I’ve been kicking this post around in my head for a while (along with sooo many others) and it finally seems like the right time to get my thoughts out there. Over the last four years, I have learned a great deal about planning events & conferences, and quite frankly — hustling. I’ve run on excitement, enthusiasm, soy chai lattes and the thrill of bringing awesome educational & inspirational experiences to the good people of Philadelphia. I have learned so much about myself in the process, and seen the good (and the bad) side of people. This year, I’ve decided to step back a bit and I wanted to provide more context as to why. So here goes.
In the summer of 2008, I stumbled across the opportunity to bring the global unconference Barcamp to Philadelphia alongside my now great friend JP Toto. BarCamp Philly was decidedly a huge hit. Each year has been a complete sellout and the geek love that sprouts from this event is impossible to measure. Friendships are formed, new collaborations are developed, shy people become impressive speakers, new jobs are landed! 4 years running, real shit has happened as a result of BarCamp Philly. I’m not trying to brag — it’s a people-powered event and Philly knows how to represent! I’m so grateful to my fellow organizers, JP, Kelani Nichole and Sarah Feidt for making it so. And yes, you read that right, a rockin’ tech conference put on by 3 chicks and 1 dude!
Fast forward a bit, 2 BarCamps down, the next opportunity strikes… TEDxPhilly! TEDx events had just started cropping up in cities around the world and it was Philly’s turn. Conversations had started, introductions were made, a license was granted. Since BarCamp Philly was on such an epic roll, I was ready to conquer this event. Biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on, by far. The first year we held the event at the Kimmel Center. After doing BarCamps in donated university space, this was crazy to me. Like, a real professional grownup event in a top shelf venue. I thought I had hit the big time. After it was over, I felt like I was run over by a truck. So many insane lessons learned, so much left to learn.
The second year was far better than the first. I put those hard won lessons to work in a multitude of ways. The team was more focused, the tools were more appropriate, the speakers were more aligned, the experience was more thoughtful, the venue was more accommodating, the sponsors were more generous. It was a worthy challenge to work out some of the things that didn’t work the first go ’round. Due to better planning, I was fortunate enough to simply watch the show like an audience member. Quite frankly, I was just plain tired.
So this is where I tell you why I participated in bringing these events to Philadelphia. Because I genuinely care. I want people to be moved, to connect with others, to learn something new, to think differently, to see something they haven’t seen before. This is all done on a volunteer basis, so I have to care!
Caring is in fact the reason why it’s hard not to hear the naysayers sometimes. The ones that bitch about the price, the speakers, the choices we made. I already know, I can’t and won’t ever be able to please everyone. That lesson is learned! It took some effort and a thick skin to learn it, but there you have it. I care, dammit! And I’ll have you know, I hear everything and I’m always listening.
So why is it time to move on?
It’s just time for me to see something new, experience something different, be an observer, be an attendee. It has been an incredible experience to create platforms for people to share their awesomeness with each other. I’m proud of this work and have great hope for the people who will take the reins in the future… people who have also invested huge parts of themselves in making these events a reality.
It belongs to the community.
That’s my magic phrase that is guiding this transition. It’s hard to let go of things you have worked so hard for, but I know that it’s what’s best for the events and it’s what’s best for me.
p.s. If you’ve been on this wild ride with me, please give a shout below. It’s fun to relive the memories with all of you