izeafest-logoFrom October 1-4, I attended the IZEAFest conference at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. It was somewhat of a last minute booking because I was lucky enough to win a pass from Table for Five and be able to share a room, for the first three nights, with my unbelievably gracious friend Wayne Sutton, who was a moderator at the event.

October 1

My flight in could not have been better. I hooked up with Wayne who had arrived shortly before and Jayson Flint (read his recap) was kind enough to pick us both up at the airport. It was Wayne’s first time in Orlando and guess where he wanted to go? The Apple Store. After that, we got some lunch at Chili’s and headed to the Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld.

After checking in and getting situated (Wayne took a picture of my large quantity of luggage), we headed down to the hotel’s bar and met and/or hung out with Chris Brogan, Jeremy Wright, Amber Naslund, Liz Strauss, Aaron Brazell, Steve Hall, Joseph Jaffe, Zena Weist, Merlene Paynter and others. It was a good group.

The first event of the conference was heading over to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens. But, with registration from 7-9 AM the next morning and the earliest possible return time being 12 midnight, Wayne, Jayson, Brandon Eley (who had just arrived) and I decided to go grab a quiet dinner over at Bahama Breeze. Once again, Jayson came through, providing the ride. Super awesome of him.  After that, we pretty much called it a night.

October 2

Izeafest 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: JayMoney

As reported by Wayne, I got my early morning laptop DJ thing going (mostly Jay-Z with some Diddy, Dirty Money, Biggie and others).

We made it to Starbucks and met up with Brandon, unsure if any breakfast would be provided at the conference. After I got a croissant and orange juice, we made the walk over to SeaWorld, which was about 5 minutes or so. And it turned out that there was some breakfast (mini-bagels, coffee, orange juice, etc.) provided.

It was a single track conference and we (Wayne, Brandon, Jayson and me) pretty much shared the same table for the entire event. So, I was at every session, keynote, panel and workshop. You can see the full conference schedule for all of the programming.

Wayne had been a late fill-in to moderate the “Screen Gems” panel, after two other moderators had previously been selected. The session created a lot of discussion, both good and bad, fair and unfair. But, Wayne did a solid job. Lucretia Pruitt and Wendy Piersall, among others, spoke on the final panel of the day, titled “Social Media Promotion.”

The four of us grabbed dinner at Miller’s Ale House, which was a short walk from the party that night at ICEBAR Orlando. It’s a cool venue (unintentional bad and overused pun alert) divided into two sections (the cold part and the normal part, called Fire Lounge) and I hung out in the ICEBAR for a little while. Definitely something to see.

Aaron convinced Wayne to do karaoke. Aaron, unbeknownst to Wayne, is a veteran while Wayne was doing it for the first time. Wayne set a record as the first person to do karaoke without consuming a single drop of alcohol as the two teamed up for the Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock hit, “It Takes Two.” Unfortunately, I didn’t stick around to see it as I wanted to get back to the hotel. I caught a cab and called it a night.

October 3

This morning’s mix was old school (early to mid 90s) R&B, with Mary J. Blige and Total leading the way.

Lesson learned, we took advantage of breakfast at the conference. Aaron delivered a nice keynote titled “Marks of an Influencer” and Mrs. Strauss followed with “Navigating and Networking in the Seamless Concrete-Virtual Universe,” which was another good one.

That brought us to lunch and on both days I thought the spread put out by SeaWorld was really good – a lot better than conference food I’ve had in the past. I enjoyed it.

Chris Brogan delivered a talk called “Go Deep or Go Home” that I really enjoyed. The content was great, of course, but as a speaker, what I enjoy most about Chris is his delivery. He’s loose, he’s comfortable and relatable. The looseness is something I definitely admire and hope to one day achieve myself. It comes with time, I’m sure, but he’s got it down and it’s beautiful to watch.

xshot 2.0 Winner
Creative Commons License photo credit: JayMoney

In the evening, IZEAHunt took place. At one point, I had been pondering putting a team together but as I studied the photos from last year’s event and decided that it was not for me and it wasn’t for Brandon, Wayne or Jayson, either, apparently. Suffice to say, you had to be a big, sticky mess to win. Instead, Wayne and I grabbed dinner at Miller’s Ale House with Michael Dauod, the inventor of the XShot (the lucky Jayson Flint, pictured right, won one). We had an awesome conversation. The waitress we had probably deserves her own blog post… and not in a good way.

The party that night was at Howl at the Moon. More conversation with Michael, who introduced me to Drew Bennett of BenSpark.com, Dawn Perrin and others. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few folks, as well.

October 4

I felt pretty bad this morning and, in the middle of that, got a call and learned that my family’s long time cat passed away suddenly. So, I just stayed in the room until noon or so and headed over to SeaWorld after that. We had been given a free pass to the park, so I thought I’d take advantage of it.

I ended up hanging out with Yvette Ferry and checking out a handful of attractions, including the Shamu “Believe” show and Journey to Atlantis. Some 20 odd years ago, I actually sat on Baby Shamu, back when they still did that. I posted a picture on Flickr during the conference.

Afterward, I hung out with Yvette and her friend Jan Idelman for awhile. Brandon popped by for a time and I met his family – his wife Tracy and kids Peyton and Ellis (who was celebrating a birthday) – which was great.

October 5

I had a flight out of town in the evening. This allowed me the opportunity to meet my friend Anthony Violante, who works in digital marketing at Bad Boy Entertainment. I’ve known Anthony for a few years and we’re both crazy Bad Boy fans, so it was great to hang out for a few hours before my flight. Once again, the flight couldn’t have gone better.

Thanks again to Elizabeth Edwards of Table for Five for the pass. Some of the other people I met and had great conversations with include David Brim, Omar Hickman, Jim Hathaway, Jay Paroline, Judson French, Jr., Shafiq Sharriff, Brett Burky, Missy Ward, Sarah Evans and Aaron Ward. I also had an animated conversation with Ryan Paul Thompson, covering Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Ren and Stimpy comics, 90s Nickelodeon (SNICK!) and more greatness.

In all, it was a great experience and a great time. Congrats to Ted Murphy and IZEA on an overall successful event. Hopefully, I’ll be back next year (I’d like to speak!). Next on the conference track: Blog World & New Media Expo in Las Vegas from October 15-17.