riffs & rants blog

WDS2013: We’ve Only Just Begun…

The World Domination Summit. As a long-time fan of Chris Guillebeau’s blog and books, I’d known about since it’s inception in 2011. It was one of those things I’d relegated to the “would be cool file” that resides in my brain (the place where stuff you really want to do goes to die). Since my long-term contract gig working as an emergency room therapist ended in 2011, I’ve been bootstrapping a creative agency. I haven’t had much in the way of disposable income lying around for the travel that I love to do.

In January, when my friend Mo asked me if I was planning to go to WDS this year, I said no. Then he asked me if a ticket magically appeared, would I be able to get myself up to Portland. I said, “absolutely”. A ticket then magically appeared in my email box! (Thank you Mo!)

Like most first-time attendees, I had a vague idea what to expect: I knew I’d meet cool people, see awesome speakers and a get a chance to get an elk burger at Deschutes. These were enough good reasons for me. On July 5th, I got myself up to Portland. I had only one two-part goal for WDS: meet cool people and make new friends.

Me with Chris Brogan
Me with Chris Brogan

We hit the ground running on Friday: Registration! An elk burger at Deschutes! Then we heard that Chris Brogan was hosting a meetup at Stumptown. Cappuccino and chance to hang out and talk with Brogan, yes let’s make it happen! It was but one of many “that just happened” moments. Friday was unbelievable. I met so many people. I rode the mechanical bull. I got drunk at the zoo (crossing THAT off my bucket list!). On the school bus ride home from the zoo was when I realized that we’d only just begun.

At the start of the event on Saturday, Chris mentioned that there are no corporate sponsorships. He also mentioned that there is no “target demographic” for WDS.

Right then, it all clicked for me: this is what makes WDS so damn special. WDS offers 100% organically-grown interactions. Nothing is contrived or run through a focus group for approval. There are no “upsells”. There are no forced interactions. Although creative expression abounds, there are no tacky theatrics like fire-walking. The conference is organized extremely well, in a way that gives plenty of room for cool stuff to just happen.

Sketchnotes Book
Sketchnotes Book

The culture of WDS is about relationships–making connections with others, not “networking”, not “making contacts” and especially not “working an angle”. I’ve been to other conferences that claimed to promote this type of culture, but WDS is the only one I’ve attended that actually pulls it off.

I had hundreds of conversations with dozens of people at WDS, yet I never engaged in one bit of “small talk”. I was blown away by how good everyone was at the art of listening.

At CDK Creative, our creative agency, one of our many tag lines is “listen, learn, launch”, because we emphasize constantly the importance of really listening to your customers in order to better understand and serve.

Well, I came to learn that at WDS, listening, learning and launching is at the heart of what happens in just about every interaction. This is why I was able to stay so damn energized for three days straight. I found what I once thought to be impossible: to be in a place with 3,000 people and feel both listened to and understood.

I flew home to Sacramento with a ton of new friends, a notebook full of notes, a phone full of photos, a brain full of memories, a big smile on my face and thousand new ideas. For three straight days, I listened and learned. Now I am back home, taking action, preparing to launch. And launch I will, because there are 3,000 people I have to answer to when I go back to Portland next year for WDS 2014.


8 Responses to WDS2013: We’ve Only Just Begun…

  1. I love what you said about WDS offers 100% organically-grown interactions…I didn’t get to meet you personally, but now I am looking forward to connecting at WDS 2014!

  2. Jackie I was wondering if I was the only person from Sacramento area that attended WDS 2013! I’d love to catch up sometime and hear more about your WDS experience.

    • Llewelyn, we met briefly on the street at registration on Friday, but I never saw you again. Yes, let’s catch up!!!

      • I kind of hope I didn’t know you were from Sacramento when we met, or I’ll have to admit to having a poor memory :) I don’t really facebook or twitter, but you should have my email address!

  3. WDS pulled this off, making authentic connections, because we all went there with the same goals: meet cool people, make new friends. You nailed it.

    At first I thought it was kind of weird that there was this insistence on no sponsorship or corporate influence, but now I see that Chris did something very clever: he preserved the environment as a place for authentic connection between people, not businesses.

    Get amazing people together, and provide an incubator for them to connect, and you create a new community.

    Welcome to the tribe!

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