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I/OWA Conference 2013 Review

Iowa Conference ShirtI was planning on going to Big Des Moines this year. Had my ticket and everything. So when it was cancelled, I was disappointed, naturally. Disappointed, that is, until a group of locals, who lovingly refer to themselves as the #villagers, got together to put on an event in its place.

That event was the I/OWA Conference. Four weeks to plan a 2-day conference—and they made it happen.

I was excited about and proud of the grassroots effort to replace the cancelled event, but a week out I still hadn’t bought my ticket. Not sure why. I wanted to go and support the #villagers, some of whom I’m happy to call friends, some acquaintances, and some I’d not yet met. But, as so often happens, things had gotten crazy and, as the days and weeks passed, I had started to lose my mojo for going. Could I really afford two days away from the office with so much “important stuff” to be done to attend a conference that was hacked together in only one month? How good could it be, really? Maybe I should sit out the inaugural year and see what other people think.

I/OWA Conference scheduleThen I got an email asking me to open the co-working day with a presentation on marketing or whatever I wanted. I guess that was my sign. Of course I said yes! I may have been stupid enough to think that my time is so valuable that supporting the startup community in my beloved hometown may not be worthwhile, but given the opportunity to speak to entrepreneurs from Des Moines and beyond quickly snapped me out of my work-induced delusion. Once I had my head on straight, I decided that, just for good measure (i.e., to cover my ass), I’d better take along Far Reach Marketing Specialist Megan Horn as my conference buddy.

Megan and I kicked off the conference on Thursday with our presentation on marketing and culture. Even at 9 a.m., the audience was engaged and had plenty of questions. We had a great time.

If you missed the conference, you can see our slides below.
After the pressure of presenting was off our shoulders, we stayed to listen to others speak. We learned about the benefits of sketching (some of our lovely sketches are below), finding a company’s value, and forecasting recurring revenue; and had some really interesting conversations with friends new and old.

I/OWA Conference Sketches
Thursday night we attended the opening party and got our network on. It was great catching up with old connections and making even more new ones. This was one of the best networking conferences I’ve attended.

Day two of the conference had a different tone. While Thursday was full of interactive workshops by locals, Friday was packed with speakers from around the country. These presentations were more reminiscent of the format used at Big Omaha (kind of a TED talk vibe) and despite the uncomfortable chairs, I really enjoyed listening to the stories of these bold entrepreneurs. Each story was different, but inspiring and thought-provoking in its own way. Oh, and the Bloody Mary’s to get the morning started were definitely a nice touch. Well done, #villagers! For having 4 weeks to plan the conference, I’d say the committee did a damn good job and I tip my hat to them. I can’t wait to see what they do with a whole year to plan the next one.