Every year for the last 8 years, I've run a conference in Kalamazoo, MI called the Kalamazoo X Conference. This conference takes a lot of work, and I've been lucky to have been helped by friends and family (Courtney Eaton, Matt Davis, Emily Schweiss, Matt Darby and many more).
This conference allows me to bring some of my favorite speakers from across the US into one room for a day and let them talk about whatever the hell they want to talk about - my only requirement is "nothing technical". We have enough conferences for that stuff.
The conference itself has been described as a "profane set of TED talks" and I believe that's 100% accurate. I don't censor speakers. I don't tell them what they can or can't say - I just let them be them.
This year was, in my opinion, one of the best. Speakers included Lauren Scott, Christina Aldan, Cory House, Leon Gersing, Ed Finkler, Jay Harris, Alan Stevens and Kate Catlin. They all brought their "A game" and it was amazing!
The day started strong with Lauren talking about "How to Be Everything: A Look At The Way We Give Advice". This was followed by "Empathy Is Your Secret Weapon" from Christina and "The Power of Apathy" from Cory. Oh, by the way, the whole empathy/apathy thing wasn't planned. They both submitted those talks independently, but it worked out perfectly!
After Cory, Leon gave a fantastic talk titled "42 things I learned from teaching others". This was a fantastic talk, and it's why I continue to invite Leon back.
As the pickiest eater I know, I can honestly say lunch was really good. The Fetzer Center knocked it out of the park with the baked potato bar (which we had 2 years ago when we were at same venue), and everyone I talked to seemed to enjoy it.
Ed picked things up after lunch with a fantastic, really well delivered version of his "Stronger Than Fear: Mental Health in the Developer Community" talk. He actually recorded it, so if you haven't seen it yet, check it out!
Once again, Jay made us cry (whether he wanted to or not) with a fantastic talk he titled, "We". That was followed by Alan talking about "Genius". This was a fascinating talk that I hope Alan continues to develop and deliver.
Our final speaker of the year was Kate Catlin. This was her first time at KalX and she was amazing! Her talk on "(Reality) – (Expectations) = Relationship Status" was really well done, and delivered with passion and humor. It was a great way to end the day!
It really is hard to ignore the positive impact this conference has on so many people. The one on one conversations I have with people during and after the event are powerful. I see it on their faces and hear it in their words. Knowing that people have made major life changes after attending (and knowing they credit KalX with much of what went into their decision) is a powerful motivator.
I went into the day thinking #8 would be the last. Running a conference is hard. There are so many things that go into this conference, so many things that weigh heavy on my shoulders that the escape hatch becomes more and more appealing as time goes by. Given that, I have committed to doing it at least one more year, but chances are that year will turn into two, and two will turn into three.
If you have some time, check out what was said during and after the event on twitter:
"My favorite part of #KalX16: Not the talks. It's looking at the faces that are giddy, smiling, and all-in, completely engaged."
"The one conference where it's surprising if you *don't* cry. Jesus #kalx16 @kalamazoox"
"Pretty into the strong pro-profanity vibe at @kalamazoox #kalx16"
"How is it that every @kalamazoox seems to speak to what I need to hear right now. #kalx16"
"I just laughed at #kalx16 because the current speaker is taking about my life & I nervously related. I feel so inappropriate :-( @osmihelp"
"If you don't cry during @kalamazoox you're doing it wrong #kalx16"
"Have anxieties about crying in public? Attend #kalx17 and we'll get through it together. #kalx16"
Here are some great pictures on Instagram tagged with #kalx16!
- Photo credit - Jeff Yates.