A jeep, three friends, a road trip, and Don't Stop Believin' by Journey — the perfect recipe for laryngitis.
Our group (Chris, Larkin, Arnold and yours truly), we were so excited to attend BlendConf that we sang for two straight hours at the top of our lungs. We passed the stereo plug and democracy played DJ. Next up? Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. With the Lights Out by Nirvana. And one of my personal faves, Hold On by Wilson Phillips. (And yes, I knew all the words before the movie, Bridesmaids.)
I'm not sure if I sang louder or differently than my friends, but somehow I ended up with a scratchy throat when we pulled into the hotel. By the first day of the workshops, my voice was a full octave deeper, but that didn't stop me from pitching a teleportation device powered completely by green energy. Go big or go home, right?
Throughout the night, as I met one amazing person after another, I strained my larynx so that I could simply ask questions and participate in conversations. By the end of the first night, my voice was cracking and screeching more than a thirteen year old boy. I went to bed with two distinct feelings; trepidation over the conference's "no device" policy, and gratitude that my voice loss really wasn't that bad.
On Friday morning, I awoke as normal, my throat feeling scratchy but not sore. I turned to say good morning to my roommate, but all that came out of my mouth was a faint whisper. No screeching, no cracking. No, well, anything.
I breathed deep and realized that I'd have to act fast. How was I supposed to communicate with 350 strangers with no iPhone, no computer, and worst of all, no voice?!
A quick tweet was all it took for inspiration to strike.
I took out my sharpie and journal and quickly scribed answers to questions that I anticipated hearing.
The first few times I pulled out the journal, I got some bizarre looks, but it ended up working better that I ever could have expected. It made me memorable and was a natural conversation starter. At the end of the conference I even got the karaoke party started by singing first. That way, no one had to be afraid that they'd be the worst singer. My song of choice? "Don't Stop Believing", of course.
As for the "no devices" concept, my trepidation was relieved when I found a gorgeous notebook by boundforanything.com in my swag bag. I had forgotten how much I liked taking analog notes. With the pressure to fill a Twitter backchannel removed, I found myself doodling and dreaming of ways to make meaningful changes to my business. I also discovered that I walked away with deeper and more meaningful relationships than I have at past conferences.
A big thanks to Bermon Painter who organized the whole shebang on his own. I wouldn't be surprised if Blend makes its name with the big boys like TED and SXSW in a few years. It was that good, even with laryngitis.