Wednesday, February 27, 2013

xPotomac: It's Not Just for Pornographers!

One of my big goals for this year is to get out in the DC social media scene a bit more. More than what? I am ashamed to admit I have been a relative shut-in to my geographic community of virtual virtuosos. To be fair, I run my own company, am a mom and wife, and speak a fair bit so I always seem to be on the go, but I really can't make excuses anymore; not with so many talented people located so close to where I live. It just isn't right.

Then I heard about xPotomac and it seemed the perfect place to act on my goal to connect. And hallelujah, I was right.

Vanessa Fox speaks to the audience on voice search.
At this point I might point out some other reviews of this event you could read as companion pieces to my own thoughts, located here, and here, and here (and there are many others...the room was full of bloggers). 

Like any tech event worth going to, xPotomac (formerly known as Blog Potomac) witnessed its Twitter hashtag seized by pornographers early on in the day giving the attendees, myself included, more evidence that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. 

Throughout the day we heard about voice search, the growing use of images and infographics, blogging platforms, online influence, augmented reality, and the future, as well as hearing from the infamous Andrew Keen (the self-proclaimed "Antichrist of Silicon Valley") who shared a more dystopian view of technology...and who managed to piss off a large number of attendees. Keen could still be found nibbling on cheese at the after party, though, so he wasn't a speaker who insulted his audience and ran...he had the cojones strength of character to face his audience afterwards. Or he just really likes cheese. Either way, he did attend the after party with all of the other speakers who were simply amazing.

Me with the effervescent Jill Foster.
The event was chockablock with social media dynamos both on stage and in the audience and well before the end of the day I knew that what I paid to attend was worth it. The speakers were top-notch and the audience was gifted with intelligent participants who made the Q and A every bit as valuable as the presentations themselves. In short, the event rocked.

A moment captured during a break at x Potomac. Photo by Shonali Burke.
Speakers Vanessa Fox, Dino Dogan, Geoff Livingston, Patrick Ashmalla, Shonali Burke, Greg Verdino, Jen Consalvo and Andrew Keen were dynamic and thought-provoking. If the event organizers had offered a chance to sign up for the next event while we were still there, I would have without a doubt paid that was that good.

My takeaways were as follows:

1. The right format makes all the difference for events: Targeted audience, intimate venue, sessions with plenty of Q&A, smart well-selected speakers, ...these all led to a phenomenal outcome. Remind me of this when I have to plan an event.
2. Closing with a thought provoking/controversial speaker keeps the conversation going: Call me crazy, but the conversation was definitely buzzing along following Keen's presentation. Maybe Keen had angered the crowd, but it didn't stop everyone from chatting; in fact, it seemed to give people more to discuss. Smart move. Also, I am completely contradicting myself from how I viewed it at the time. At the time, I wondered if the conference organizers hadn't made a mistake ending on a sour note with Keen. Ah, the joys of being human.
3. Bring on the wearables: I'm ready for Google glasses, Burberry's synced clothing, and everything else. Bring it!

Want more information about xPotomac? Check out the website or follow the @xPotomac on Twitter or you can see the Flickr photos. The new hashtag we used (following the pornographers' siege) was #xpotomac13, if you want to play detective and try to find some of the tweets from that day.

Were you there? Followed along by Twitter? What were your takeaways?