Pressnomics – The Good, The Bad, and the Awesome

Chris Lema

Excursion-PressnomicsOver the last several days in Phoenix, I got to spend tons of time with some of the most spectacular and amazing people in the WordPress community. The location was Tempe, Arizona. The event? Pressnomics (2).

I don’t know if you’re a good news first or bad news first, so I’ll start the way I like hearing it.

The Good

Oh, this could go on and on. But I’ll try to focus in on three things that were great.

Meal times. It’s true, I’m a person that loves to connect and talk with people. So meal times were awesome – and more importantly, the location of the event was fantastic because there were so many restaurants nearby. I enjoyed meals with my friends from Headway Themes, Gravity Forms, iThemes, WP Engine, Crowde Favorite, VeloMedia, Web Savvy Marketing, Paid Memberships Pro, WP University and more.

The hotel. This hotel selection was excellent. Sally Strebel knew what she was doing in picking a hotel that was nice, set in a perfect strip of places to eat, and had a great bar with a large outdoor patio. I’m not lying when I tell you that I was out there every night from about 8 pm to past midnight (often past 2 am).

The panels.  There were presenters. I was even one of them. But my favorite parts of the agenda were the panels – one on the commercialization of plugins, and the other on the nature of distributed teams. Each could have taken a whole day, given the number of people that were on them (or could have been) and the amount of questions people had.

The Bad

Very little about the event was bad. Honestly. But there were two things I would have adjusted.

The first were the after-parties, which were great. But they were way too loud to have any real conversations without yelling. I’m sure it’s just me on this one, since I don’t enjoy chit chat, but if you want to hang out and have good conversations, the after-parties made it difficult.

In both cases, I left them very quickly and headed back to the patio area of the hotel to host my own “open tab” discussion area. We had anywhere from 10 to 30 people hanging out, hearing each other, and enjoying conversations.

My recommendation, to all WordCamps and Pressnomics alike, is to host them at bars without background music. The dueling piano bar would have been fun as a show, but when people are trying to connect, having to shout was hard.

The only other thing was that it was too short. Or too full. However you say it, I wanted more. Some people took off Saturday morning, because the official conference was over. I think a Saturday un-conference where people hung out and grouped to chat about things would have been awesome!

The Awesome

Any time you head to a conference, you look at the agenda and see what sessions you’re looking forward to. For me this year I was really looking forward to two presentations that didn’t let me down. The first was Lisa Sabin-Wilson, speaking personally and with humility about her own experience, skills, and desire to keep growing – with all of the backstory of what drove her to merge with Web Dev Studios. It was fantastic.

The second was by Natalie MacLees. Her focus was on applying design to your business. Her message was that every. single. thing. you. do. could be / should be designed (and strategic).  And you know how much this aligns with how I think and work. Again, another powerful message.

You’ll notice that both of these talks were delivered by women, though I doubt their gender-parts had anything to do with presenting. But what I did notice was the sense (and I could be wrong, I didn’t count) that there were more women at this event than last year. And with more diversity comes better thinking.

Oh, and the other thing that was awesome? I got to dress up like a cowboy. That doesn’t happen every day.

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  1. I totally get where you are coming from regarding after-parties. Heard the same feedback from other WordCamps and my own from past years. You don’t get alot of face time and networkign during the conference – even if you hang out in the hallways (which is what alot of people do).

    WordCamp Miami 2013 went from a bar to an open, outdoors area with music on one side and a place to talk at the other. And we got alot of praise for it. Hoping to keep that same thing for 2014. Hoping more WordCamp after-parties provide a similar experience (it’s fun regardless though).

  2. You’re not alone about the after party volume. A lot of people were frustrated by it, and chose to leave for the same reason.

  3. That look on your face totally says “I just killed a man”. What a great picture.

  4. Chris,

    Plus one on the loud music at the bars. Definitely makes it harder to have those conversations & make those connections with people. The patio fireside chats, though, were almost worth the price of the conference alone.

    It’s hard to find much wrong with this year’s conference, which says great things about the planning, and makes me already excited for next year’s Pressnomics.

  5. WCSF is guilty of this. I had a bit of a sore throat to start with, it was destroyed by the end of the night! Quiet bar w/ background music any time

  6. This picture is worth a million bucks minimum!

    I do agree with the after party though. Too loud to hold a real conversation and bummed I had to miss Saturday’s golf outing.

    Thanks again and see you next year!

  7. Agreed on all counts. Thank you for the unofficial after-parties by the fireplace.

  8. Two words :) Chirp.. Chirp 😉

  9. It was awesome to see you again Chris, albeit briefly. Next year I’ll be sure to join the patio discussions. The loud music was a real downer on conversation so it sounds like that was better.

  10. Scott Basgaard says:

    “But they were way too loud to have any real conversations without yelling.”

    Only thing I would have changed about WordCamp Europe as well.

    I love the connections/conversations that are made at a WordPress after-party!

  11. Chris –

    It was great to finally meet you in person too. And just an FYI, you might have met your match on who gets the bill for lunch. I will get you, count on it. 😉

  12. Thank you for the shout out and for the laid-back patio parties. They were one of the best parts of the whole thing. Your talk was great, too, and the perfect note to strike to kick off the conference.

  13. I really love that photo – you definitely look like you mean business there.

    Thank you for the mention regarding my talk – your opinion in the public speaking arena carries a bit of weight with me, so I appreciate it even more that you called it out as one you enjoyed. The talk pushed me a bit outside of my comfort zone and, 2 days out from it – I can say that I’m grateful for the experience.

    Good seeing you, as always! Really enjoyed your talk and think that your use of the Packers as an organization that grows their talent was spot ON!

  14. Yeah, wasn’t able to make it but sounds like it was another huge success.. sweet!

    And as far as after conference parties being too loud, I’m with you there. This is nothing new and I’ve experienced over the years at many WordCamps and conferences. The problem also can happen with moderate music and a room full of people talking, depending on the room and acoustics. I myself perfer mellow … had enough loudness at concerts in my early years :)

  15. It was good chatting and laughing with you, Chris. Until next time…

  16. It’s pretty clear that the loud venues for after parties are something that we all agree should be strongly advised against for future meetings. My throat is wrecked because of it (and the dry air), but on the plus side, it’s made me sound a bit like Barry White and my wife seems to like it;)

    Really great seeing you all and wish it would have been longer so I could have had a chance for deeper conversations with many of you!

  17. Solid analysis of the conference, Chris. Great to finally meet you in person as well. Totally agree on the decibel level, waaay to loud to hear each other over the music. Hopefully next year that part will be adjusted.

  18. If the worst you all can come up with is complaints about loud music then I consider Pn2 a major success. hahah ;). Good feedback indeed.

    It really just confirms what I suspected from last year. We took 40 people to an NBA game in a swanky suite with a full spread of booze and food. Amazing game BTW where PHX came back from a massive deficit to win in the closing minutes of the 4th qtr. At times the majority of the WP folks were huddled, backs to the game, talking about plugins or something else oblivious to the surroundings or spectacle of sport going on before them.

    I sat with Matt and his guest in the front row for a while and enjoyed the game, but as soon as he got up he would have to hold WP court for another 20 minutes.

    The lesson then, as it is confirmed now, is to know your audience. This audience likes to mingle and talk amongst themselves in a more subdued environment. We’ll structure that in for Pn3, keeping it closer to everyones comfort zone.

    • Josh I would challenge you to find anyone who really had anything negative to say about PN2.
      The first year was great and the second was even better.

      I talked to a lot of people – both first time attendees and repeats – and no one had anything negative to say. That in itself says a lot about the event.

      God bless Sally for pulling it off while being pregnant.

  19. Great review. Pressnomics 2014 is on my agenda. :)

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