“I Went to SOBCon and All I Got Was…”

…a wonderful time with a lot of really fine people. Didn’t want nor need another t-shirt.

I’m going to depart from “Best Practices” and NOT follow the Official Post-Conference Re-Cap Blog Post Template ™. I’m a bit hypocritical that way. Instead, since my purpose for attending was primarily to deepen relationships, I’ll spend the bulk of this post talking about…people.

It’s my intent in 2010 to build deep, not wide; to get beyond 140 characters and really get to know fellow travelers on this network we’re building. SOBCon is a great venue for that – small (150 people), focused, and plenty of time for interaction. Having known Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker (the SOBCon king and queen) for quite some time, it was easy to conclude that the time would be well-spent at an event they were orchestrating.

So…the people.

Drew McLellan was one of the first bloggers I stumbled across years ago, when we both started blogging about the same time. Every interaction with him since has been high-quality and encouraging. There’s a relatively small handful of people I both like and deeply respect, and thoroughly trust as well. Drew is one of those.

It was through Drew that I first heard of Steve Farber, who spoke at SOBCon – first time I had the chance to meet him. And I cannot wait to spend more time with Steve. Not only is he a gifted speaker and author, he’s a nice guy. And funny. And transparent. You’ll want to consider buying his books on leadership – he talks about love and business in the same breath, and I deeply appreciate that perspective.

Lisa Petrilli. Only started interacting with her on-line a short time before the conference, and I’m profoundly thankful for the time we spent talking once we met in Chicago. Not only does she possess a tremendous business background, she has a very moving story to tell – this 100% Italian gal has a little imported Irish in her, due to a donated kidney. Lisa moved from relative stranger into my “inner circle” of confidants and collaborators in one weekend.

For a long time, I’ve interacted with Jon Swanson on-line, and simply could not wait to meet him. Turns out, not surprisingly, that he’s exactly what you see on-line. We have deep shared interest in how the spiritual intersects with real life, and what it means to communicate to a wide range of people. Jon may not suspect that he has been a “distant” mentor to me for many months, but he has. It was a joy to sit at the same table with him and exchange thoughts freely.

Speaking of the table, we managed to find ourselves at what became known as the “Trouble Table,” so dubbed mainly because of the presence of the delightful and free-spirited Becky McCray and Sheila Scarborough (with assists from Anthony Iannarino and Britt Raybould). We were – loud. Full of wisecracks. Loved every minute of it. Becky took this shot of Jon Swanson and me during a calmer moment…

Getting to Chicago the day before meant I could relax, take a walk, work out, and meet Joe Ruiz in the gym. We had a delightful 45-minute talk that could have gone on much longer. Looking forward to lots of future collaboration with that quality fellow from Richmond. Plus, he’s older than me. That feels good, being surrounded as we are by all these younger folks!

I fully expect to have a lot more interaction with Jonathan Fields, who led the panel I was on. Very smart guy. Ground-breaker and entrepreneur. And it was good to once again hang out the always-delightful Shannon Paul, whose 100-watt smile brightens any room, even a darkened speak-easy (that social event was very well-done, by the way).

There were several ladies that I hoped to finally meet face-to-face during the event (after a long on-line history of exchanging messages), and it was a true delight to have time with Jeannie Walters, Julie Roads, Lucretia Pruitt, and Wendy Piersall (aka eMom). All high-quality, real, thoughtful people – each of them creative and driven in their own ways.

The SOBCon event was preceded the evening beforehand by a Social Media Club Chicago tweetup, where, immediately upon walking in, I was introduced to the 300-volt Carol Roth. She had me in stitches every time we talked. Speaking of high-energy, finally meeting Phil Gerbyshak was enough to jolt anyone into full wakefulness. Ambulance companies ought to hire him to reverse cardiac arrest in patients! Fun guy.

The lovely Alli Worthington demonstrated that you can have 5 boys, and, like my wife, look absolutely fabulous in the process.

Time was WAY too short with Bill Rice, David Armano, Amber Naslund, Chris Garrett, Chris Brogan, Geoff Livingston, Scott Stratten, Shashi Bellamkonda, Shelly Kramer, and others – would have liked to spend a couple hours each with these folks and many others, but there simply weren’t enough hours in the day.

Memorable moments: A riotous meal spent scheming a self-esteem-building GPS device; daily photo-taking Riverwalks to the shore of Lake Michigan; ad-hoc branding brainstorming for  Justin McCullough with Drew M, Steve F, and Phil G; unexpectedly seeing Eileen and Frieda from Siren Interactive at the SMC event (and, expectedly and finally, Sonny Gill!); and hanging out late one rainy evening at Hotel 71 “lounge” with a whole gang of lively attendees.

Chicago is a lovely city for a springtime event. Even if you cannot find a cup of coffee at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, you can wander along the beautiful Riverwalk and people-watch, take pictures, gawk at tall buildings, and watch the wind whip up Lake Michigan. I need moments of peace interspersed with “people-time”, and this venue was perfect – everything close by, including the ability to escape and think. I’ll be back…

P.S. I mentioned in the panel discussion my recovery from a nearly life-long struggle with depression. Here’s the backstory, written a few years back: Clearing Clouds.


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

26 Responses to “I Went to SOBCon and All I Got Was…”

  1. Joseph Ruiz says:

    Steve I would have responded sooner but at my age I need rest and assistance to get going!
    Hope to see you soon.
    the old guy.

  2. Julie Roads says:

    Steve – I LOVED meeting you in person. and I loved the conference. This is a great and accurate wrap-up.

    We never did find Ted to pitch him the GPS idea, but I think we need to get on it…pronto.

  3. Pingback: The Post-Conference Re-cap Template « StickyFigure

  4. Hi Steve –
    Thanks for the warm and perfect wrap-up. You know when you idolize someone from afar and meet them to discover they’re the real deal plus also nicer than you even thought? That’s how it was to meet you and share a nice conversation or two in the whirlwind at SOBCon.

    When people question if virtual relationships are real, I’ll just smile because I know what happens when you are honest with each other online and then have the good fortune of meeting in person.

    Here’s to more happy opportunities and good fortune in the future. (And to knowing that occasionally stalking pays off. Hee hee.)

    • I guess I’ve got you fooled, then – whew! Thought you were going to see right through me and conclude that I’m the blogging equivalent of a 3-dollar bill!

  5. Connie Reece says:

    SOBCon is the next best thing to Blogger Social! I was privileged to attend the first time Liz and Terry “raised a barn” and hope to get back to Chicago again. I like your idea of going deep rather than wide–the best part of building online relationships is the opportunity to meet these people offline and really get to know them better. I’m so jealous you got to meet Jon Swanson!!! He mentors me too. 🙂

  6. Shannon Paul says:

    You’re very kind, Steve. Truly. It’s always great to see you. I really enjoyed chatting with you and Lisa Petrilli at the speakeasy event. SOBcon is always a great experience!

  7. Jon Swanson says:

    Nancy said last night, “Now I read his posts and can hear his voice.”

    That is the delight of starting online and then meeting face-to-face: it puts flesh on words.

    Thank you.

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  10. Sonny Gill says:

    It really was about time that we hung out! It was a pleasure to hang with you at the pre-event. Was sad to not be here for the entire weekend/event, but I look forward for some extended conversations at the next one!

  11. Steve,

    I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and for the honor of your friendship.

    I told a friend yesterday that I was so glad I started my SOBCon experience by meeting you on Thursday afternoon because you helped me to see that I had much to share – which helped me to be fully open to the weekend experience.

    My life has been absolutely changed for the better because I met you a week ago, and I look forward to a deepening friendship and collaboration for many years to come!


    • Hanging out with you was a highlight of the event for me, Lisa. You have a lot to offer, and I have no doubt that you will continue to accomplish big things.

  12. Wendy Cholbi says:

    I’ve been following you on Twitter for some time, so I really appreciated hearing your real in-person voice at SOBCon (although I didn’t introduce myself to you personally — kinda kicking myself about that, and hoping I’ll have the chance at next year’s event, if not sooner!).

    I was deeply touched by the way you simply and openly described your history of depression during your panel discussion. Thank you for demonstrating “strength through vulnerability.” I just read your 2006 post as well, so thank you for linking to that. Just wow.

    And your official post-conference recap template ™ totally rocks, too — made me laugh. So nice to not have to reinvent the wheel for every conference!

    • Very sweet of you to say all that, Wendy. I do hope next time you’ll replace the self-kicking with an eyeball-to-eyeball introduction (Julie Roads showed how it’s done…)

  13. Steve,

    You’ve been one of my favorite blogosphere buddies for many years and I am always grateful when we can take it off line as well.

    Like you, SOBCon was about connecting and reconnecting for me. The impromptu brainstorming we did at the SpeakEasy was one of the highlights for me. It illustrates what I appreciate most about my blogging community — the total willingness to share expertise, ideas and time — all without expectation of anything in return.

    I wish we could have hung out even more — but I know we have many more on and offline conversations in our future. And for that, I am quite grateful.


  14. Great times buddy! I have to echo what Drew said: the impromptu giving we did for a friend was a great testament as to the amazing giving nature of the blogging community I love! Thanks for sharing your energy with me. It amped me up even higher 🙂

    See you again soon!

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  17. Aw thank you! It was wonderful to meet you and your words resonated with so many of us. I remember Tweeting that you were saying all the things I have been thinking for so long.

    What a treat the whole event was!

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