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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger. Chills easily.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Micro.blog.

Attend events and be less lonely

Dan Kimbrough, after his annual attendance of BEA in Las Vegas:

It’s one of the few times of year where what I do made sense to those around me. It’s provided a place where I felt appreciated for my work and camaraderie in the hardships of working in media and being an educator.

Something I didn’t state in my recent piece about going to conferences was this very point that Dan mentioned. Many people, in many industries, feel a bit lonely or misunderstood. They feel as though only people that do what they do, day-in-and-out, will “get” them. At conferences and meetups is where you find people just like you.

Excellent point Dan and I’m glad you had fun in Vegas. Also, I’m glad you’re striking out on your own.

You should attend events, meetups, and conferences

I published the following article on LinkedIn in March. However, their publishing tool removed all of the photos from the post when I published it and I was so frustrated that I did not bother to go in and fix it. I’m republishing the post here with photos.


For over a decade now I’ve put in a lot of effort to present at and attend as many technology and business events as I can. I’ve attended events in Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Orlando, Jacksonville, New York City, Philadelphia, Greenville and a half-dozen other US cities. But you don’t have to hop on a plane to attend events. I also attend several regional events per year that gets me back at home before bedtime.

In 2014 I wrote a blog post titled You should go to meetups and in it I wrote about one of the advantages of attending meetups or conferences:

Because there is a lot of energy at meetups. The presenters are generally at the beginning of their product cycles and they have a lot of positive energy to make something happen. Those in the crowd all have their stories, their ideas, their goals. And, in addition to those building startups you’ll generally find lawyers, venture capitalists, programmers, marketers, etc. who are willing to offer their help for your project. It is a very, very good way to meet people that you’ll likely work with.

This past year has been no different. Each event I made the effort to attend has yielded some professional and personal fruit. If you haven’t yet gotten to many events in your area, or elsewhere, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. And not just once.

Here are a few highlights from the events I’ve attended or presented at in the last 18-months alone.

NEPA BlogCon 2016

I’m going to start a few months prior to 2017 because I attended a few amazing events near the end of the year in 2016. First up is NEPA BlogCon 2016.

At NEPA BlogCon, an event specifically catering to those just getting started in blogging, social media, and marketing, it was evident the amount of care that went into organizing the event. Each year NEPA BlogCon has been refined to be more engaging, valuable, and fun. One thing this event always reminds me of, now matter how mature an industry or technology appears to be there are always new faces seeking to learn.

TecBridge Entrepreneurial Institute 2016

Marywood University is the host to an excellent annual entrepreneurship event that always proves valuable for its attendees. The 2016 event was very well attended and had an excellent panel discussion, workshops, presentations, and more.

At the time I wrote this about the event on my blog:

Rather than a panel simply answering questions broadly, the workshops helped the attendees to work through a problem and see the processes work step-by-step.

I think what I appreciate about this event each year is the focus on practical takeaways for attendees. If you are there to learn you will.

Cropped! A rebranding competition

Cropped! is a fun event held by AAF NEPA that pits a few creative talents against each other to rebrand a local nonprofit organization that could use the help.

Branding is my day job and so watching as these teams tried to solve the problems of organization’s current brand was fun.

Branding is about exposing an entity’s core purpose, principles, and offerings to the world. Rebranding is about fixing any problems the current brand has encountered.

I wrote the following on my blog after the event:

Branding is an exercise in getting a company’s culture, message, and purpose demonstrated and communicated through every single thing the company does. I know it has been said a million times but it worth reiterating that branding is not a logo. Branding permeates a company’s activities from the way they answer the phone to how easy it is to unsubscribe to their monthly email newsletters. I was happy to see that everyone at Cropped! knew exactly what branding was.

PhillyBurbs WordPress Meetup

You will not find a more inclusive meetup within 100 miles of my front door as the PhillyBurbs meetup. This one is always well worth the drive and some of their organizers have returned the favor to attend meetups in northeastern Pennsylvania.

One takeaway I had last year at this event was the impact a more inclusive culture will have on our industry. As more and more groups of people are represented in our industry the better it gets. For far too long the industry’s perspective has been dominated by white males. This is changing. For some it isn’t changing fast enough but I’m simply happy that it is.

Ask The Web Marketing Experts panel

Speaking of white males… 🙄

I, along with several other web marketers in our area, were invited to participate in a panel discussion and recording session at NEPA Alliance organized by the Scranton Small Business Development Center.

The questions from the SBDC and local businesses were great and I know all of the “experts” learned a lot from each other as well.

NEPA.js and NEPA Tech Events

I attended, and presented at, at least 7 monthly NEPA.js (which has now been rolled into NEPA Tech) events throughout 2017. In late 2016 Mark Keith decided to bring together a group of JavaScript enthusiasts each month to discuss JavaScript-things which bled into discussions on all sorts of technology, business, marketing and even cryptocurrency. The amount of value this one event has generated for our area is already incalculable.

I blogged about ever single event I went to so you can read all of my notes on my event tag on my blog at cdevroe.com.

Inventor’s Guild at TekRidge

I’ll often pop into some events with no real reason for me to be there other than to soak up whatever information I can. The Inventor’s Guild is just such an event. This event caters to people that want to invent things (or already have) and, hopefully, profit.

One thing I was reminded of at this event was how little the inventor typically profits off of their inventions when compared to the companies that license them and how important it is to understand patent and IP law if you’re an inventor of a physical product.

Wilkes-Barre Programmers meet up

I’m not a Python developer (which this Wilkes-Barre programmer event was geared to) but I was interested to see how this group was run. I found it very informative and challenging. One thing I realized by attending this event was how these events have a small gravitational pull. If you remove any mass from them by not attending they may just drift off into the ether. Never to coalesce again. It is important to support a small group with your presence even if it doesn’t align with your skillset or desired path. By helping to keep these groups together when they are small they can continue to grow and mature and eventually split off into the groups you want to see in your area.

In other words, don’t skip events just because their small. Small events beget larger ones.

SAIL by Second Wind

In March 2017 I flew to Orlando partly to get away from the winter and partly to learn as much as I could about running a digital advertising agency at Second Wind’s idea lab.

I learned a lot. There was hundreds of years of experience in the room and all were willing to share with one another. In fact, nearly a year later, this event still comes up in conversations with many agencies on a weekly basis.

I felt privileged to learn how other businesses throughout the country are solving problems of recruiting, employee compensation, retainer agreements, agency IP, and much more.

tecBRIDGE Entrepreneurial Institute 2017

I held a workshop at this years TEI event and it was a blast. The workshop format allowed me to bring practical value to those that attended it. The Q&A session was very good and I received emails from attendees for weeks afterward.

The entire event was very good and many business owners and students in our area, well over 200 of them, got a taste for what it means to be an entrepreneur and the inevitable challenges they face.

Other events

I attended a few other regional events including one for Unmanned Ariel Systems used in Surveying work at Penn State University, other WordPress meetups that I spoke at, a presentation about my as-yet-unreleased step counting mobile application Summit to the Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup, and also Ben Franklin’s VentureIdol and many others.

There has been no shortage of long-lasting benefit from each event I’ve attended over the years. I cannot overstate this enough, especially if you’re a remote worker or are operating from the hinterland — get out of your home office and shake some hands.

Are you an event organizer? Consider using Jujama to power your next event.

Socialocca presents a Social Media Workshop at the February 2018 NEPA Tech meet up

Ryan K. Hertel, Socialocca

This month’s NEPA Tech meet up was yet another smashing success. If you live in northeastern Pennsylvania and are interested in the intersections of business, technology, the arts, etc. (and you want to see our area thrive in all of these things) please consider attending an upcoming event.

Ryan K. Hertel of Socialocca, a small social media advertising and management agency, gave a presentation on the current social media landscape as well as some tactics his company uses for his clients. His presentation was energetic, informative, and I’m certain everyone that attended found some value in it.

Social media and digital advertising is still on the rise in our area but it also continues to be a hard sell. Many longtime small business owners are not entrenched in social media enough to see its impact on their businesses. They do not invest heavily enough, either in time or money, to see the incredible network effects that can happen if they did. Ryan’s company, as well as Condron Media, are constantly trying to prove the value of these activities with limited budgets in our area.

The pendulum is swinging though. More and more companies are sick of feeling left out, their competition is beginning to invest in social media, and they don’t want to be left behind.

I look forward to seeing where Ryan’s company is in 5 years.

What should a conference look like in 2017?

Karla Porter:

I find myself searching for the value of spending a boatload of money and travel time to attend conferences. Not just for myself, but for you too. After all, that could be vacation time and money.

If you read my blog you already know that I see value in attending events. I write about it and mention it time and time again.

Karla values events too. I mean, she helps organize them! You need to stick with her piece all the way to the end to understand where she’s coming from and that what she’s ultimately asking is this: if so much of the value in attending events is in everything that happens around the event (conversations, networking) then how can we bring that value back into the event format itself?

In 2007 when I attended my first *Camp style event (or, unconference) in San Francisco I learned that unconferences give the attendees the power to steer the discussions and that the organizers do not get to set what topics are important. Whatever is important on those days and for those people gets discussed. It is great. The attendees feel like they’ve contributed and that they’ve gotten something they wanted out of the event. You can read more about BarCamp on Wikipedia.

Unconferences can be, well, uncomfortable for some. Especially introverts. Because people aren’t always willing to stand up and suggest topics. Or, even write them on the wall. And many technology conferences have people that are a little more reserved that attend them. However, in 2013 when I attended Greenville Grok I learned about 10/20s (go to that post to read more about those). These gently motivated the audience to randomly split into smaller groups. This helps a lot. Then the smaller groups can bring that value back to the whole. Greenville Grok also had presentations, competitions, and activities associated to the multiple-days long event.

I believe my first suggestion to Karla would be; find a comfortable way to give the attendees more power to steer the bulk of the discussions. This will help them to leave empowered and feel as though they’ve contributed to the event and were not just spectators. They will feel also like they came away from the event with information that was tailored to them.

My next suggestion would be to focus on putting together a killer Keynote presentation. One per-day for a conference is typical. A great Keynote presentation will help set the mood for the entire conference, give people motivation to go back to their work lives and do something radically different, to aspire to do better or bigger things, or gain perspective that they don’t have it all that bad. I’ve seen Keynote presentations by severely infirm person’s that made a huge impact despite their circumstances, by driven people that have helped tackle incredibly tough challenges, and stories of failure that showed it was OK to not always get it right. Getting a good Keynote speaker with a great topic is worth the effort and it should start the day not end it.

I would also suggest to vary the format wildly throughout the day. Speaker, break, speaker, break. No good. One runs into another or you end up wanting to skip one because you don’t like the title of the presentation. So vary the format instead. A few weeks ago when I attended SAIL there was a survey given to the entire audience on the first day. On the second day the survey results had already been tabulated and we discussed the results as a group. It helped to break up the day.

I would have two main goals regarding the varied format; keep the audience from feeling like they are sitting in one place for too long (no longer than 20 minutes all day) and that the audience be involved as much as possible. Here is what I think a schedule could look like

  • Short, short, short introduction that mentions sponsors and the hashtag for the conference
  • Keynote (15 minutes) w/ Q&A (20 minutes)
  • short in-seat break while attendees fill out a survey online or paper (saves some on the tabulation headaches)
  • short video (5 minutes) w/ comments from audience (alternatively, if no video is available, play an applicable and short TED presentation)
  • break for refreshments (5 minutes) w/ a chance to set up the 10/20s (attendees choose numbers out of hats)
  • do the 10/20s (60 minutes)
  • have lunch (ask attendees to write questions of the audience on sticky notes and write them on wall)
  • discuss the 10/20s
  • have a practical presentation
  • a short workshop on something practical (example, creating an editorial calendar for their web site or business or personal brand)
  • break for refreshments (5 minutes)
  • review survey results and discuss as a group
  • A demo/presentation of an applicable product, perhaps a sponsor (5 minutes)
  • Q&A based on sticky notes with attendees answering the questions

Karla is right. Most of the value comes from the attendees and networking not the conference. I like to think of it more as an energy exchange than a knowledge exchange. So the way you can bring that value back into the main conference format is to turn it inside out and have the attendees be part of the entire thing.

Philadelphia Weblogger Meetup – March 17th

Mike Stickel, Colin Devroe, Matt Regula, Chris Fehnel, Timmy Dunn in Philadelphia

Mike Stickel, Chris Fehnel, Matt Regula, Timmy Dunn and I on South Street after the last Meetup.

This Saturday (March 17th from 2:00pm till about 5pm) I’ll be attending the Philadelphia Webloggers Meetup at Ten Stone Bar & Restaurant. Will you be there?

It looks like Tony Green and I will be having a conversation so please be sure to join in as we discuss Microformats (which I’ve used to markup this post by the way).

I was finally able to pull Alex Hillman out of his shell. He was recently interviewed by Philadelphia Weekly about his efforts in CoWorking. You may want to pick his brain about this…

I just hope this snow doesn’t affect our plans. Though I think we’re pretty determined.

Note: You can add this event to your calendar program of choice since this post is marked up using hCalendar. Enjoy.