How Big Omaha Created A Profitable Tech Conference In The Midwest

Like
+ Add to

I got to see how hot Big Omaha was when people in my audience asked me to help them score tickets after it sold out. The conference was nothing but an idea when I first met Jeff Slobotski a few years ago at the SxSW conference. But everyone at SxSW seems to have an idea for a conference because they see how much fun a conference can be and they count up the conference’s revenues in their heads and imagine what it must be like to get a piece of that action. What they don’t realize is that it’s tougher to pull off than it seems.

So why did Jeff’s conference do so well? And just how well did it do? That’s what I set out to find out in this interview.

If you appreciate Jeff’s openness in this interview, don’t just sit there. Tell him on Twitter!

Jeff Slobotski

Jeff Slobotski

Big Omaha

Jeff Slobotski is the co-founder of Big Omaha, the event whose mission is to inspire attendees to follow their passions, build the businesses they love and strengthen their creative communities. He’s also the co-founder of Silicon Prairie News, a blog that interviews the midwest’s leading entrepreneurs and creatives, reports on startups and established companies and announces events.

 

roll-angle

Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Before we get started here, here are three tools to grow your business from my sponsors, starting with Shopify. Do you have an idea for an online store and need an easy way to get started? Or do you have an online store already and want to finally grow your sales? With Shopify, you’ll set up your store in minutes. You’ll get professional themes to customize your store. You’ll even get a mobile app to manage your store from anywhere. Check out shopify.com.

And when you need something designed, where do you go? Well, for a logo, a t-shirt, a website, whatever, I recommend 99designs.com, the company that recently run a Peoples Voice Award at the WEBees because when you go to 99designs and describe what you need, designers from all over the world will work and create custom designs just for you. You’ll give them all feedback, and you’ll get even more designs. When you’re happy, you only pay for the designs you want. I’ve used 99designs and so have Timothy Ferriss and Adidas and Shopify and TiVo and many other Mixergy interviewees and viewers. Check out 99designs the next time you need anything designed.

Finally, what happens when customers call you? With Grasshopper, you have complete control of the experience you give your callers. You can set up multiple extensions. You can adjust voice mail greetings based on time of day. You can have your voice mail transcribed and sent to you. It’s all up to you, grasshopper.com.

Here’s the program. Everyone, it’s Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. And today, I’ve got with me Jeff Slobotski, and I invited him here to find out how he organized a conference in Omaha of all places and got hundreds of attendees who are entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives to all show up. And as I understand it, Jeff, the conference was profitable from the first year.

Interviewee: Correct. Correct. That’s right, Andrew.

Andrew: See, what I hear is the first year you lose a little bit of money, you struggle a whole lot, but you make it up later on. And what I found is a lot of people who organize conferences the first year expect, maybe, to lose a little bit. But they don’t realize how painful it is to put on and how tough it is to even just eke out a small loss. So, I invited you here to find out how you did it, to learn about how you built it up and find out what the rest of us can learn from your business.

Interviewee: Sure. You bet.

Andrew: So, welcome and what is Big Omaha?

Interviewee: Yeah, Andrew. Thanks first of all for including us on the show and my chance to talk a little bit more about what we’re doing. So, the event that you described is an event to essentially categorize and connect this region’s entrepreneurs, innovators, and creative class. So, we’re not trying to rival or compete with South by Southwest or Web 2.0, but essentially wanted to put an event together for folks that are pushing the envelope around entrepreneurship and the startup culture here in the Midwest.

Andrew: Why the Midwest? Why didn’t you decide to just go out to one of the two coasts or a bigger city and do it there?

Interviewee: Yeah. No, it’s a good question. We get it a lot, too. I’m from here, native Omahan, and I’ve traveled around to both coasts. I had a kind of job, I was working for several years out of Manhattan, and you read about the individuals in Fast Company or Eat Magazine on your show that are doing exciting things. And, you know, I said, hey, that’s find that we can go to another location and do another event, but I think there’s a hunger and there’s a passion here from folks within the Midwest that are doing exciting things. You look at Groupon. You look at 37 Signals. Those guys level all the way down to some grassroots startups here, Agile Sports and others, that are making their mark. And so, what we wanted to do was say, hey, let’s bring the guys in and women in from the coasts to provide us kind of two-fold, the kick in the pants to follow your passion, to do what you love. And then, secondly, I think, to connect that community. There’s tremendous value in getting 400-500 people in a room that are all passion around entrepreneurship or startup culture. And that’s infectious. It rubs off on one another. And so, I just felt that there was an energy and a passion here for an opportunity to do something for folks that are in the Midwest.

Andrew: How many people did you get to show up at the conference?

Interviewee: This year we had about 500 attendees. All in all, volunteers and everything, close to 550. But 500 plus is what we’re saying this year. So, that’s up over last year. Last year we had about 420-430 folks. For us, it’s just as important to get the right folks in the room as well. So, you get the investor with the entrepreneur with the mentor, kind of all underneath the same roof and try and get the right audience there as well.

Andrew: What were you charging per ticket?

Interviewee: This year, we were $229 we started at and ended at $299. So, the early bird discount was $229 and, like I said, closed down about $299 at the very end.

Andrew: And I, as a kid, used to go into a restaurant, count how many people were in the restaurant and multiply it by the average price of the food.

Andrew: I was a big dork. In fast food restaurants, you kind of feel you’ve got the sense of it, but when you grow up, you realize, no you don’t. There’s all these other expenses. All these other revenues that come into a store. So, for people who are counting and multiplying the number of attendees by the price per ticket, they’re missing something. They’re missing that some of the ticket prices are discounted, right?

Interviewee: Correct. Correct. Yeah, discounted prices for students. We have other passes that we provide for non-profits and folks in the community that we think are a strong guy to be in the room as well. So, yeah, absolutely.

Andrew: You give discounts to readers and viewers of Mixergy, also.

Interviewee: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. We provided some to media partners, and, obviously, you were one of those. You see, I definitely provide other discounts and discounted ticket pricing as well

Andrew: What brings in more revenue? Let’s talk specifically at your conference. What brought in more revenue at your conference? Is it sponsorship, or is it ticket sales?

Interviewee: Yeah. Sponsorship, hands down was for us. Well, I won’t say hands down, but I think definitely more sponsorship than ticket prices. And as we look at things as well going into the year three, for us we don’t want to continue raising the price on the attendee every year, right? So, five years from now this isn’t going to be a thousand dollar conference, more than likely. But where I see huge value and where our team has found this year is sponsorships, right? So Kaufmann Foundation was a tremendous sponsor this year, a big supporter of what we’re doing and kind of building in terms of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. So, them and Microsoft Disc Mart are folks that hopped on board this year, that see what’s going on here in the Midwest and with the event. So, in my mind I see the opportunity on the sponsorship side more so than continue to raise the prices on the attendee because that’s who we’re trying to attract and trying to get in the room is the right folks.

Andrew: I’d like to understand what a sponsor’s looking for and what convinces them to spend money on a conference. When you look at the attendees, 500 for a conference is huge. But when you compare it to the Web that’s not even a M. You know how we sell ads online. It’s CPM, price per thousand. This isn’t even M.

Interviewee: Right.

Andrew: It’s not even a thousand people. It’s half of that and still sponsors are willing to pay thousands of dollars for, not just your conference but for any conferences. What do they get out of a conference sponsorship that’s unique?

Interviewee: I think that’s something that we continue to work on to make sure we’re providing value to the sponsors. I think for us it’s the placement and the integration of a sponsor in the activities. So, I don’t know if you’ve seen photos of the space, of the gallery. It’s not a conference hall. It’s not a hotel ballroom where we hold the event. A really kind of eclectic modern art gallery is where the venue is held. So, we try to think up fun ways to integrate the sponsors into the event itself. So, whether it’s sponsoring breakfast, sponsoring snacks, small at that level all the way up to the deejay. So, we have a deejay at the event. If we’ve got a sponsor that’s a big music fan, we’ll try to integrate them into the event. So, more so than just putting up a slide during breaks or coming out of breaks and say, here’s our sponsors and their logos. Really trying to work with them to craft where they’d like to be involved. Actually, our sponsorship asks. We leave that open as well. We say, hey, here’s what you’ll get for X dollar amount as a sponsor. But then, also saying, what type of creative sponsorship are you interested in? We propose a couple of ideas to them but, again, really try to work with the sponsor, more or less on a one-on-one basis and say, what’s the best feel? What’s the best integration for you as well? And so, I think that’s key, not only for our event but other events as you go forward. It’s not just slapping a logo on a website and producing an event guide and putting the logo in there but really trying to work with the sponsor on an individual level.

Andrew: What do you think they’re looking for? Are they looking for conversions from an event? Are they looking to humanize their brand? Are they looking to just build relationships?

Interviewee: Yeah. I think definitely, at least, where we’re at here in the Midwest, I think it’s humanizing the brand. I also think it’s just getting out there in the field, right? So, whether it’s PayPal or Yahoo or BizSpark, we’re familiar with those companies, those organizations, maybe, more so on the coasts. But having those guys on the ground in terms of sponsoring the event at BigOmaha or other regional conferences, I think really puts, like you said, the human feel behind it. So, we know what Kaufmann Foundation does in just the amount of work they’re involved in throughout the year but being able to talk with a couple of foundation representatives is huge. You know, for them, again, both ways that the attendees know what BizSpark’s up to. And then again, BizSpark can realize, wow there is a vibrant startup scene within the Midwest at this particular event. So, I think it’s definitely putting the kind of human touch and the human interaction behind that brand or behind that company’s name.

Andrew: Do you remember when you first approached a sponsor, the first sponsors you approached?

Interviewee: I do.

Andrew: Can you describe what that was like?

Andrew: Do you remember when you first approached a sponsor, the first sponsors you approached?

Interviewee: I do. I do.

Andrew: How? Can you describe what that was like?

Interviewee: I’ve got the email starred in my inbox so to never lose that feeling, that buzz. You know, gosh, I was trying to…you know, for me it was just you make the ask, right? And the worse they can say is no or, you know, we’re not at that level but we’re at level, you know, X whatever it is maybe a little bit lower. But there was some intimidation especially the first year of the event, right? We had put this…we had essentially created this event, and we didn’t set out to say, ‘Oh. Let’s, you know, let’s line up an event similar to South by Southwest or Web2O or [La Web], whatever it is, and do it here in the Midwest.’ It was a bit more organic than that.

So as we started piecing things together we realized, ‘Well, gosh. We need some sponsorship funding to offset a lot of these costs, you know. And, yeah, I remember, you know, saying, ‘Hey. This is what we’re thinking about doing. Here’s who we’re thinking about bringing in. Are you interested?’ and waiting for that response.

So definitely some intimidation, I think, the first one but, you know, after that you just kind of go heads down. And when you believe in the brand and in the event of what you’re doing, it makes it easier to make that ask as well and to sell it, kind of what you’re trying to do.

Andrew: Okay. Let’s go in chronological order because I take information better in in stories and I like to see how an idea develops into a business. So where did the idea come from?

Interviewee: You bet. So it’ll be two years ago this July, I was working for a company out of Manhattan still based here in Omaha. Was traveling back an forth between the coast, Manhattan, San Fransisco, [Austinbull] or whatever city, you know, you hear about startups in the ecosystem.

Andrew: What was the company and what were you doing for them?

Interviewee: I was working for a company called [Truest] and I was essentially marketing and sales for them. So it was a [xx] that essentially sold software to nonprofits, universities, companies to track charitable donations as well as volunteer time. And so, as I was traveling around and I’d see the different communities, you know, that I’d be in I’d start writing about them to say, ‘Hey. This entrepreneur is amazing, you know, love his story!’

But then I’d get back home and I’d realize that we had a lot of those same individuals here in our own backyard. And so, essentially about that time I teamed up with my friend and business partner Dusty Davidson, who runs a software development company in Omaha called Bright Mix. And we toyed around with the idea, again instead of me talking about what I said in other cities, you know, let’s put a camera in front of the entrepreneurs that are doing things here, regionally.

And so, we started the website called [Silicon Prairie News], which again will be two years old this July, essentially with the goal of highlighting these entrepreneurs and these startups that are in Omaha, Des Moines, working a little bit in Kansas City and Souix Falls, Minneapolis a bit as well. And so, we had held a couple events after launching [Silicon Prairie News]. For me, connecting people not only online but offline, was of huge value to get people in the same room to talk and interact and engage. So I held some Tweetups, a couple bar camp events. We actually…

Andrew: Let’s hold it right there.

Interviewee: Yeah?

Andrew: The idea for [Silicon Prairie News] was it to earn a profit from the site? Were you going to be tech crunch of [Silicon Prairie]?

Interviewee: No. That wasn’t the initial intention. Since then, you know, things have changed. It’s taking more of a business approach and a business acumen to it. But initially it was just a hobby blog, a hobby site that I wanted to launch to tell the stories of the entrepreneurs that are out there. But since then it has shifted a bit, you know, continuing to tell the stories and stay true to the mission, but also there are some business opportunities with that as well.

Andrew: When you started organizing events, what was the first event that you organized?

Interviewee: I think the first event was a Tweetup. Just something as small as getting people together off of Twitter and it’s, you know…

Andrew: How many people came?

Interviewee: I think we had about 30-40 in the room. And then what we did is we held them every couple months. And so, by the third one we were up over 200 people.

Andrew: Two hundred people from a Tweetup?

Interviewee: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew: Wow! And what would you do? You guys were just having drinks together?

Interviewee: Just having drinks and connecting the community. Again, I think that it goes back to the passion and the desire for connectedness here, you know. People are working on their own projects or their own businesses kind of launching unique things whether its web design, you know, coding, startups, whatever it might be. But providing them just a platform to connect and say, ‘Okay. Who is that guy behind the Twitter icon or on Facebook?’ or whatever it is.

And so, you know, we held a couple Tweetups then Sarah Lacy was on a book tour for her first book the, “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good.” So she stopped in Omaha on the tour across the US and said there was something unique about the culture and about the community here. And so, after she stopped in and we had, you know, for her event we had about 150 people in the room. And not so much numbers again, but the more so, you know, we had investors like professors from the university with entrepreneurs all there, and you look around and you say, ‘Well, okay. There’s something interesting here. There’s something very valuable about getting people together.’

15 – 20

Interviewee: And so shortly after Sarah came in I had the idea I still saved the post, I said if we are [15:06] get like Warren Buffet on stage with one of the leading entrepreneurs of our time right, Buffet being Berkshire Hathaway being based at Omaha, we thought that it would be kind of fun play to get him involved in this community and so essentially morphed from there we said let’s do something a little bit bigger, a little bit bigger than the tweet up or the bar camp or the surveys and essentially said hey let us put together this event, we weren’t sure exactly what it looked like, it wasn’t a social media conference, it was unique, and then from there kind of essentially built that first year out.

Andrew: How did you get investors in the room, to come to your event?

Interviewee: Yeah, I think we had personal relationships with a handful of kind of angel investors and so we said

Andrew: Through the blog, by blogging the other companies in the area?

Interviewee: Correct, blogging about the companies as well as even before the blog, guys that I or Dusty would know personally and so we said they kind of follow the blog since launch kind of where are things right today, we said hey we are bringing this offer and from Silicon Valley, some of you guys might be interested and they said sure we will check it out, so again trying to just engage an audience that usually likes to stay under cover, behind the scenes if you will.

Andrew: So then, you are doing this, it grows and grows and grows, and then you say it might be time for us to put something bigger together, maybe we get Warren Buffet together with someone from the tech space. Warren Buffet still has not said yes, has he?

Interviewee: That’s correct. We felt we got [16:37] him and I think he is familiar with what we were doing, knows what is going on but Berkshire Hathaway, the annual shareholders meeting is two weeks before Big Omaha and so I think he can take a break after that meeting but still working on it for sure.

Andrew: I hope you get him at some point. I sent him an email a while back asking him for an interview when I started and I got a quick no and then I followed up and I got another quick no and I followed up again still haven’t had him on.

Interviewee: You and I are to keep to working on it.

Andrew: I did go to his annual meeting, man was that fun. Actually Omaha was also fun, it was fun to go through the small town, to go running in the street to feel like there is just, you are just in a new environment, it has lot of things that are familiar but it still feels new and maybe it’s because I am used to living on the coast, the whole experience is just extra fun. And of course you got all those people around who are investing in his company, who are business people themselves, it was just really interesting.

Interviewee: Yeah, absolutely. I think they had like 40,000 people this year at the event. It is an experience in itself for sure.

Andrew: 40,000 people in that conference hall listening to him, and it is so quiet that if one person sneezes from the other side of the stadium you can hear it in your seat, they are not looking to get up and go get pop corn or snacks or anything, they are sitting there and really paying attention. So you are putting your own conference together, what’s the first piece that you had to get into place?

Interviewee: I think for us was securing the speakers to say hey what does this look like, who we are bringing in? Okay, if it’s not Warren Buffet, that was kind of you can see from the blog post it was kind of a famous guy, it would be great if we get Warren, Gary Vaynerchuk was someone that I had followed for quite sometime, just very, very in tune and in love what he is doing, his passion for business for business and life and so I put a couple [18:37] to Gary and Matt on his team and said hey you know what, we are [18:42] you on this event in Omaha, we would love to have you in, about the same time I think we put out somebody who knew Tim Ferris and so then there were some back and forth on Twitter between Gary and Tim I think in terms of who would come in and who would get to be on stage with Warren Buffet and Gary essentially signed on, he said hey absolutely I want to go to Omaha and see what’s going on there, I am here in [19:02] of Omaha, and so till this day I still credit a lot of, kind of where we built things from in terms on the speaker side and the attendee side to Gary and his assistants to really say okay cool, I will give it a shot, I will fly up there, I will what this event is about, and essentially has opened the doors to other folks as well. So going back to building I think it was definitely lined up [19:25] speakers that we found interesting.

Andrew: You did that before you even got the location locked down?

Interviewee: Well, yeah, kind of simultaneously, because we had a couple of ideas, we said we could do, we could do the [19:35], we could do the convention center, right we do that as an option, pricing might be a little different, but about the same time we met with help friends from [19:45] who is the director of the [] exhibit the facility where we held the event, where we continue hold the event and met with him and said hey, their whole mission is around creativity and expansion of the mind through different programming and different events that they bring in.

Andrew: You don’t mean it that way to build a community, not before you start tearing it down, but before you build a community first.

Interviewee: Build a community up before we start tearing it down. Yeah, yeah. And no I don’t mean we are going to start tearing it down a year from now. I just, you know I mean since everybody wants to critique and pick at something right? I think you look at Omaha; you look at Des Moines, Kansas City, Minneapolis. We are young; we have young communities and young cultures here, so for us I think to start critiquing other businesses only does us a disservice, and isn’t going to continue building that community over time.

Andrew: Have you considered just tearing down people in Silicon Valley? Their arrogant, they don’t really know the real world. Anything like that?

Interviewee: No, you know. Yeah, no.

Andrew: Actually, I do think that would work, but let me get back to the serious questions here. I’ll take one from Moses in the audience. He is asking, “How do you handle sponsors at smaller events?”

Interviewee: So, smaller events other than Big Omaha?

Andrew: Yeah. He runs a meetup for Mixergy, the L.A. Mixergy Meetup. If he wanted to take care of his sponsors, what do you think he should do?

Interviewee: I guess what I learned a little bit more kind of what he’s doing, and the dollar amounts as well. What he’s trying to…

Andrew: Did you get sponsorships on the Tweetups that you did?

Interviewee: We did’t, you know what we just get like drink discounts, or the venue for free. We wouldn’t have to pay a rental for the venue. We actually didn’t raise sponsorships for the tweetups. For the barcamps we did, so we have held a couple barcamps already. Those we did, and you know what we do with those, we keep those lower dollar than Big Omaha. It is more of a grassroots community field, same with the meetups as well right? We don’t have 25,000 dollar sponsorships for a barcamp. So I think by allowing folks to come in, and I think our sponsorship level for some of the smaller events throughout the year start at $250.00, but it’s an opportunity for people to get involved in that community on that grassroots level as well. To say “Hey, yeah I support this movement that’s going on.” So I guess without knowing to much more I would say find a way to engage folks for sponsorship, and even if it’s not monetary whether it’s thorough media partnerships or sponsorships or whether it’s through any services that they could offer whether it’s writing services that they can trade for sponsorship is huge to utilize the community that is out there.

Andrew: How did you get Matt Mullenweg the founder of WordPress to come all the way to Omaha and speak?

Interviewee: I think that was through Miha Baldwin, and we had reached out to Matt in year one, and it’s a bad story, his flight got cancelled and delayed, and so he wasn’t able to make it in for year one, and so we were able to get him to come back last week for year two. Again I think when you look at Matt is somebody thats with the WordPress. The meetings and the gatherings that he has throughout the year, and throughout the states you know I think it’s his desire to see the communities that are out there as well, and not just on the coast. So yeah he was great. We had Robert Scoble who did a Q&A interview with him and I think it went really well.

Andrew: Last year?

Interviewee: This year. I’m sorry so, a week ago.

Andrew: Oh really, Robert Scoble was there this year?

Interviewee: Yeah, Robert Scoble came in with some of his team from building 43. He interviewed Matt Mullenweg, and essentially, I don’t want to say kind of moderated, but sat on the panel. We had an extended Q&A panel at the end of the day on Friday this year so, Robert was on that kind of fielding questions from the audience, and Twitter as well.

Andrew: Robert is extremely accommodating for ideas like that. I remember I wanted him to meet some entrepreneurs in L.A. when I lived there. I said “Robert can I get a team of people for you to talk to?” “Maybe do interviews for” He wasn’t doing building 43 at the time or maybe he was I forgot. He pulled out his little tablet PC, and he looked for a free date, and we just made it work right there. I said “Really, I can’t believe he is that easy to work with?” He didn’t ask for anything. He didn’t want money. He didn’t want flights. He didn’t want anything at all. I think I even offered to pay for his flight. Not that I was going to make any money from it. I just said “Look I have got some friends who have really interesting companies.” He was willing to do it. Let’s see what else here. What kind of revenues did you generate from this?

Interviewee: I think it was the end of last year we were north of, I think it was 80 or 90 thousand last year.

Andrew: That’s profit or revenue?

Interviewee: Revenue, I’m sorry. Profit ended up 80 or 90.

Interviewee: (…It’s just different set up) in terms of what we do. You know, obviously we’ll cover the flight and the hotel expenses, and then we do some honorariums as well for the speakers. So part of that with him was making sure that we’re able to sell, you know, a certain number of books as well, but not necessarily charging per say, so.

Andrew: Okay. And I think Tony Shay*, founder of Zappos* who you had on this year- I know that he likes to be flown in or driven in, and he likes to be put up at a place, but I don’t think he charges, does he?

Interviewee: No, we- again, it was a- part of it with this year was for the Delivering Happiness book, and so we wanted to make sure to get him in to share that, cause I had heard him talk at South by South West*, and so, similar type set up here, we actually provided transportation for him, both once he was here, and then to make sure he could make flights out of the States, and he was headed to London next, so. And again, I think, you know, it just differs with each speaker, it’s just a little different in terms of what they kind of request.

Andrew: Okay. And I think I’m understanding this from you, but I want to be clear about it: you guys did not pay Gary Vanderchuck* thirty to sixty thousand; you’re just saying that’s what his suggested retail price is; you negotiate a lower price- we’re not going to get into the exact price, but you’re just giving us an understanding of what the conference of business is like.

Interviewee: Correct, correct. You’re correct.

Andrew: Alright, so, you get the speaker, you get the place lined up; what’s next? How do you start getting gas?

Interviewee: Yeah, I think- you know, so we had built up kind of a community, and folks around Silicom Quarry News* that knew a little bit about what we were doing, and so we said, okay, you know, we’ve got hard costs- staging, you know, flights, hotels, things like that, so we kind of bring in the math to say, you know, if we get “X” number of people in the room, you know we’ll break even on it. And I think from then it was starting to really just go heads down and market, and say, you know, this is what we’re doing, Gary’s coming in… you know, I’d have to look back through emails; I think at that time we had Jason Fried on board as well, but we were still building out the slate of speakers the first year, so really marketing it, and to be honest we went heavy through Twitter, you know, Facebook; kind of that whole routine, but didn’t do the traditional marketing, the traditional, you know, advertising if you will… you know, really sold the event and sold out the event through Twitter and just kind of the buzz there. You know, and then again going back to Gary, and Jason and all these guys, you know, having them tweet out to say “Hey, I’m going to be in the Midwest, if you’re interested, come check me out.” I mean, with eight hundred- well, at that time I think, I don’t know, maybe only five hundred thousand followers, but you know, I mean that’s a great way to essentially build the buzz and the traffic here in a quick route, so.

Andrew: I see. Do you have a sense of how much of your- how many of your attendees came through the guests? Sorry- do you have a sense of how many of your attendees came in from the speakers, and how many came in from the other efforts?

Interviewee: Gosh, you know, it’s probably hard to say- I’d say most would probably be through our efforts, though, we went pretty heavy on terms of just pushing out- you know, we set up a big Twitter account rather than it coming from my account, right? So it’s more of a conference and it’s more of an event rather than just one face or a collection of faces behind it. You know, and again, like I said, we went pretty much heads down, and we partnered with some folks in Kansas City, and Minneapolis, and Des Moines, you know, we kind of worked with a lot of the guys in Boulder to get it out within their circles as well. You get a lot of the key influencers in each of these cities or locations, and that really helped drive the message out. But I’d say the most were probably through just efforts of both, you know, our own, but then our friends and other contacts that we worked with as well, in terms of getting the word out, so.

Andrew: Alright, I’ve written down some of the ways that you got attendees, so that I can go through them individually. You said the people at Boulder; who were the people at Boulder, and how did they help?

Interviewee: Yeah, I think Meehow Baldwin*, at that time, you know, so he’s got a huge circle of friends and folks. Matt Gallagan*, who was one of the initial Tech Stars* class graduates with- at that time I think it was Simple- well, now it’s Simple G Auto,* but social thing before that. Andrew Hyde*- another guy in Boulder, you know, again, just continue to spread the message of what’s going on. At that time Jeffrey Kalmacock* was in Boulder as well. So again, you get two, three, four, five of these guys and women in each of these cities, and that helps to say, okay, yeah, this looks interesting, you know, we’ll tweet out, or we’ll spread the word to our friends as well on it.

Andrew: So you just reach out to them and you say, what, ‘I’ll give you a free ticket because I know you’re going to be helping me promote this, can you do what?’ What are they- what do you ask them to do?

Interviewee: I just ask, you know- just send a short note and just say, “Hey guys, we’ve got this event, we’d love to have you in, let us know if you’re interested, you know, we’ll be able to work out a deal where we copy a ticket, just for spreading the word, or just say, you know, “Could you please just re-Tweet this message?” You know, “Big Omaha, May 12th through the 14th,” you know, “Gary V and others, it looks like a great event for the Midwest.”

30 – 35

Interviewee: Looks like a great event for the Midwest. Just ask them share simple message like that and then if they come in and we have got a lot of folks that we work with that have been huge help to us where we have to just make sure that we count the ticket and [30:14] just to get them in the room is, as being friends and helpful to us.

Andrew: Dano in the audience says that he seems to remember getting a tweet from Andrew Hyde. I remember speaking of the next point that I wrote down here, influencers, you guys did really well with, I remember just going out for coffee or lunch with people in Los Angeles and they were promoting your event as if it was their event and I started to, I think I had something planned that weekend and I wasn’t able to go there, but they were saying Andrew really want to go see Warren Buffet in Omaha that’s only happening a few days before, once you go to see Warren Buffet stick around and then go to Big Omaha and the way that they were pushing it just, it didn’t feel like they had an ulterior motive, you aren’t giving them a percentage of the sales for doing it, you just ask them to support and the way that they supported was very effective, almost completely effective. That’s why I had it in mind right now. The guy was so sincere about his desire to get the events do.

Interviewee: Absolutely, him and [31:23] there are others that I am probably missing right now, but I know that those two were key, Kurt I initially heard about what he was doing often and you did with him, reached out to him and essentially kind of established friendship and a network there, is bringing a couple of others for [31:42]

Andrew: The last thing that I wrote down on follow up with you on is personal connections. Seem to me like you were just reaching out to people all the time, you are reaching out on Facebook to me personally, by email and by Twitter and just keeping it top of mind all the time. How much freaking effort was that for you?

Interviewee: Yeah, it took time, it is a lot of work, I enjoy that, I just kind of [32:07], I enjoy.

Andrew: You don’t get embarrassed, you just already talked Andrew about Big Omaha and you tweeted to Andrew about Big Omaha, you talked to him about [32:18], and now you are going to recount him again, you don’t feel like well maybe this is too much?

Interviewee: I think there is a line, and you can kind of read that. It is a little bit hard to read through Twitter, if you get an all caps message back you probably get the signal that hey I heard about Big Omaha I am interested and so forth. I think it is just, I don’t know, it is just trying to be real and trying to be valuable to them as well. So and again finding that line. Not just to say it’s Andrew Hyde or whoever it is, to say hey tweet out about Big Omaha all the time you are around. Anyway I am not going to help you with anything that you are doing in Boulder, right, it is finding that balance. So when there is something coming in Boulder, I try and you can always do better at it, but you try to reach out and provide guide to them as well, or you see something that you do an interview that I think is good and hopefully I can just drop you a line to say, Andrew great interview, loved the show and that’s it. You know enough, so you can always better but I think just trying to not ask more that what you are willing to give and then what you give I think is key as well, so this is trying to reciprocate what you are asking other folks to help you out with I think is key.

Andrew: Did you buy any ads at all?

Interviewee: No we didn’t, we did some Facebook ads, we had a partnership with a local newspaper here at the Omaha World Herald, where it was more sponsorship for ads and so we actually, this year again, the second year we didn’t take out the ads, essentially have sold it entirely through Twitter and Facebook, Twitter really I think is the model.

Andrew: Now Facebook is bigger and bigger, it keeps getting bigger and bigger than Twitter but then Twitter is effective at moving product and getting clicks and getting engagements.

Interviewee: Absolutely, I think you must going to be short another point. We all know it on Twitter you can’t rant for a three paragraph about the event, you have got to sell the event or sell your product, your service pretty short so.

Andrew: Mixergy was a media sponsor I think the first year, I am pretty sure the first year, definitely the second year. Can you tell people what a media sponsor is?

Interviewee: So media sponsor what we do is try to essentially work with you, Mixergy or others in the Omaha World Herald, essentially we promote their brand, their logo, what they are doing as well, and then offering discounts to the readers as well. So we’ll say, Andrew you have got an excellent following, the right audience of what we would want at Big Omaha, so is there anyway that listeners to your show or watches your show, we want to try to say, here is another activity or event that’s taking place, so essentially just providing value to the sponsor hopefully in the way of logos and placement and what not, but then also discount to the readers that might find out about through Mixergy or World Herald or whatever it might be.

Interviewee: providing value to the sponsor, hopefully, in the way of, you know, logos and placement what not, but then also discount to the readers that might find out about it through Mixergy or [World Herald] or whoever that might be.

Andrew: The discount, I think, is extremely effective because it gives the media sponsor an excuse to keep talking about the event. I’m not just promoting it to promote it, but I want you guys to have this discount. I think, it also helps the event organizer keep track of which media sponsor’s doing exceptionally well and which one isn’t really sending much traffic. How did I do? How did Mixergy do?

Interviewee: Good, I mean, and I’m not just saying that. I think, you did great. I mean, it was the Tweeting, you know, about the event and I think it was…you know, we got a lot of folks that said -I’ll have to look at our survey results- but heard about it through Mixergy, right. And so, that’s exciting to like go down and say, ‘Okay. Cool. This isn’t just us. It’s a collection that helps sell this conference.’ So, and again, I mean, it’s, you know, the guys and the women that you’re bringing up on the show are right in line with, you know, people as potential speakers either present or future as well as, you know, people we look up to as a community, say, ‘Yeah. They’re doing cutting edge things.’ And so, it’s the right fit for sure.

Andrew: Can the profit from one event sustain you for the rest of the year?

Interviewee: You know, yeah. It can and it does. The event was our first, essentially profitable kind of business venture for [Silicon Prairie News]. You know, we didn’t roll out the site, we didn’t roll out [Silicon Prairie News] and say, ‘Hey. Let’s slap ads all over the site.’ You know, that wasn’t our goal. It was to build up a community. It was to build up a solid following, you know, and then now we’re seeing companies come to us to say, you know, ‘I want to be involved in Big Omaha and/or I want to be involved [Silicon Prairie News] like I want to put my ad on the site.’

And so, that’s where I feel good, when you know that you’re providing a value and you’re not just essentially trying to create, you know, this site that you’re going to slap ads all over, in a sense. But, yeah. I mean, absolutely. The event was profitable, sustained us throughout the year. We’re continuing to grow. We have one full-time employee right now, Danny Shriver, who’s our managing editor. Continuing to look at bringing on folks both here in Omaha as well as other cities, so.

Andrew: Let’s see. Somebody in the audience, Mickey D. Mickey D, I wish you’d use your real last name because every time I refer to you in the audience -and he’s, Mickey’s very active in the audience- every time I refer to you in the audience I sound like a McDonald’s commercial. Help me elevate the impression of my live audience. Go with like a good last name and maybe your company name if you want.

Interviewee: Oh, other than my last name?

Andrew: Oh, your last name is fine, you know. It’s not like Jesse…I don’t know, some kind of cutsie name. It works. If you were in the audience and I referred to you, people who were listening to the recorded version would say, ‘Oh. Listen to Andrew’s audience, really smart.’ You know what I should do? I should replace everyone’s names with like media celebrity names. I should have like, ‘A Gary Vanderchuck in the audience would like to know…’ here let’s do that. Not Mickey D but Gary Vanderchuck in the audience would like to know, who did you reach out to, to sell sponsorships specifically within a company? Who buys sponsorship at a company?

Interviewee: Yeah. That’s a great question. You know, sometimes go through the marketing, the advertising the kind of the PR side of things. For us last year -and it’s changed year one to year two- year one it was a lot of, I’d say, primarily local businesses, local or regional businesses where we knew the founders or we knew the owners. And so, we went straight to the top and said, ‘Hey, guys. You may or may not be familiar with what we’re doing with Big Omaha or with [Silicon Prairie News] and Big Omaha. You know, we’d love to have you guys involved. Here’s some of the people we’re looking at bringing in. You know, here’s a bio so if you haven’t heard of Gary Vanderchuck or Jason whoever it is,’ you know, highlighting kind of what these speakers are about.

You know, so I think that’s changed since year one. Now in year two, definitely seeing more national sponsors and then working through kind of their, you know, their ad or their PR or their community relations departments. But it depends. I don’t think it’s, you know, obviously all just one way.

Andrew: Yeah. I think [Biz Bar], for example, has somebody who’s prepared to engage in conference promotion or who’s prepared to interface with you.

Interviewee: Absolutely, absolutely.

Andrew: Sorry?

Interviewee: Yep. Absolutely. No, we, yeah. We initially started working with somebody out of San Francisco and then he connected us with the Chicago contact, who the Chicago contact was the guy who actually came in and did a great job and had a good time as well. So, you bet.

Andrew: Who is…this is from my own curiosity here. I looked at the sponsor list and I saw a Jim and Karen Linder didn’t link over to anyone. It was the only two personal names in the list. I figured they were family.

Interviewee: No. Jim Linder runs UniMed, so one of our sponsors. It’s a biotech [inaudible] through the University of Nebraska Medical Center. They are one of the sponsors that eventually…

Andrew: Sorry. We’re having some connection issues. Can you repeat that? Who are they?

Interviewee: You bet. So Jim Linder actually runs UniMed, who is one of the other sponsors

Jeff Slobotski : Jim and Karen Linder actually run “Unemed” who is one of our other sponsors for our event.And they also wanted to help just individually. I think they starting to get more involved in the community , on a personal level outside of just the Unimed arm. They want to attribute it to Jim and Karen, His wife Karen supports.

Andrew Warner:There is a lot of support ,No, I think people who are starting new businesses get a lot of support from the community as it is .I think they , people want to see you suceed when you are launching something new.But there is something about the conference organizers,why do they care? Why do people care? It is just another business. why do they go out of their way to help?

Jeff Slobotski : Well, I think for me personally, I know Dusty as well who I work with heavily on the events,partner and everything .I think it is exciting to see, to sit in the back of the room and see 500+ people to be engaged

in a talk and excited to be there and I don’t know ,its something just infectious about it for me .and again I don’t need to be the one organizing, I dont want to be ,This is just a deal , but you know somebody has to take the lead and connect that community, or organize that community, so to be able to look back and say look at the businesses that come of Big Omaha or look at the connections that are made.There is something exciting about that to me that say, or lets say getting people excited about their entrepeneurship or starting their new business wherever they are based,right here in the Midwest,you know so I enjoy greatly to be able to be a part of that, to orchestrate that gathering or meeting if you will.

Andrew Warner: Jordy in the audience is asking, what are your startup lessons, looking back,on having done this once or twice.

Jeff Slobotski : You know,Gosh! I guess it is, atleast from the, maybe take and give,a business approach to it earlier on,you know,again, you dont want to rush things as well, but maybe looking at Silicon Praries differently upon starting, more as it is , more as a business, more as a startup, you know for ,quite some time,I still looked at it more as a fun thing , that I enjoyed it doing more as a hobby blog, which I still do,, you know I am thrilled to do it,to be able to be a part of it, but you know it is a startup.and Big Omaha is a startup, and I think if anything, I would have change my mindset a little bit earlier, to look at Silicon Praries and Big Omaha more from the business side rather than strictly you know community play.

Andrew Warner: But if you had, what would have been different? How would you have done things differently?

Jeff Slobotski : Well I think opportunities for sponsorship could have been earlier and if we are going heads down, and say how do we increase traffic, how do we increase numbers right out of the gate, you know,how do we write controversial stories, that maybe drive up the traffic or the number of hits at the site,You know, like Techcrunch or some other sites might have some controversial stories, but again for us, we did not want to. Community is a huge aspect thats why we see that response from Big Omaha and Silicon Praries is that if the community is hungry for something around startup’s or entrepeneurial culture,So I think, finding that balance but maybe leading more towards looking at it as a start up more earlier on.

Andrew Warner: What kind of controversial stories do well?

Jeff Slobotski :You know We havent run any controversial stories . part of it is

Andrew Warner: Which kind of stories do well for you?

Jeff Slobotski : For us I think it is just highlighting, We have got a company called Agile Sports, and they have got Jeff as their CEO and they have got Bill and Melind Gates foundation on their board and they are doing amazing work around its a online kind of coaching tutorial that they are working on a bunch of NFL pro teams college teams and beyond now, so its a kind of story about Agile Sports that you introduce and that exciting , to what they are doing and that does well for us , and they

Andrew Warner: That does, Does it bring traffic

Jeff Slobotski : It does, because people dont know that they are out there,and say Holy Cow, These guys are amazing ,who is on their board and how much funding have they raised?you know, and so if we can start to tell those stories about whats here, you know, that definitely drives the traffic up, I think also the individual stories too where we highlight kind of a profile piece on entrepeneurs, you know you get people excited about , they say hey go check out the piece that Silicon praries did, but we haven’t , we have gotten pushed back,we have got lashbacks , we have got people call up and say hey you need to call out XYZ from the community but for us , it is not there, we are not trying to be confrontational,

Andrew Warner:right nowit brings about a lot of traffic?

Jeff Slobotski : Yeah Absolutely, but I think it is too early to do that right? we wanted to continue build the community before we start tearing the community down.

Andrew Warner : You dont have to look at it that way build the community and start to tear it down, but before you build the community.

45 – 50

Andrew: Not before you start tearing it down but before you?

Interviewee: Build the community up before, and I don’t mean that we are going start tearing it down a year from now. Everybody wants to critique and pick at something and I think you look at Omaha and you look at De Moine, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and we are young, we have young communities and young cultures here. And so for us I think critiquing other businesses only does us a disservice and it isn’t going to continue to build that community.

Andrew: And you consider just tearing down people in Silicon Valley. They don’t really know the real world, anything like that.

Interviewee: Yeah, no.

Andrew: Actually I do think I have to work right, let me get back to this serious questions here, I will take one from Moses in the audience, he is asking how do you handles sponsors at smaller events?

Interviewee: So small events other than Big Omaha?

Andrew: Yeah.

Interviewee: Yup.

Andrew: [46:05] meet up for Mixergy, the LA Mixergy meet up, if he wanted to take care of his sponsors what do you think he should do?

Interviewee: Yeah, I guess I want to learn a little bit more of what he is doing and the dollar amounts as well.

Andrew: Did you get sponsorship for the tweet ups that you did?

Interviewee: We didn’t. What we do, we just get like drink discounts or the venue for free, like we will have to pay a rental for the venue but we actually raised sponsorships for the tweet ups, with the bar camps we did, so we have held a couple of bar camps already, and those we did, with those we keep those lower dollar than Big Omaha, because that is more of a grassroots kind of community similar with the meet ups as well, right. We don’t have $25,000 sponsorships for bar camp. So I think that by allowing folks to come in I think our sponsorship level for some of the smaller events throughout the year started $250, but it’s an opportunity for people to get involved in the community on that grassroots level as well, to just say, hey yeah I support his movement that’s going on. So I guess without knowing too much more I’d say find a way to engage folks for sponsorship and even if it is not monetary, whether it’s through media partnerships or sponsorships or whether it’s through just any kind of services that they could offer, whether it’s writing services or so forth that they can trade for sponsorship, I think is huge to utilize the community that is out there.

Andrew: How did you get Matt Mullenweg the founder of WordPress to come all the way to Omaha and speak?

Interviewee: Yeah, I think that was through Mihal Baldwin, and we had reached out to Matt in the year one and his like, it is a bad story, his flight got cancelled and delayed and so he wasn’t able to make it in for year one, and so we were able to get him to come back last week for year two, and again I think you look at Matt is somebody that’s with the

WordPress the meetings and the gatherings that he has throughout the year and throughout the States, I think it is his desire to see the communities as well that out there, not just on the coast, so yeah, he was great, we had Robert Scoble who did a Q&A interview with him and I think it [48:20]

Andrew: Last year?

Interviewee: This year, I am sorry.

Andrew: Robert Scoble was there this year?

Interviewee: Yeah Robert Scoble came in with Steve from Building 43 and he interviewed Matt Mullenweg and then essentially kind of, I don’t want to say moderated, but sat on the panel. We had an extended Q&A panel at the end of the day on Friday this year and so Robert was on that kind fielding questions from the audience and Twitter as well.

Andrew: Robert is extremely accommodating for ideas like that. I remember I wanted him to meet some entrepreneurs in LA when I lived there, said Robert can I get a team of people together for you to talk to, maybe do interviews for, he wasn’t doing Building 43 at the time, or maybe he was, I forgot, he pulled out his little tablet PC and he looked for a free date and we just made it work right there. He is that easy to work with. He didn’t ask for anything, he didn’t want money, he didn’t want flights, he didn’t want anything at all, I think I even offered to pay for his flight, not that I was going to make any money from that, look I have got some friends who have really interesting companies and he was on to do it. Let’s see what else here, what kind of revenues did you generate from this?

Interviewee: I think it was, in the last year we were north of, I think it was like $80,000 or $90,000 last year, so.

Andrew: That’s profit or revenue?

Interviewee: Revenue, I am sorry. So profit ended up, I think last year we were, we still don’t have numbers for this year just two weeks ago,

Interviewee: Just two weeks ago but I think last year, we, forty to fifty, I think was, was profit after all said and done.

Andrew: And then that’s between you and Dusty to split up and that’s what keeps you guys going for the year?

Interviewee: Well no, we’ve got like I said we’ve got a full time employee, so, that’s our managing editor, that that goes to as well it’s just different enhancements and building out stuff on the site, planning for next [Tuesday]. Dusty has a, quote unquote day job. He owns Brightmix which is a software development shop. I actually work for, the Aim institute, it’s a IT non-profit in town. It’s my day job as well and so we both…

Andrew: You have a full time job in addition to everything else?

Interviewee: Yeah. Yeah, so…

Andrew: You’re doing me a favor by the way in doing this interview. I had an issue with today’s guest I said, “Do you mind popping in?” You said, “Absolutely.” Short notice, that fact that you could even respond to me in the middle of the day, let alone come and spend an hour with me here is incredible. Thank you for doing it. How are you able to do all of this and all the, all the two years of contact that you and I’ve had, that’s all with you having another job?

Interviewee: Yeah, yeah it is. It is, gotta, like I said, right now I mean it makes full sense for us to continue you know, reinvesting and building out Silicon [inaudible], the event. Aim is, Aim is great, you know, I’m trying to do similar things within the Aim Institute, to kind of connect the established IT community, with a lot of these entrepreneurial and emerging companies. But yeah, you just, head’s down and work at it during the day or night or whatever you need to do to keep it moving forward so.

Andrew: Wow. Alright, a lot of people seem to want to create conferences way more than you’d imagine. What advice do you have for them, after having gone through this? And maybe seen some of them try it out?

Interviewee: Yeah, I think, two pieces of advice, I think the first advice if you will, start small. People hear about Big Omaha and they hear about the event brought and they say, “Wow it’s amazing and 500 people and you know, you brought in all these big name speakers.” But we didn’t, we didn’t start out, that wasn’t our, that wasn’t our thing and say, “Hey let’s start Silicon [inaudible] then let’s do a huge event where we bring 500 plus people in from the Midwest.” You know, you have to build that community. You have to invest time in smaller events. The meet ups, the bar camp, the tweet ups, right whatever those niche are, you know, the co-working events. Whatever that is in your community. I’d say you know, build that and focus on that, you know for quite some time and it’s gonna differ community to community. You know, maybe it takes a year, maybe it takes three years. You know and then again for us, we didn’t know, we’re not event planners by trade. But we said that we felt that there was something there by starting small, starting organic, getting people together, we knew that, we knew that there’s was a community there. And then we made a decision to go and think a little bigger, right with Big Omaha. So I think, first piece of advice is, definitely just kinda go heads down and don’t be discouraged. When you get 25 people out, at a tweet up, that’s great. That’s 25 more connections that are now made, you know from folks that didn’t maybe know each other before, and then that builds on each other. I think second as well, lot of, lot of details in an event. You know Dusty, and, and Danny and the team, you know I do a lot of the promotion and working with the speakers, and kinda the PR and the outreach and whatever you might call it. But there’s, there’s a ton of details in terms of, you know renting the chairs, making sure the chairs are comfortable right, for an 8 hour sitting period right. It’s just a lot of details that need to be, a lot of details that need to be…. I think made known and taken aware of when you do an event. You know anybody can rent out a facility and say, “Hey let’s bring so and so in you know, and that’s it.” But, I think if you want to have a successful event, successful conference I think really paying attention to the small details, that others may overlook right. You know working directly with your sponsors, making sure they’re happy, making sure they have photos of the space if they’re not able to make it right? So I think the big thing is just start small, and then don’t, don’t lose sight of the details as well, in all the big, excitement and the branding and just the promotion of the event.

Andrew: How did you even know, how did you even know to anticipate some of these details, like the seats, and maybe the coffee, and the this and the that? You didn’t have a background in this, how’d ya know?

Interviewee: No we, we didn’t have, and we missed some things in year one, right, I mean we ran out of coffee. We swore okay year two we’re not gonna run out of coffee. The building was a little bit cooler so people drank more coffee. You know, things like that that you don’t know until you go through it. But I think it’s just, it’s just, kinda focus on the experience. It’s like hey, what would I enjoy as an event organizer. And when I sit for 8 and a half hours a day, I want to be sitting in a comfortable seat. You know and it’s like, okay why not have a DJ rather than music piped through in between, in between speakers or whatever it might be. So, just dream. Just kind of think of what you’d enjoy, you know as an organizer, as a participant. And, again, we didn’t go down this checklist to say, “DJ, okay secure, extra padded chairs, great we got em.” It was just more or less just kinda thinking through the whole experience. You know and again, I, I.

END.

Interviewee: I don’t claim that we had everything in year one and there’s still things to learn from year two. But I think the big thing about after year one is we did a survey, which isn’t totally abnormal, but we surveyed all the attendees to say “Hey what would you change? what did you like, and then what would you change? What would you want to see more of?” and so obviously, making sure you listen to your attendees and folks that come as well.

Andrew: What did you find when you asked them that? What did you hear back?

Interviewee: The biggest thing was more time to engage, more time to interact with the other attendees as well as speakers. So we went in with the mindset from year one, and we said hey we’re bringing in Gary, or Jason or whoever it is. And now you’re one of 400 people to be a able to talk and engage this individual. But what we found from Attendees is they wanted time, whether breaks or events, to be able to interact with other attendees to say who’s there and who else is around this community, and not just listen to the speakers for forty-five minute slots, all day.

Andrew:

Interviewee: Again, I don’t claim that we hit everything in year one, and there’s still things to learn from year two. I think the big thing was after year one we did a survey, which isn’t totally abnormal, but we surveyed all the attendees to say hey, what would you change? What did you like, but then what would you like to see more of also? And you know, obviously making sure you listen to your attendees and folks that come as well.

Andrew: What did you find when you asked them that? What did you hear back?

Interviewee: I think the biggest thing was more time to engage, more time to interact with the other attendees, as well as speakers. So we went in with the mindset year one, hey, we’re bringing in you know, Gary, or Jason, or whoever it is. And now you’re want…and at that point in year one…you’re one of 400 people to be able to talk and engage with this individual.

But what we found from attendees was they wanted time, whether breaks or events, to be able to interact more with other attendees, to say who’s there and who else is around this community, and not just listen to the speakers for 45 minute slots all day.

Andrew: Hmm, all right. Well, Jane, Mixergy’s producer was there, she’s been telling me how great a time she had. Actually, she told me how much she loved it before she even got there. You took really good care of her and you take really good care of your guests, I don’t know how you can do it. I’d think you’d be exhausted at this point.

But it’s impressive, I want everybody in the audience to find an excuse, to say hi to Jeff, to get to know this guy. It might kill him, but he seems to be handling it okay. I want you to just to get a sense of the way this guy responds and how ever present he is, once you do it you’ll just be knocked out by how he does it. Then maybe you guys can figure it out and email me and tell me how he does it.

Jeff, I want to know about one other thing, the buzz, the buzz, the buzz. I see tweets, I get Jane who loves you, I hear email from people. How do you generate this buzz? Why is it there?

Interviewee: Yeah, you know, I think in terms of the buzz from the event, again, I think it goes back — and again, we haven’t mastered that — you can always learn, you can always do better, but you treat your speakers well, you treat your attendees well, you treat your guests well. You know, we pick up our speakers at the airport and some of them think that that’s just totally crazy that we do that.

I don’t know if that’s just a mid-western thing or what, but we enjoy the time to be able to interact and engage. So I think if you can help create an environment where people feel welcome, people feel excited, people feel motivated, they’re gonna share that, right. I mean they’re gonna be excited about that, so you know, then you get…what’s awesome for me after the event is to go back and look through the tweets or the blog posts, G Ang [? 57:47] or whoever it is that says — and you know, you hear things that people say, I’m totally motivated for the next year — and that keeps me going. That’s kind of the driver, the Red Bull, the energy that kind of keeps me moving forward, to be able to be a part of that, and essentially get people in the same room.

Again, I think it’s just trying to be real, be genuine, helping folks out when they need help with things, and you know, treating them really well when they come in, and hopefully giving them a good experience. And they see value for the money that they invest in it, you know. I mean that’s the thing, we could put together these grand idea to bring all these speakers in, but if nobody’s willing to invest their money and their time, and see a good return for that, we’ve got nothing.

So I think we never forget that at the end of the day to say the attendees are huge, the speakers are huge, just everybody involved is an integral part of it, so.

Andrew: Well, all right, I’m gonna leave it there. I’ll repeat my urging for anyone that’s listening to us to find an excuse to say hello to Jeff, if only by Twitter, but better still at a conference. Go say hi to him in person and let me know how you think he does it. Jeff, thanks for being here.

Interviewee: Thank you.

Andrew: And guys, thank you all for watching. I’ll see you all in the comments.

Sponsors I mentioned

99designs – The largest crowdsourced marketplace for graphic design. When I used them, I wrote a description of the design I needed and how much I wanted to pay. I got a bunch of designs back. I gave each designer feedback and picked the one I liked the best. Try them for Logo Design, blog design, app icons and more.

Shopify – Thousands of stores are built using Shopify because it’s easy to set up and manage. Tim Ferriss recently announced a contest that offers $100,000 prize for the highest grossing store. Go start your store now.

Grasshopper – Entrepreneurs (like me) love and use Grasshopper because it offers all the features of the big, expensive phone systems (like multiple extensions, music on hold and call forwarding) but it works with any phone and starts at only $9.95 a month.


  • JP

    Thanks for this interview Andrew!

    I've met Jeff a few times and I really appreciate his positive upbeat attitude and his desire to improve our community. I went to Big Omaha in 2009 and I thought it would be tough to beat this year, but they sure outdid themselves! Everything was executed perfectly from the speakers to the venue and every small detail in between. I'm not sure how 2011 could be any better, but I anxiously await. If you can make this conference, you won't be disappointed. Just do a Twitter search for #bigomaha to see all of the positive feedback, in fact I bet you won't find one, seriously, not one negative comment.

    Dusty & Jeff, thanks for all of your hardwork!

    -JP

  • Thank you for your inspiration, your article looks very good, I found through the search engine of your blog, I really on your information provided in your article. To thank you for your article, because your article content rich

  • AIRMAX – AIRMAX is the main football shoes, such as Nike unchanged, the king of the mattress design of new Nike sneakers as Nike shoes in the store at the price or stores, online shopping, taobao several different revolutionary practice is big, what does in a price? Nike is not usually what skill levels, or a cushion, many styles is no ownership of the mattress in class trainers, Nike running shoes, football is etc., belonging to mass shoes, not very sophisticated skills, namely complex modulation zoom, MAX, common shock skills

  • Dlete

  • Dlete

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.

x