On Saturday, April 25, the first Kalamazoo X Conference was held at the Anna Whitten Hall in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. I can only describe the day as a huge success. It exceeded my expectations in every way. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday than watching 13 of my friends give some of the best talks I’ve ever seen. The speakers KICKED ASS! I have come away from this event energized and ready to tackle anything.
The energy of the day was incredible. As the MC of the event, I had the chance to do something I’ve been looking forward to since we changed the format to a single track: introduce the speakers – my friends – to the audience. I actually didn’t prepare any of the introductions ahead of time, instead coming up with stuff on the fly. Whether that was the best decision is another story.
While I enjoyed every talk, there were some definite standouts.
Soft Skills in 25 Minutes
It was very cool to see Brian boil his 2+ hour “Soft Skills” talk down to 20 minutes. When I first created the schedule for the single-track event, I gave Brian 2 back-to-back slots because I knew this particular talk could go long. Brian told me he really wanted to stick with the short format like everyone else, so I cut him back to the single slot. I was very surprised when he ended a couple minutes early!
I am Ammal!
Dave’s “Effective Communication” talk was good if for no other reason than I am/was “Ammal”. What really sucked is that because of the sun, most of Dave’s slides were washed out and you couldn’t really see the pictures.
A Scary Black Man
Clovis did an outstanding job with his “Branding 101” talk. There were some technical difficulties at the last minute, so he did his entire talk without slides. He actively engaged the audience and held a very entertaining conversation. At one point, he jokingly described himself as the “scary black man”. Good stuff. It was one of the few talks I wish could have gone on for another hour.
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!
I have to point out that about halfway through Andy Van Solkema’s talk, I realized that I wasn’t sure if Brian knew he was supposed to do the “What is an Architect” talk. He and I had talked about it early on in the X Conference planning, but somehow it fell off the radar. Immediately after Andy’s talk, I mentioned it to him. He said he was wondering who was going to do it, but luckily he jumped at the chance to get back in front of the audience. Instead of doing “What is an architect”, he decided to do his “5 Ways to be more Agile” talk. It was a great decision!
Without change, there would be no butterflies
I have to say, the standout session for me was Leon’s “Change”. This talk was EXACTLY why I wanted Leon at the conference. It was a very powerful, personal talk given in Leon’s engaging, comedic style. He ended his talk with an amazing quote by Deming: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory”. Wow.
A Community Leader on Leadership
Jim’s “Leadership 101” talk started out in a very intense way as he described how soldiers in World War I went “over the top” of the trenches into almost certain death. He talked about why they did what they did and then transitioned into a short, but amazing talk about leadership. When I first asked Jim to speak and he pitched this particular talk, I jumped at it. In my opinion, there is NO ONE in the development community I’d rather have talk about leadership.
A few weeks before the event, I asked Mike to do a talk on Community knowing he’d kick ass. The talk that capped off the day almost had me in tears because it was THE PERFECT ending for the day. Mike Wood did an awesome job explaining what community meant to him. His final slide (which stayed up during our short group conversation) asked the very simple question, “What does community mean to you?” Good stuff.
I have to thank all of the speakers for making this such a great event. Without their willingness to travel (some drove several hundred miles) to this small first time conference, seemingly out in the sticks, we would have not been able to pull this off.
Thanks to all our great sponsors for providing monetary support and giving us all sorts of great stuff to give away. Thanks to the others on the planning team who helped make this event the success it was.
Will there be a Kalamazoo X Conference in 2010? Based on the feedback we’ve gotten, it’s almost certainly YES.
* Pictures by Dave Giard, Sarah Dutkiewicz and Alan Barber used with permission.