This past weekend I spent about five days in Portland to attend the XOXO Festival.
This was conference/festival that was funded using a Kickstarter campaign a few months ago. With only 400 tickets available, I hopped on board and bought my ticket inside the 48 hour window before they completely sold out without even knowing who the speakers would be or a lot of other details. It just seemed like a great idea with some great people behind it that might be able to pull it off…which as you’ll see, is exactly what happened. The list of attendees alone was amazing so the chance to be surrounded with some of the smartest people on the planet was exciting, if not daunting. Being in a room full of people smarter than you can feel overwhelming but I was optimistic that the positive energy and brain power would rub off.
So what happened there?
It was a two day conference with speakers from all walks of creative endeavours. My takeaway from the lineup of speakers was that all these people took risks, followed their dreams and went for things people told them they couldn’t achieve. They shared their stories of how they got there and it was incredibly inspiring to be a witness to. Another thing I noticed is that most, if not all, the speakers stuck around and listened to the other talks, and generally participated in the whole event.
Things started off with an opening party the night we arrived in Portland, followed by a full day of just social events on Friday before the talks started on Saturday and Sunday. One of the great things about a conference with just 400 attendees is that you have the chance to meet many of them and you tend to keep bumping into them which only fosters a better conversation.
The street outside the venue was blocked off and some of Portland’s best food trucks were brought in to provide lunch during the weekend and continued to foster the social aspect of the conference as most people stuck around for lunch:
Here’s a selection of my favorite moments from XOXO:
- Discovering Cards Against Humanity in the XOXO Market and then helping one of it’s creators with his new MakerBot:
- The Ice Cream Social at Panic’s amazing office, including checking out the secret room
- Watching Dan Harmon’s pilot for Heatvision & Jack with him
- seeing Julia Nunes and MC Frontalot perform live
- Perfect weather the entire time which made rooftop parties awesome
- Watching two great keynotes with Dan Harmon and Adam Savage
- Having a great conversation about 3d printing with Bre from MakerBot
- Hitting a different food truck for nearly every meal while in Portland
- Having an enormous 80’s arcade to ourselves for a few hours with everything on free play
Having a single track conference can be challenging as you may not be interested in what everyone has to say but I enjoyed every session I attended (I skipped a few on Sunday morning to visit the Portland Maker Faire). My only complaint (albeit minor) was the wooden chairs we sat on for the session…fortunately we did have lots of breaks to get out of them and move around.
It’s hard not to compare my experience with XOXO to the early years of my attendance at SXSW. Surrounded by so many like minds, it’s impossible to not come away with from the event with renewed energy and inspiration, combined with new friendships.
I was able to personally thank Andy Baio and Andy McMillan for putting on such an amazing festival. I don’t know what they are planning for the next XOXO (if there is one), but I just hope I get to be a part of it again.
Here’s a slideshow of my entire photoset from the Festival: