If you run a business in the WordPress ecosystem, then you've likely noticed business-oriented events over the last few years. Whether it's business tracks at a WordCamp, Pressnomics, or the newest player – Prestige – they aim to educate a young ecosystem (most WordPress companies are pretty young) with the same generosity and care as the overall WordPress community is known for. It's another way for people to give back.
And boy do they. The speakers at this event were pure gold. And what they shared was worth ticket prices three times what people paid. But the goal isn't about putting on an event to make tons of cash. It's about helping the community mature.
And there's no question that it met that goal.
Here's my review of the good, the bad, and the amazing!
The Good Stuff
One of the neatest things I noticed was how many different people were involved in sharing information. This was helped by making it an event that lasted more than a single day. And panels also brought more people on the stage. The benefit of having that many voices share (without having multiple tracks and creating a need to choose which session to attend) is that you'll eventually hear something you can apply immediately.
Another neat dynamic was having so many people stay in the same place. I experienced this when I attended MicroConf – where everyone stayed at the same hotel. It creates a lot of opportunities for meals and bar time with conference attendees and these were, like always, some of my favorite times at the conference.
Another really great thing was how well the organizers communicated. I'm sure they did a great job with attendees, but since I was a speaker, I had an inside look at their communication with presenters. And it was better than any conference I've presented at.
When you look at this list (from diversity, to destination, to direction) it's all about the team putting on the event. They're a sharp bunch and I'm positive each event they put on will be fantastic.
The Bad Stuff
I know. You're like, really? You're going to say negative things? No. Not negative. But hopefully something to watch for and improve on. Because we can all improve.
I found two items could have been a bit better.
The first was the distance between the hotel and the conference center. When you're not on the shuttle they provided (which was awesome), it meant a lot of money and time in cabs. I would have loved to see if the hotel and the conference could have been in the same facility. That's hard in Vegas. I know. Still, something I would work on.
The second was the panels and interviews. They were filled with data. Jake did a great job of getting so many people to share their data. But it was data-heavy and insight-light. The reality is that a company's numbers are relatively useless since we can't go back in time to compete in the same context, and we likely won't compete directly. So those numbers don't translate well, in terms of education.
I've worked with many of the folks that were in panels and interviews and I know they have stories that are really interesting. And those insights would have been amazing to draw out (like the length of time it took Pippin to get revenue to match once he left the Envato marketplace and moved to his own site—now that's interesting). I thought the amount of time focused on their revenue charts didn't really deliver the value that their stories and insights could have.
Side note—Cory Miller couldn't help himself. He's a man filled with humility but constantly brilliant with insights. His statement, “Pay attention to the seasonality of your business. Don't hire 6 people in the bad revenue months” was pure gold!
The Amazing Stuff
Ok, enough on what could have been improved. Let's get to the amazing stuff.
The presentations were amazing. Truly inspiring, challenging and amazing.
John Hawkins‘ “Not my circus, not my monkeys” line about how we can't always win an argument with a client because it's not our business was amazing.
— Robert Gillmer (@RobertFGillmer) February 28, 2015
I also loved his line, “Go ahead, touch the stove.”
— Chris Lema (@chrislema) February 28, 2015
Bri Norcross‘ “Grown up companies require grown up tools” line about how our companies need real accounting tools that can't simply be ignored was also brilliant.
I'm pretty sure people didn't realize the wealth of information they got from April Downing – the CFO/HR professional from WP Engine. She covered enough ground to help just about anyone who has ever thought about bringing cash into their business. It was an act of generosity to share so much – if you haven't and you can, buy access to the videos just to watch her session.
My favorite line of hers was “Plan for success, paper for failure,” which was a challenge to remember to plan for when things don't go perfect.
— Jennifer Bourn (@jenniferbourn) February 28, 2015
I think my favorite talk came from Brad Williams. I've heard Brad speak a lot. Most of the time he's talking about security, or he's answering questions on a panel. But rarely have I heard him share the early story of WebDevStudios, and it's a story he should share more often.
His talk was fantastic, as were his insights. Like “Work with people you like.” No brainer, but in the context of the story, it meant sometimes saying no to smart people because the fit was poor.
— Tony Perez (@perezbox) February 28, 2015
And he highlighted again that skill wasn't everything – a point I make a lot, but he made much better.
— Jake Goldman (@jakemgold) February 28, 2015
And it would be wrong to end without highlighting how amazing John Eckman, CEO of 10up, was. His perspective of the enterprise was not only right on, but he shared it in a way that helped people see that it's not about bigger project size or more money. The enterprise world works differently. And he articulated it really well.
Enterprise CMSs are marketed with a solution-first approach. WordPress (even at scale) tends to take a tech-first approach #prestigeConf
— Vasken Hauri (@vaskenhauri) February 28, 2015
As you can see, not only did I like it, but the Good & the Amazing way out-do the stuff that could be improved. It was completely worth it to be there.
If I get a chance, I'll be at the next one. And so should you.
In fact, go pick up your tickets now! I already did.