Some thoughts about the GetTogether conference

This was the 3rd annual GetActive conference, so they’re obviously still learning and growing. It wasn’t expensive (under $200) compared to DreamForce (Salesforce user conference) which is around $1000.

GetActive has 800 clients, and I love that they appear to treat everyone like they’re part of the family. C3 is one of their smallest clients, yet I was impressed at how many GetActive employees recognized our organization as they introduced themselves to me. One even remarked on a campaign title that she loved (“Save Our Colonoscopies!”).  Everyone was very friendly. Very approachable. I felt like if we left they would care and miss us. As a matter of fact, we’ve been having an issue with a spam bot who found our database through their remote-join API (thanks again for the captcha help, Erik). Last night I was introduced to the Product Manger who promised to get to the bottom of it for me, but also fix it so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Seems I’m the first client to have this particular issue.

Madeline Stanionis really impressed me. She’s a nonprofit consultant who gave a fantastic and funny presentation on email marketing. It wasn’t about whether to add pictures to your email, or when to send it out, or how wide to make the pane…it was entirely focused on the message itself. What gets people to open and respond to nonprofit email. We’re going to try a lot of her techniques, I’ll blog about them when they work. 😉

Seth Godin was the keynote speaker. You can tell that he does this for a living. Very funny. Very engaging. He made a point, and then told a series of stories (“riffs”) to illustrate that point. Including the purple cow. His slides had very little text…mostly images to punctuate (not retell) his story. His message is simple, it’s almost “duh,” but still good to hear: getting people to talk about what you’re doing. His best illustration was that of a funnel. The old style is to throw lots and lots of content into the funnel…same old same old…hope something trickles out the bottom. The new style is to turn the funnel upside down and make it into a megaphone. A remarkable, “get people talking about it” message and then make sure you are using new media tools to get the community that cares about your issue to do your work…YouTube,, MySpace, etc. Bottom line, of course, is the fact that nonprofits often forget (or ignore) that people are thinking about their lives, not the nonprofit’s problem.

The only gripe about Mr. Godin’s presentation came at the end when he shamelessly plugged Squidoo. He was clear that it was his company, but his enthusiastic encouragement that we all rush to Squidoo and create lenses to talk about what we do and what we know, and we raise money doing it, was a little off-putting. Was I the only one in the room who knew that Squidoo doesn’t exactly have the same impact as YouTube or MySpace? I’m not sure. He even put up a graphic pointing folks to one of his own Squidoo page as the way to contact him, instead of his better-known blog page.

I guess my complaint is that so much of his presentation felt true and honest (even if it wasn’t), that this little back door maneuver to promote his own struggling brand rang false to me. Sorry.

My favorite sessions were the ones that had nothing to do with GetActive software. In addition to anything that Madeline touched, I attended a fantastic session this morning about communicating with Capitol Hill, featuring a Senate staffer and other consultants who work directly with Hill staff. It’s an evolving problem…how does a single office deal with the unbelievable volume of email without just throwing much of it out? A second great session was about…what else…Web 2.0. I’ve made it clear on this blog how I feel about MySpace, but I’m quickly realizing that as an organization we may have no choice but to hold our collective noses and dive in. We have to go where the ears and eyes are. Ick. Ick.

The biggest downside of the conference was the food. It was so bad, that it was something many of us laughed about in the hallways. Can’t blame GetActive for that.

For GetActive…in the future, stick a notepad in the tote bag, along with a map of the hotel. The conference rooms were spread over 4 floors and getting around was difficult at best.