Yes, the rumors are true: I was finally able to attend An Event Apart! There are so many wonderful things to say about this conference, but I will try to be reasonably brief.
Point #1: It is totally worth the money.
Since I was lucky enough to have my workplace pay my way to SXSW this year, I was therefore ineligible to have them pay my way to AEA. So… I used my tax return money. Daniel was kind enough to not be upset about this (YES, I cleared it with him beforehand, and apparently you can write educational expenses like this off on your taxes anyway) and I brought him along for the ride. He didn’t go to the conference, but got a nice little vacation in Seattle whereupon he managed to hit EIGHT DIFFERENT COFFEESHOPS in one day. That’s got to be a record.
Point #2: The swag rocks.
Most webby-type conferences seem to give you a huge, hideous tote bag plastered with some sponsor you’ve either never heard of or don’t particularly care about, and the tote bag is filled with postcards from other sponsors or vendors whom you also do not care about. It’s really wasteful (I just recycled all the postcards) and kind of annoying. You know what An Event Apart gave out? USEFUL THINGS.
A tasteful laptop bag:
A classy pen:
A nice little notebook:
And a much-needed USB hub:
THINGS THAT ARE USEFUL. And pretty! With a nice logo on them that I am not embarrassed to carry around!
Point #3: Everything is thought out
It was obvious that all the speakers spent a ton of time on their presentations. This was not a hit-and-miss, “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of conference – every single session was awesome.
I think AEA does a great job of picking people that are super relevant to the industry and that have a ton of knowledge to impart. They were all passionate about the industry and about what they do. It showed.
Overall, I was super impressed with the quality and thoughfulness throughout the conference. It’s only two days, but they cram stuff in and it’s all worthwhile. Plus, there are parties:
photo from dondondon
…and one of my co-workers won an iPod Touch. Jealous!
If your workplace supports learning and furthering your creative endeavors and is willing to pay your way, this is totally a conference to hit. There are ones coming up later this year in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. If they are not-so-willing, you might try writing a letter to the person in charge and suggest that they consider sending one or two people from the company as a way to keep on top of the industry and schmooze with other professionals. It will make you smarter and may therefore garner your company some more dollars, if they are concerned about that.
If you are saving your money for it and are not sure if you really want to spend a zillion dollars on it, DO IT. It is so worth it. It’s definitely a whirlwind experience (I didn’t feel like I got a lot of downtime) but you will come away incredibly inspired with new tips, tricks, and techniques that you can then use to become better at what you do. And who wouldn’t want that?
If anybody has any questions about a particular session or about attending the conference in general, just ask them in the comments and I’ll respond. I’m still giddy with excitement.
Edited to add: Jeeze, so giddy I forgot to mention that I got to meet both Jeffrey Zeldman (success!) and Eric Meyer (yay!). If THAT doesn’t convince you that AEA was awesome, I dont know what will.