
It was truly an event organizers nightmare if there ever was one. If that was not enough, further compounding matters was the fact that I'd put a new production team together. They had not worked together before. I was the only one who knew everyone and I was therefore not only the conference chair but I was also to be the person to "gel" this new team together both during that weekend and during the event.
I found myself very tired (due to travel) and yet back home where I started very late on the Saturday night. I arrived back to a flood of emails from stranded speakers who could not or thought they may not; suddenly the schedule which had been such a great effort to construct over months seemed like it could be wrecked in a matter of hours.
It flashed thru my mind at that point the only option was to cancel. But then I thought about the other 350 people, many of whom were in transit. That would have done far more harm. So the only option was to go ahead and call out for help. After all it's supposed to be a community, so I was interested to see if others would step in to prove that.
I'm pleased to report that others did step in to save the day during those final hours, putting their pre-set schedule, work and/or family aside.
On day one the following people kindly stepped in and chaired:
- JP Rangaswami (Chief Scientist, British Telecom)
- Craig Walker (Real Time Communications Group Product Manager, Google)
- Doc Searls (Editor/Fellow/Writer/Author/Consultant, Harvard University/UC Santa Barbara)
On day two the following people kindly stepped in and chaired:
- Benoit Shilllings (CTO, Mydriad Group AG; formerly Chief Technologist, Nokia)
- Cullen Jennings (Distinguished Engineer, Office of CTO, Cisco)
- Marc Smith (Chief Social Scientist, ConnectedAction; formerly senior research sociologist at Microsoft)
On the last day (dedicated to augmented reality) the following people kindly stepped in and chaired:
It would have been impossible under the circumstances for the event to go ahead without these people stepping in, so I'd like to express great gratitude on behalf of the Emerging Communications community. Thankyou.
In addition I'd like to thank Andy Abramson (Communicano) for providing eyes and ears on the ground, often digitally; and Nancy Boyd (eComm) for swimming excessively well after being landed in the deep-end and tying all the disjoint pieces together on the ground without me. Was it worth it? I'll let you decide by taking a sample of quotes from some of the feedback questionnaires I have to hand:
"This was a conference of great minds. Even the people attending are working on more game changing work than the speakers at some of my other conferences." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"It was a great event especially due to the high caliber of the people it attracted and the unique format." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"I enjoyed the conference and I would like you to continue. Good execution of organization and logistics for the speakers." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"It was a professional production in all aspects. The show crew and conference management were 100% focused." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"The lineup of speakers was terrific, and the opportunity to socialize and meet other attendees was very helpful." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"It also seemed to attract the right crowd of people, for the most part a wide selection of interesting brilliant minds!" - (America 2010 Attendee)
"Please continue the generation of cross disciplinary speakers (communications, SW developers, solution providers, art, science, physiology, anthropology...)." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"I *greatly* enjoyed this conference. The act of bringing together these very bright, opinionated, and talented people from such a wide range of backgrounds was wonderful... One of the most energizing I have *ever* been too. (And yes that is about 20 years worth of geek conferences.)" - (America 2010 Attendee)
"eComm was a great event. I enjoyed the content but especially enjoyed the opportunity to network with some of the smartest most innovative thinkers in the business." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"Well run logistics. High density of new insights" - (America 2010 Attendee)
"I don't think I've encountered the richness and density of new information relevant to me in another conference." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"The speed and diversity of the talks is much better at eComm than other conferences. Also, the lack of marketing by presenters is a welcome change." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"I rate eComm as the best conference attended in my 15 years of being in the Telecom industry. I feel this way because of the intense delivery of information, that ability to gain all of it (not having to choose one of the other) and it's positioning towards emerging and future concepts. I get to interact with innovative and knowledgeable people." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"I was extremely pleased with the entire experience, both form a human and technical perspective. I met some outstanding people and the majority of talks were interesting and informative. A lot to take in a very fast paced format." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"The event was much better than expected" - (America 2010 Attendee)
"Excellent conference. The combination of bringing together the best thinkers and the best doers in this part of the industry is of great value." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"Loved the small conference format. The presos. The people. The ideas. The passion." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"I greatly enjoyed the conference and have taken away much insight, understanding and inspiration for future communications, computing and human interaction." - (America 2010 Attendee)
"My first time at eComm, and I thought it was just awesome. A great event. Well organized and full of very good presentations." - (America 2010 Attendee)