It’s All About The Connections: Thoughts, Highlights And Lessons Learned From Blog World Expo 08

After being to exposed to as much blogging as I could ever possibly handle in 3 days out at Blog World Expo 08 in Las Vegas, I have now had time to digest what all I saw, what all I attended and most importantly who all I was able to connect up with while I was there. You see, although the days are jam-packed with keynotes, panels and parties the number one thing that a majority of the attendees noted as their most memorable part of the conference was a little more simple and something that we all should be shooting for – real world relationship building.

Now, I must admit that although I’ve been to my fair share of tech parties and meetups around Silicon Valley, I am practically a newbie to the whole tech conference scene which is a whole other beast altogether. Hanging out with a few fellow computer geeks for some cocktails while exchanging business cards in San Francisco is one thing, hanging out with some of the most passionate bloggers, new media entrepreneurs and evangelizers is totally another.

Having all of these different members of the online ecosystem in the same place in an approachable way is practically a dream for any type of marketer that’s in the new media/web 2.0/digital space. So much of a dream in fact that it’s practically overwhelming, which initially resulted in me thinking about ways that I could get HubPages in front of them and grab their attention so that they all knew how awesome we were and what we were up to and why they should all tell everyone who reads their blog about us. It sounded totally doable and a goal to shoot for the time that I was going to be at the conference. Simply put, I was going to get the word about about HubPages and all of the fellow bloggers were going to love it!

Damn was I wrong…WAY wrong.

Yep, my initial plan quickly went to hell as I soon realized that this conference was not something to be ‘milked’ for HubPages sake and if I was going to get something valuable out of these 3 days then I had better start meeting people as a lover of new media, blogging and all things web first and a marketing manager for HubPages a distant second. Basically I realized what I already knew, but somehow forgot as I began to roam through the halls of the conference – this group of bloggers, business people and entrepreneurs are different. They’re real people who have somehow figured out a way to turn something that they love into something that pays the bills, which surprisingly doesn’t make any of them less approachable or any less likely to drink a beer with you at a roulette table in Vegas. You see, it ended up that this wasn’t just some other marketing opportunity, this was an opportunity to create a real relationship with some of the best bloggers and fellow online addicts that the web has to offer.

Luckily I figured this out quickly and make a sharp turn towards getting to know some of the attendees before telling them what I was there representing. You want to know what happened after that? Simple, I ended up meeting and getting to know some of the most inspirational, successful, creative and friendly people that call the online world their playground and it turns out that they all do a pretty damn good job playing in it, too.

I took some time to make a video of some of the more interesting people and things that I noticed during Blog World Expo 08 and I thought that I should also list a few of the people who made a memorable impression on me as the conference cruised along.

Logan Kugler – an 18 year-old high school dropout-turned uber-successful freelance tech writer and soon to be best-selling book author. Watch out for this guy, he’s on the fast track to success and he even helped me fill up some of my Hubpages Bags O’ Vegas Fun! that I was handing out all weekend.

Angie A. Swartz – an amazing woman power blogger and all around awesome chick. We met at the TechSet party on Friday and ran into each other many other times as the weekend went along. She helps six figure moms get back into the swing of things after they have there little bundle(s) of joy.

Darren Rowse (in video) – the founder of and B5media and one hell of a cool Aussie. Darren joined me for a free steak dinner one night after I somehow was chosen to one of the three lucky winners. He always seems to be super helpful to anyone who is willing to ask for it.

Jessica Berlin – this woman might have one of the coolest gigs there is, she manages all of the social media for the crazy successful and Vegas staple Cirque du Soleil. Jessica sat down with me, Chris Brogan and a few others between sessions and was very, very curious to hear the ideas that we all had. She was also very willing to offer us all tickets to a show of our choice, which I ended up taking Saturday night as me and my friend Chuck Burke went and saw the amazingly produced KA. Jessica is slowly pushing the Cirque du Soleil brand into the social media world and from what I can tell she’s already got a pretty solid start.

Betsy Weber (in video) – a slightly shorter than me, but probably more energetic woman who was preaching the TechSmith (who created the super awesome and free tool called Jing) gospel from the conference floor. I had a lot of fun with her and her crew as we were putting together some interviews for the video below. Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that she has a picture of her and Eric Estrada on the back of her business card. A little creepy, but pretty sweet.

Rick Calvert (in video) – the brains behind the Blog World Expo, Rick is super-passionate about the blogging industry and is an expert at creating conferences and trade shows, so when there was no big blog conferences out there he did it himself. Rick is a guy who you can tell has a ton of fun putting these types of events together and someone who is truly dedicated to putting Blog World Expo on the map. I could tell that he was like a little kid in a candy store when I interviewed him for my video and he said, ‘You know that it was a good conference when we start pulling up the carpet and people don’t want to leave…’.

Eric Romer – this guy is a fellow Indiana-born tech geek just like me. He runs the business development for Compendium, a corporate blogging software that was founded by Chris Baggot who also founded the very successful email marketing platform Exacttarget. It was great to see some of my Indiana guys representing the Midwest well at the conference and it was really great to party with Eric after the long days at the convention center.

Paula Berg (in video) – when you think of most airlines, you don’t really ever think about them in terms of utilizing social media. But, from what Paula told me in our interview, Southwest is definitely doing their fair share of tapping into the social web. From utilizing YouTube for contests to Twittering for customer service, Paula is blazing the social media trail for all of the other airlines to follow. It’s probably also worth mentioning that Paula had incredibly bouncy hair and that Southwest still actually gives you a free drink and peanuts during flights. It’s the little things that matter, right?

Frank Eliason (in video) – better known as ‘the Comcast Twitter guy’, Frank is a really great guy who has been pushed into the spotlight as a leader in the social media world as it applies to businesses. He has been featured in the NY Times and is just now getting into the world of public speaking, which he seems to really enjoy. He commented to me that his panel with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos who is also a huge Twitter fan, was an awesome experience and something that he really looks forward to doing again.

Bruce Christensen – this guy and his Cart-Away concrete mixer made an appearance at the event as a way to see what social media can do for their business. They got a lot of chatter on the conference floor and hopefully some of that will translate into them getting some interesting conversations going online as well. They were really nice guys and you had to love their homemade neon shirts.

Wow, so that’s actually the short list of people whom I actually met and had some time to chat with while I was out in Vegas this past weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing them all again sometime soon, but until then I guess that the web will just have to do.