Thursday, June 30, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

Last week's NAA Education Conference & Exposition was killer. I'd never been to Vegas before, and though I've done a fair amount of traveling in my 30-odd years, I was blown away by how...excited everything was. Slot machines in the airport! Limos with mood lighting! Huge billboards advertising, "We can get you out of your DUI for only $700!" LED displays for every show imaginable! People wearing club clothes before noon!

And that was just my first twenty minutes. Truth be told, this New England girl was honestly a bit overwhelmed.

I won't go into tons of detail about the conference itself - you can read more about the some of the specifics on NAA's website, as well as at The Training Factor and on Apartments.com's blog, if you're interested. But I will say that I thought this year's speakers were outstanding. I especially enjoyed listening to Dr. Condoleeza Rice. Though our political views differ, she is (not surprisingly) extremely well-spoken, and had some really inspiring things to say about self-esteem, our education system, and the United States as a global power. I found myself nodding along at much of her speech, and during the Q & A portion of her presentation, I was impressed with how "real" she seemed. Afterwards, I overheard someone say, "That is one classy lady," which about sums it all up.

The educational sessions that I attended were excellent. There was a wide selection of sessions to choose from, and I made a point to attend as many of the Marketing Technology presentations as I could. Interestingly, my only "peeve" was that NAA really talked up Twitter (each session had its own hashtag), yet there was no WiFi available during the educational sessions: if you didn't have 3G, you were out of luck. A friendly conference organizer pointed out that there were several hotspots in the common spaces, but that unfortunately didn't do much to help with the social conversation during the presentations themselves.

Similar to last year's conference, I thought that the tradeshow floor was well organized, and the opportunities for networking were plentiful. Still, I honestly felt a bit pressed for time, and there were many people that I simply didn't get to see. I would have loved to have had just a little bit more time to mingle before the parties kicked off.

Speaking of the parties...wow. There's definitely a reason that people say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." People were out in full force, and when I finally dragged myself away from the dance floor at 2:30 (really, really, really late for me!), the party showed no signs of slowing down. Not everyone at the Mandalay was attending the conference, of course, but I saw lots of familiar faces as I headed up to my hotel room, and I saw many conference attendees with large super-sized cups of coffee the next morning.

In a nutshell, I thought Vegas was amazing, and thanks to the generosity of my company, I can now cross that destination off my "bucket list." Still, I'm beyond thrilled that next year's conference is in my hometown: I can't wait to help show the industry just how fabulous and fun Boston can be.