Pop!Tech was a little like the Sundance Film Festival and a little like three days of business school.
The crowd was a mix of open-hearted idealists, corporate types, academics, celebrities, struggling entrepreneurs, tech hipsters, grey-haired theater-goers, and everyone in between. In Maine this time of year the trees glow like liquid plutonium, and signs, not only for McCain and Obama, but also for a number of local politicians, pave the way into town.
When I left for Pop!Tech, a number of people asked me why the price was so high. What I realized is that attending Pop!Tech is like attending 12 back-to-back talks at a local college or cultural center (in my case, the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan). Though here you were hearing lectures you might not have normally signed up for, thereby expanding your mind and your intellectual comfort zone. Additionally, lunch was provided, as well as an array of snacks during the day, and dinner on the last night. The venue was intimate and there were a number of Pop!Tech volunteers making sure things went smoothly.
Quick facts about the event:
Number of attendees: 500
Number of speakers in total (including fellows): 55
Number of musicians: 8 (Imogen Heap, Rufus Cappadocia, Amos Lee, Abdominal, Haiti’s Finest)
Other celebrity sightings: Malcolm Gladwell, Paul Simon, Clay Shirky (Big time web guy), Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief of Wired), Bunker Roy (Barefoot college founder) and a number who are famous in their fields
Number of people that cried on stage: 6
Number of standing ovations: Too many to count
What really sold me on the conference was the way many of the speakers opened up. The speakers trusted us. As Benjamin Zander would have said, they gave us an "A" knowing that if they gave it to us without even knowing us, with the confidence that we would earn it, we would. Though all of the presentations were heartfelt on some level, certain people really let us in, or got riled up, and connected with us as people, independent of their projects.
Thank you in particular to Andrew Zolli, Marian Bantjes, the speakers from the Project Masiluleke session, Nicholai, Laura Waters Hinson, Laurie Garrett, Suzanne Seggerman, Joe Navarro, and the very brave Frank Warren.
Disclosure: I didn’t pay the ticket price to attend Pop!Tech this year, rather thepanelist.net won the Behance/Pop!Tech contest and I went as the President and Executive Editor of thepanelist.net.