Blogs with Balls in Las Vegas Wrap-up

I’ve finally recovered enough from my recent trip to Las Vegas for Blogs with Balls and Blog World Expo in order to create a post wrapping up my experience. I was fond of Puck Daddy’s approach, so I am going to use a similar style.

1) HHR Media and Friends put on a hell of a show, again.
Don, Chris, and assorted friends have pulled off another fabulous event, and left everyone in awe of their ability to pull shit together. First rate communication via the website, Facebook, e-mails, and even the printed program once we arrived at the event made it easy for attendees and panelists. From the professionally produced intro video (below) and the folks documenting the entire event on film and video, all details were taken care of in an expert manner.

2) Panelists were once again informative and entertaining.

As with the first Blogs with Balls, I found that most panelists had a great mix of experience and personality. While the bar setting and beer being served at BWB 1.0 provided for a more fun atmosphere, it also made it very difficult to hear. So from a learning perspective, I found this conference to be more conducive. Since the longer conference provided many more opportunities for networking, I think the ability to actually hear the panelists was a welcome change. Overall I preferred the snarky bloggers ( Wyshynski, Hall, Ufford, Shoals, Daulerio, etc.) over the corporate suits that appeared on stage. From discussing with fellow conference attendees, only one panel seemed to be received with negative feedback. It was the panel which contained all folks from the offices of Sports Illustrated (we still love Jimmy though, of course). I actually questioned the direction of the panel and its examples about half way through, but I don’t think they caught what I was saying. While their message of branding and attractiveness to advertisers was a good one, I felt their examples and method of delivery failed to resonate with the audience. Given SI’s inexperience with social media, I felt they could have done more listening during the conference, and less talking.

3) Thanks to EVERYONE who attended.

I don’t think this point can be highlighted enough, everyone who came to Blogs with Balls deserves a thank you. Obviously some big sponsors made it possible, but its not just the money I’d like to thank them for. Despite my criticism of Sports Illustrated above, I think any big media organizations (SI, ESPN, YB, SBNation, Yahoo, etc.) that participated in any way should be commended for supporting the blogging community. Blogs with Balls was held in conjunction with Blog World Expo, and honestly I didn’t see nearly the “star power” coming from the other tracks in the conference. I had probably an hour long discussion with Jon Denunzio, the Innovations Editor at the Washington Post on Thursday night, and honestly I feel he learned as much from me as I did from him. I appreciate that companies, editors, and writers with long impressive histories and resumes were willing to come and share, but also to learn from others.

I’d also like to thank the people from some of the smaller sites in the room who attended as well. I appreciate that commitment to your craft, that you were willing to sacrifice time off work, away from family, and the money it cost to make a trip out to the desert. I think the folks who have the foresight to attend a conference like this will succeed with their sites, and the entire “industry” of sports blogging will be advanced because of it. Your questions and discussion helped move the conversation forward, and many proved they had just as much to offer as the folks from Deadspin or Kissing Suzy Kolber. We’ll link to you guys anytime, so send us your tips at Tips@Gunaxin.com.

For those who don’t think its worth it to attend an event like this, be you from a large site or small site, you’re dead wrong. Get your ass to the next event, you won’t regret it.

4) Dan Levy pulled off a wonderful charity event.

Developments were coming fast and furious in the weeks leading up to Blogs with Balls, and Dan Levy was able to pull it all together. 100 seats needed to be filled for a Celebrity Poker Shootout for Charity. He lined up big time bloggers, professional poker players, and filled in the gaps with some people who just wanted to play. The result was a fabulous event that all enjoyed, and along the way he raised $10,000 for Annie Duke’s charity, Ante up for Africa. Thanks obviously go to all those who participated as well, as your contributions and constant re-buys helped push that total forward. Dan was going through some personal challenges, but was able to overcome that and pull off an event that many will remember for years to come, and not just for “The Captain”. Mr. Levy has inspired us to organize our own charity event, and details will follow in the coming months. For now, take a look at my crappy video that I recorded at the tournament. This was really an excuse to try out my new camera and rudimentary editing skills, but it should give non-attendees a glimpse of the action.

… and yes, I did mean to film that dealer’s cleavage between Ufford and Daulerio’s heads. They picked the best seats in the house.

5) Blog World Expo didn’t seem nearly as impressive as Blogs with Balls.

Maybe I’m biased because I know the people who put on the event, but Blogs with Balls impressed me far more than what I saw from Blog World Expo. To be fair, I didn’t attend any other sessions, but I did pay attention to some tweets, and read through the schedule. Per capita, the amount of heavy hitters in the BWB room and panels seemed to be higher than BWE as a whole. The exhibit floor for BWE was fairly weak, and I don’t understand the need to charge $100 to get onto it. Anyone purchasing a booth on that floor want as many bodies as possible in that room, and all folks with a badge for the conference should feel that they can venture onto the floor without a pass (as I did, since they didn’t check). It was a pleasant surprise to run into a bunch of folks that I know from Digg at a bar in the Bellagio, and for that reason, I think a co-located event is a positive for Blogs with Balls. There were opportunities to network with other people from outside the sports world, and I think that is valuable.

6) Fun, I had some of that too.

I’m not a drinker (long story, just keep reading our beer content and shut up), not much of a gambler, and I generally hate smoke filled rooms. This is actually the first time I have been to Vegas. To all of the people that I tagged along with over the course of three days, I’d like to thank you for showing me a good time, outside of my comfort zone. My main goal in attending was for networking, and a multiple day event in Vegas certainly provided ample opportunity. From Revolution at the Mirage, after party at the ESPN Zone, some random bar in the Bellagio, poker at the Hard Rock, to a misguided limo ride to the Sahara for $1 blackjack, I enjoyed every minute of spending time with both old and new friends. Any business is about relationships, and I hope to have a mutually beneficial relationship with everyone I met in Vegas. Don’t be a stranger, you have my card (its the one with the boobies on that back), drop me an e-mail whenever you need anything.

Regardless of where the next Blogs with Balls is held, we’ll be there. How about you?

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