This weekend I attended the third iteration of World Domination Summit (WDS), right here in Portland. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference. I bought the tickets several months ago, remembering that I had been interested in attending the previous year when the event was already sold out.
Aside from phrases like “remarkable life, conventional world” and “amazing people with big plans,” the website reveals very little concrete details about the content of conference. A click-through to the schedule reveals that the plan is to “have fun and create meaningful adventure.”
WDS 2013 began with non-talk activities on Friday, which included the Big Float (an attempt to break the world’s record for number of people floating at one time) and an opening party at the Portland Zoo. Saturday and Sunday comprised the main part of the conference and roughly followed the same schedule. First, there was a morning of talks by the headlining speakers that wrapped up in time for lunch. In the afternoon, alumni speakers and attendees held a small number of workshops at venues throughout downtown. Both days concluded with two final talks at the main venue and then a social activity. Saturday’s social activity was a cruise on the Willamette and Sunday’s was a party at Pioneer square.
For me, WDS isn’t an ideal conference format. Because unscheduled time at home on weekends is so rare for me, weekend conferences are difficult to begin with. I have to fight a tremendous amount of inertia just to set aside the things I want to get done at home and leave the house. The lack of a central “hallway” track was also an issue for me. I find large crowds overwhelming and having a place where I can park myself and observe the action while still being available for chance encounters is important. WDS did have a “self care” area, but it was decentralized like everything else but the main talks.
I also didn’t take advantage of the social activities. In part this is because I live in Portland and can go to the Zoo or take a river cruise at any time. It’s also because there was no way to include Sherri in the activities and so choosing to go would have cut into the very small amount of non-working time we have to spend with each other each week.
All of that said, I attended the morning talks each day and found those to be enjoyable and inspiring. The highlight for me was hearing Tess Vigeland, formerly of Markplace.
There’s no doubt that WDS is full of inspiration and feel-good moments. Even this curmudgeon got out of her chair on the last day and joined the group dancing (really, I did!). What I thought it lacked, was more content about how to live remarkably or execute big plans. Perhaps if I had attended the afternoon workshops I would not have been craving specific details as much.
One thing WDS really needs to pay attention to and improve upon in future iterations: accessibility. The main venue was crowded and hard to navigate, with no effort made to encourage attendees to keep travel lanes clear. Seating for those with limited mobility seemed limited to underneath the balcony, which had the effect of drastically limiting the view of the stage. I know because I sat near this area on the first morning and could see scarcely 50% of the screen.
Will I go again? Probably. I think Sherri would enjoy attending and I think going with her would make me participate at a greater level. I would also like to present my own workshop next year, either on non-profit management or community organizing, or both.