My First Peers Conference

Posted by Ben Fjare on Apr 17, 2016 5:34:53 AM

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I'm sitting at Tampa International Airport. The time is 6:25am (4:25am at home) and I haven't had a good nights sleep since I was back at home in Montana. I'm tired, overloaded, and can't wait to get home.

I couldn't be happier about it.

Today I am heading back to Bozeman, MT from my first Peers conference, a small annual (but intimate) tech / web gathering that bounces around the Unites States and this year brought me to St. Petersburg Florida. I had been to a few other tech conferences around the country and Peers always came up as something that needed to be experienced.  I had wanted to attend in previous years but in 2016 I made a point to be here.

The first day was workshops involving business development, work flow stratedgies and training for technical tools.  It was a great way to get kicked off and gives a owner who manages a team of 9+ some ideas to take home. 

But... That's not what makes Peers great.

A few drinks were had, a few hands were shaken, checked out a Rays baseball game and fell into bed far later then any adult should be proud of.

The second day was the beginning of the speaker tracks.  Talks ranged from business development, staff management, pure tech talks, code examples, and the like. Themes were varied but many messages were consistent.  Between inspiring lectures and Popsicle snack breaks I would shake another hand, answer the standard where are you from, what do you do. We start up again and I jump back in to a stream of consciousness that is not only informative but extremely motivating.

But... That's not what makes Peers great.

I'm near an ocean so seafood is a priority, and of course where there is food and company there's a cocktail and conversation. I stroll into my room slightly after 1:00am getting ready for the next day and another short night of sleep.

It's the last day of the conference and the speakers couldn't be better in my opinion.  The talks are passionate, personal, and just plain awesome.  I get a ton of ideas and can't wait to sit down with my business partners to discuss. A gourmet popcorn cart swings by and as I'm shoveling my favorite snack into my face I can't help but look around at the amazing talent in the room discussing the talks and their businesses. I think to myself this is special to have such a diverse and small group of talent in one spot to learn from.  It's pretty incredible.

But... That's not what makes Peers great.

A snowstorm in Denver postpones my plans to get home by a day. Looks like a Saturday in Florida is in order. I get invited by a few other attendees sticking it out for an extra 24 hours and I roll around with them. We visit a farmers market for lunch, self serve wine bar, and then dinner at a local eatery followed by chocolate cake.  We head back to the hotel, meet in the lobby and share stories while drinking wine and whiskey.

The stories and conversations are similiar to the last few nights. Open and honest tales of success, failure, fear, and confidence abound with no attached egos. Heartfelt appreciation for advice and the promise of future emails and calls are exchanged. A slack conversation is started with business owners providing all attendees with their phones numbers and letting them know that they're not alone.

This isn't networking... networking is stacking business cards in your wallet and adding people to mailing lists and call sheets. This is something better, the word "honest" and "sincere" keeps coming to mind.

It's 12:30am and I'm heading to bed several hours later then I should be.  I stand up to shake some more hands for the last time and I an immediately shut down and told to stop. Hugs, are what happens here. A few more heartfelt thanks are exchanged and people check to see if there is anyway we might run into each other before 12 months from now. Some can... some can't, but we all want to.

I lay down setting my alarm and realize that this isn't a business conference, and that even the names Peers (while appropriate) doesn't truly define the event.  What Peers is truly about is creating relationships with people fighting the same battles you are. You find out real quick that everyone is just trying to figure it out the best they can. We're all scared to death for tomorrow in all different ways. You have the same frusturations, failures, successes, and joys... and they are all willing to fight with you. Together...  as professionals, colleagues, teammates, and friends.

That's with no doubt... What really makes Peers great!

So I sit here and my flight is about to board. Some guy named Gary should really get back to TSA for that personal item he left there.  They've only asked for him four times now. My eyes are bloodshot, can't wait for a nap, and want to be home more then anything right now. I've got a lot of work to get back to tomorrow that I haven't been able to get to the last few days. I'm tired and just plain worn out

...and I couldn't be happier about it.

Topics: Web Design, Prime Culture

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