The 2009 edition of the CREATE South conference is a wrap! We had right at 100 people come out on a beautiful Saturday in Myrtle Beach to spend the day with like-minded individuals, network, teach and learn. We had some anxieties going into it as this was a bigger conference than last year with twice as many people pre-registered and four separate tracks of programming. It gave more people a chance to be involved in the planning, and also had a lot more moving parts and things to go awry. Speaking only for myself, I didn’t sleep much the night before.
This year we invited an author of young adult fantasy novels, Tiffany Trent, to be one of our two keynote speakers talking on that act of being creative. This was a bit of a risk and one that even Tiffany admitted that she wasn’t quite sure exactly how it fit in until she actually got to the conference. At its core, the talk was a “butt in chair” pep talk, about putting in the time and understanding what you want and being willing to sacrifice to achieve your dreams. All the feedback I’ve seen of her talk has been overwhelmingly positive and well received. This talk was a risk, but it seemed to have paid off.
The second keynote was on “Putting the ‘Social’ Back in Social Media” and it was by my colleague and friend Tee Morris. This was a timely topic coming a week after the whole Kutcher/Oprah realignment of Twitter in their own axis, something that was addressed head on by Tee. This was a slight rework of his talk “Anti-Social Media” which I asked him to change the title of to be a little more positive for our get-together. I much preferred the positive angle, and I think it worked with our soiree very well. Tee refused to accept crowd non-participation and more or less willed the people in the back of the room into action. He was animated and insightful and really worked everyone up. Thanks Tee for a great talk!
At this point, I should mention our new partnership with Horry-Georgetown Technical College. We started out renting the space from them but in the planning stage switch to being partners in this conference. A number of students came out and participated all day, and a set of them videotaped all the morning keynotes. They didn’t merely tape them, it was a full three camera setup with video mixer and everything! I still haven’t seen the footage but I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Starting Thursday morning, people started inquiring about whether the North Myrtle Beach wildfires would lead us to cancel the conference. We found that kind of odd, considering that the fire was never closer than 10 miles and on the far side of the intracoastal waterway from our part of town. What we didn’t appreciate was how extreme and possibly counterfactual the news coverage was outside of our area. We ended up having to spend several days reassuring people that the fires represented no danger to any attendees. The only hit we took was that the guy who was going to do the fancy video mixing and putting a CSPAN style crawl across the bottom is also with the Horry County Rescue Squad. I met him on Monday as we talked about the conference, and then Wednesday night I knew we were in trouble when I saw him on the evening news talking about the fires. We tried to make the best of the situation, and the fact that I was seeing things like “Myrtle Beach is on fire!” and “North Myrtle Beach burned to the ground” on Twitter served as the springboard to conversations about the ethics and responsibility users of social media have when spreading information and retweeting and such.
Once again, lunch was cooked by my partner in crime Andre Pope. His father came down and the two of them cooked BBQ for days, and fed 100 people. One of the things I’ve noted around the the post-conference chatter on the internet is that many people cite the quality of the BBQ as one of the details of the day that sticks with people. Because of all the details that needed handling, I got a few bites, had to set it down and came back to it much later when it was cold. It was still downright delicious.
After lunch, we pulled some partitions in the auditorium and created three rooms out of it. We had four tracks going: Creating Community; Making Media; Art and Writing. The art room ended up being across the building. The beautiful part about the afternoon is that all the tracks had participation, and a constituency. I didn’t get to see much of anything as I flitted from room to room and tried to keep the plates spinning. I videotaped some of the sessions of the community track myself. Of all the sessions I thought getting the “Faith and Community” recorded and published would be the most valuable for our region and serve as a pathway to interest some folks in coming out in 2010 by showing them this isn’t all inaccessible techno-jargon but in fact solid discussions about how to achieve things that matter in your lives.
We had a number of interesting and informative talks in the afternoon. These included Tee and Kreg Steppe doing a beginners session on podcasting; Robert Harvey talking about video and lighting; Chuck Boyd talking about meetups and photography; Ava Ann Vrooman talking about using Comicspress to publish webcomics; Marsha Guerard talking about editing your own work and lots of of other great sessions. The one session I attended in full was the one I programmed myself and really wanted to have as part of the conference. That was Warren and Marcia Lynn Walker’s Green Screen session. This is similar to a session we did at the BlogHer makeup day at last year’s ConvergeSouth and both times it was fascinating, informative and hilarious. I put it at the end of the day for a reason, so that we could just leave the screen up for anyone that so desired to play with it. I decided to see if I could get people to talk up CREATE South in front of the green screen so that we can cut it together and do some kind of video promo for the 2010 conference. A number of people – mostly students – stepped up to do some ad libs. It was a whole lot of fun, and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I sure was.
Finally, the day was over and we tore it all down. Everyone seemed to get something out of it, and a number of people were still there at the end helping to clean up the space before we had to vacate the building at 5 PM. That I think was the part I liked best about the whole day. There was an amazing amount of generosity in evidence, from the presenters to the students to the attendees. Everyone seemed to instinctively get the whole “Bring what you have; Teach what you know; Learn what you need” ethos. It was truly heartwarming to be a part of it.
Judging by the post conference reaction I’ve seen online, many people got a lot out of it. That’s quite gratifying. All the pressure we feel putting this on comes back to making it worth people’s time to come out, to drive from wherever they came from – be it around the corner or Virginia or Minnesota (all of which happened.) In my opening remarks I remarked something to the effect that “this conference is happening in Myrtle Beach instead of Charlotte or Raleigh or Columbia – not because there isn’t a creative technological community in those cities but because a few people in Myrtle Beach sat down and decided to do this. The conference is organized the same way as we are entreating you to handle your creative lives – sit down and do it! Make mistakes, go for it, try things to see what works and make them happen.” That is what we did and we couldn’t be more proud of it.
Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped organize things: Heather Solos, Dan Conover, Robert Harvey, Eve Cornell, and Roger Yale. Thanks to Alan Bunal and Todd Cartner and all their students who videotaped, helped with the logistics and participated all day. Thanks to all the individual donors who gave via Paypal and to our sponsors: Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Grand Strand Technology Council, The Digitel, and A and A Produce.
We’re already trying to close on picking the date and booking the space for next year. We’ve always said that if we started this, we were in it for the long game. For those who would have liked to come this year but couldn’t or didn’t find out in time, plan ahead for 2010. Follow the conference Twitter account, subscribe to this blog, and keep watching the main web site. We could do it without you, but we don’t want to. Come join us, please.
Here are some links relating to CREATE South 2009:
- CREATE South 2009 group on Flickr
- Tiffany Trent blogs her reactions from her viewpoint of the keynote podium
- Heather Solos explains her conversion from organizer to fangirl during the day
- Eugene blogs his recap and also has his own photo gallery of the day
- Vera and Patrick drove from Charleston to Myrtle Beach by way of yarn stores, and she shares her journey at her blog
- A different Heather blogs her view of Twitter filtered through the day and later did another recap because it’s too much fun to just do one!
- The Lowcountry Bloggers had a number of reactions on their roundup the day after
- James shares his thoughts on the event
- J Wynia drove from Minneapolis and back to attend and has a page about this epic journey
- CREATE South presenter Jared W. Smith talked about his experience on his show Serious Business
- Robert and Ava Ann kept a photo blog of their trip down and back
- Whoops, missed the recap by my fellow co-chair, Mr. Andre Pope.com!
If I find more links, I’ll update them here. Thanks again, everyone!