On September 7th and 8th, 2011, there was an eBay On Location event in Orlando, FL. I’ve been hoping to go to one of these since they announced them but for some reason eBay historically forgets that the northeast of this country exists so I have been thus far out of luck. (I live in New Jersey, in case you were curious.) I have family in FL so, while this was no where near where I live, I decided to pop down to this one as this was likely my best chance.
eBay On Location: Just, you know, not at any location near you.
That said, I wanted to take the time to write up a comprehensive review of the event to hopefully give anyone wondering if these are worth attending in the future an idea of what to expect. This may be long. I’ll try to keep it roped in but you know how I get. 😉
The event was structured differently from past eBayOL events (or so I heard, this was my first one). The first day was all mixer: a dinner with eBay staff members seated at every table, a guest speaker (Larry Winget who was funny but really more comedy then useful info) and then a PayPal cocktail party (open bar!) followed by an after after party sponsored by Kabbage. Some people complained about this structure but I thought it worked out fine. It gave you a chance to chat, network and smooze all evening while the real learning didn’t start until the next day. The downsides to this I think were as follows:
- Many people skipped this first day because it didn’t seem as important as classes (the room for dinner was barely half-full while the next day for breakfast it was standing room only)
- We couldn’t talk about the stuff we’d learned from eBay staff and each other at eBayOL because nothing had really happened yet
- Open bar the night before + early start and long classes the next day does not make for the world’s most alert attendees. I’m sure some people were hung over.
- The dinner didn’t really allow for much networking outside of your table. I know some people wanted more mingling before you we committed to a group
Every table had at least one eBay or PayPal staff member. I was seated with someone from eBay Giving Works which was great for me because you know I am a big believer and frequent user of that service. She was lovely but she didn’t have business cards and my senility has eaten her name. She has my card so hopefully she’ll contact me because we talked about doing a post. But I thought that level of connection with someone from eBay was great and really made you feel more connected to the company and like your questions and concerns were being heard. (This is more a critique of the venue then anything else but dinner was somewhat disorganized… our table missed courses and was often not given enough food for the entire table. We were in the middle of the room so I guess we were easy to forget or something.)
We were also each given a copy of Larry Winget’s People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It!: The 10 Ways You Are Sabotaging Yourself and How You Can Overcome Them which I thought was an unexpected little present. (I like free stuff. I also like books. Yay free books!) There was also the usual eBay-ana such as light up logo items and pins. My pin broke halfway through the PayPal event and my light up bracelet was broken. Do with this info what you will. We also got some other swag upon registration: a little red fold up bag, a bound notebook for taking notes, a bamboo USB drive from eBay Green Team (apparently you can plant the box it comes in as it is made of wildflower seeds), and a billion pens. The bag they gave us seemed a little flimsy, I actually used my PowerSeller bag from eBay Live 2007 which I got comments/envious glares at all day. I suspect this is a sign of eBay’s swag budget being lessened dramatically since the eBay Live days.
For me, the highlight of this part of the event was getting a nice long time to chat and meet with other sellers, eBay employees and online buddies I’d never had the chance to meet in person before. (I also apparently traumatized certain people who shall rename nameless by not “looking as old as I sound” whatever that means. I think the thing I said most over those two days was, “I swear, I’m older than twenty!” which I suppose is a good problem to have when one left twenty behind some time ago.) One small thrill was, even though the last in person eBay event I was at was eBay Live in Boston in 2007, I both recognized and was recognized by a ton of people because of Twitter which was a big testament to the power of social networking. One of the sellers at dinner with me, after several random people had stopped by the table to greet me with a hug, turned to me and said with great confusion, “Why the hell do you know so many people?” and I replied “Because of Twitter” to which she said, “I’m on Twitter. I don’t know anyone!” which made me feel very Social Networking: You’re Doing it Right! 😉
Hillary DePiano from The Whine Seller and Melinda Jackson from RRB Radio
On a side note, if I were to go to one of these again in the future, I am absolutely wearing a shirt with the logo of this blog on it. I met several people who had no clue in hell who I was but were big fans of the blog so I think it would help with the networking. Also, something I learned about myself: I am awful with names but very good at remembering visuals. I don’t remember the name of most of the new people I met at eBayOL but I can tell you exactly when and where I got each business card. I’m wondering if this is a case for putting your picture on your business card or perhaps wearing a shirt that either matches your business card or at least shares a business logo with your card. Also? Your name should really be on your business card as well as your business name. It’s amazing how many people don’t do this. I’m really senile, you guys. Not twenty, remember?
Day 2 started at 7 AM but luckily breakfast went on longer then they promised (thank goodness since I hit mad traffic that morning).
(I wrote everything above on 9/23 and everything below on 10/6. How pathetic is that?)
There was an address by eBay the gist of which was “WTH is wrong with you if you still aren’t shipping internationally?”, “Isn’t eBay awesome?” and “Isn’t mobile commerce awesome?” which we didn’t realize was a teaser for their new commercial campaign in which eBay markets mobile commerce but forgets to actually market themselves. Anyway, then we split into the “sessions” which is a fancy name for classes or lectures.
The sessions were organized into three categories: Selling Basics, Beyond the Basics, and Business.
The first session I attended was Marketing Your eBay Business which was a Business session. The speakers were Robert Chatwani, RBH and a seller who had some great info but, I’m sorry sir, was the driest public speaking on this earth so it was really hard to follow what he was saying. The other two speakers, however, were dynamic and their info was great.
One of the things I thought was really done well was the way RBH encouraged social networking reluctant sellers to get started and then tag teamed this message by having a social media station in the “Expo Hall” (which was really a rather small room with a few stations) run by eBay Andy. This table was jammed the entire time because, instead of just giving out postcards, Andy actually was helping sellers sign up for Facebook or Twitter, showing them how to use it and encouraging them to send their first tweet. The first 50 people who tweeted out #ebayOL received copies of Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business. This encouraged people to get signed up and start tweeting which I thought was a really great idea. (Needless to say, those of us already on Twitter and already tweets had an advantage at getting a copy.) Massive props go to Andy who didn’t stop all day. Dude worked his BUTT off!
I like Marsha Collier so I went to her Business designated session Best Practices for Building Your eBay Business. After a few minutes, however, it was clear that it was designed for someone a little less experienced than myself so I defected and when over to the Beyond the Basics class with Todd Lutwak called Advanced Selling Strategies which was great. Some of it I knew already but I still felt like I walked out of there with some new info/tools.
Then it was lunch break. I ate lunch very quickly, thinking I would have to run to be able take advantage of everything in the Expo Hall but I really could have taken my time because the Expo Hall was so small, unless you were getting set up on Twitter or Facebook or learning/complaining about something at one of the eBay support tables, there wasn’t much to do. The one thing that I did enjoy was a live broadcast of eBay Radio and the ladies from Bling My Bra doing a live auction for charity while wearing the bras. It was only a two hour break but this seemed like a TON of downtime to the point when it was like “when is the next session going to start already?” So, I say, just be zen and take this as a relaxing break for networking.
I was torn for the next session. I really wanted to go to Cliff Ennico’s Legal and Tax Aspects of Your Business on eBay but I also really wanted to go to Griff’s Seller Secrets Pannel both of which were Business sessions. In the end, I went to the panel because I personally always prefer to hear about other sellers and how they do things first hand. I thought that was very interesting and, while it sounds like the tax session was also great, I was happy with my choice.
Side note: At this point, the main room that I’d now attended 3 session in a row in was freaking FREEZING. Bring a sweater or something. Even if the event is somewhere like Florida. Also? Again, a venue complaint but there were four sessions in the room we had dinner and breakfast in and they didn’t clean it in between. So you’d try to take notes and there were literally dirty dishes, crumbs and spills on the table in front of you. It was gross and seemed really stupid. Just my two cents there. I almost wished I’d brought my own lap desk.
The last session of the day that I attended was the Business level session from John Lawson, aka ColderICE called Expand Your Business Through Social Media Store (which doesn’t make any sense, now that I read it aloud). It took John some time to get going but, considering what a social networking dork I am, the best compliment I can give him is that he actually taught everyone in the room something, no matter what their experience level with social networking. I thought he was great and his session was the most crowded. If you’re picturing a session on Twitter and Facebook, John when well beyond and it was a worthwhile one to check out both because he’s a dynaimc speaker and because he had some great info.
The last session of the day they gave out iPad 2’s to random attendees which people enjoyed and we were done by 5 PM. This seemed like a rather early end, esp after the very late night the day before. It seemed a bit backwards but, at the same time, I was so tired by the end of the second day, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay that late again. There was a beer related tweet up afterwards which I did not attend because I had dinner plans with family but, if you were looking for after activities, they were going on.
Overall, it would say it’s definately worth it to go to an eBay On Location if it is local or if it’s being held in a location you’d want to visit anyway for other reasons. The actual event was great value for the cost, it was less than $100 for three meals and two days worth of speakers and sessions which I thought was beyond fair. Factor in the travel costs and it still was much cheaper than many other conventions. Should you travel across the country for it? Probably not. But if you’re main goal is networking, it might be worth it.
In the end, I think the event is what you make of it. If you don’t skip sessions and events, if you make a point to learn as much as you can and to make connections and networking, it can be a very valuable experience. I know it was for me.
Have you been to an eBay OL in the past? Which one? Would you recommend it to other sellers? Any tips?