My Experience at the 2013 World Domination Summit

World Domination Summit 2013

Chris Guillebeau closing WDS 2013 with a toast

For two years I’ve been sitting at home while World Domination Summit was going on. Both years, I thought about coming. Last year I nearly bought a ticket from someone who couldn’t go. I thought I should wait another year, which basically was a terrible excuse.

This year I told myself I needed to finally go so I wouldn’t be at home reading the tweets, looking at the photos, reading the posts about the experience and regretting it.

I came to WDS excited but nervous. There was going to be 3,000 attendees this year up from 1,000 last year. I didn’t know how that was going to feel. Was it going to be overwhelming?

I lean towards being an introvert for sure. I like my quiet time to recharge. Sometimes being around social situations for too long drains me.

I know that WDS is a conference full of introverts. Even the organizer, Chris Guillebeau is an introvert. There were activities planned specifically for introverts.

I didn’t want to let my introverted side dominate this weekend. I didn’t want to be that guy standing in the corner staring at my iPhone and looking around the room at all the amazing conversations going on. I knew I would regret it.

I’ve been to only two conferences before and they were Blogworld/New Media Expo. Both times I’ve been anti-social outside of the actual conference. Instead of going out, I stayed in my hotel room. I just didn’t feel comfortable being social. Maybe cause I didn’t have a group of people I felt comfortable with, but probably it was just because of my own insecurities.

I told myself this weekend I was going to get outside of my comfort zone. I would be social and start conversations with people I didn’t know. I reminded myself to just smile and everything would be fine.

What I realized was that I didn’t need to force myself to be out of my comfort zone. The environment energized me. It was easy for me to start a conversation with people I didn’t know. Being around people like-minded people really helped.

I still had my moments where I felt nervous during conversations. In those time, I just listened and smiled.

In the end, I surpassed the expectations I set for myself. I left with no regrets and lots of memories.

A First Class Conference

The event is really well done. Chris Gulliebeau and his team did a great job down to the last detail. For the opening party, he rented out the Oregon Zoo. Not just a part of the zoo, but the entire zoo. There were skeeball machines, a mechanical bull, drinks, food, and a marching band on stage.

When I looked at the names of the speakers, some I had heard of before, but many I had no idea who they were. There was even a piano player who would perform. I thought that was unusual.

However, the group of speakers put together for this conference blew me away. Even though I had no idea who some were, I absolutely loved what each and every single one shared. From talking with other attendees they felt the same way.

I wanted to just share a few of them.

The guy who played the piano is Steve Schalchlin. He’s an American songwriter, actor and musician. He is widely regarded as one of the first HIV/AIDS bloggers, beginning his in 1996 to keep family and friends updated on his failing health.

The songs he played were songs he wrote that saved his life. It helped him get better. He played them with emotion and I read comments online afterward that it moved some to tears.

Another speaker was Jia Jiang. I knew his story beforehand and if you’re on my mailing list, a couple months ago I emailed a TEDx talk he did because I absolutely loved it. Jia wanted to get over his fear of rejection after an experience that caused him to nearly give up on his dream. So he began an experiment where he’d try and get rejected 100 times. Some were like asking a police officer if he could drive his car, asking a pilot if he could fly his plane, asking a homeowner if he could play soccer in his backyard. The crazy thing was all of them said yes.

Though I knew his story, I still got chills from hearing him tell it again. It was much better than his TEDx Talk. I had happy tears in my eyes. I just loved his story.

A lot people in the audience didn’t know him or his story, but he got the biggest standing ovation of the weekend by far.

Finally, I’ve followed Darren Rowse from Problogger since I began blogging. When I saw his name as a speaker, I didn’t think he was going to talk about blogging. So what would he talk about? Turns out, he gave an phenomenal talk. He spoke about chasing your dreams and told his story, with embarrassing childhood photographs, about the different dreams he had throughout life. Also at the end, he appeared in a Superman costume because that was a childhood dream.

Darren Rowse Problogger Superman

All the speakers were amazing, but I just wanted to mention these few unconventional speakers.

Laughter

I knew the event would be full of inspiration based on I’ve read in the past. What I didn’t realize was how much I would laugh this whole weekend.

If we were at a Tony Robbins conference, we’d get inspiration, but I doubt we’d remember how much we laughed. Here we got both.

Even Chris Guillebeau was making great jokes on stage. Who knew he could be that funny? I didn’t. I don’t know if he rehearsed them or not, but they came off very natural and got huge laughs.

Every speaker had so many moments in their talks that made everyone laugh and cheer. I believe a lot of the positive energy and good vibes that attendees went back home with were because of laughing so much.

It was easy to be talking to people the whole weekend and either laughing or having a smile on my face.

WDS 2013 Closing Party

The closing party was one epic party. It was held outdoors in Pioneer Square, which is a popular public area in the middle of downtown.

For the party, it was fenced off, a stage was built, and some people were dancing to Bollywood music at the beginning, and finished it off with a collection of the biggest hits from the 80’s. I don’t believe anyone wanted it to end. I definitely didn’t.

Did I dance? You bet and normally don’t dance. Sore legs and sore cheeks were the aftermath of a fun closing party.

The People

It was so refreshing to be with the type of people that attend a conference like the World Domination Summit.

The people that come to this conference don’t judge your dreams. You could tell people you want to be a clown and make balloon animals for kids as a living because that’s what you love to do. Oh and you’d be leaving your six-figure a year corporate job. If you said that to your friends or family, they would think you were absolutely nuts. If you told someone at WDS, they’d cheer you on.

I enjoyed finally meeting people face to face that I’ve only talked to online. It was great to shake their hand or give them a hug.

A couple nights I nearly lost my voice. One reason was because some of the meet ups were loud and I had to talk louder, but it was mainly because of all the great conversations that I had. I normally don’t talk that much. It would have really sucked if I did completely lose my voice though.

One of my favorite parts, that I didn’t expect, was just talking to people I didn’t know and having a quick conversation. This came from me wanting to get out of my comfort zone. Here it was easier to start a conversation because we all had a common thing to talk about and that was WDS.

I could have easily not said anything while standing in line, riding the bus, or waiting for a speaker to talk. I didn’t have to talk to them. I normally don’t start conversations in these situations. I could have played with my iPhone while waiting, but the more I said hi, the more I enjoyed it.

One of my favorite random encounters was at the zoo for the opening party. I was waiting in line to get food. A guy walks into line right at the same time as me. I forgot how the conversation started, but I think it was cause we made eye contact so I said hi. He asked where I was from and I said Jacksonville, FL. He mentioned he has been to Brunswick, GA, which is not too far from Jacksonville, for training as a federal law enforcement officer. In my mind, I was curious why would a law enforcement officer, who works for the government, would come to World Domination Summit? A conference where people want to be remarkable in a conventional world. Working for the government was pretty conventional. I asked him and he told me he came because he’s Chris Guillebeau’s brother. I laughed because I didn’t expect that at all! That was a great reason to come to WDS. Once he said that, I saw the physical resemblance too. We had a short but nice conversation while waiting in line. Surprisingly it was his first time to WDS because the previous two years he was working.

This memory wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the mindset to say hi first.

I knew some people before I came to WDS, but even if you didn’t know a single person, you could make great friends by the end of the conference.

I met a girl at a meet-up on Friday night. She was with a guy who I had just met earlier in the day during registration because the people I was with knew him.

I learned she works for NASA and wanted to come to figure out what direction she could take her life in because working for the government wasn’t what she wanted to do forever. She couldn’t get promoted anymore and I think she said she could only get a maximum of a 1% raise every year. Yikes. She was young so she wanted to do something that would allow her to be location independent.

I saw her the next day while I was waiting in the long line to go into the theater for the start of the conference. We talked a bit and I asked her how she knew that guy from yesterday. She told me she was in a restaurant by herself yesterday. He saw her all alone and invited her to join the group he was with. This was her first WDS and she came not knowing anyone.

She sat with us during the morning sessions, but after lunch I didn’t see her until the closing party the following night.

I ran into her and there she was with these new friends she just met a couple days ago. Dancing, smiling, and having fun. I have no doubt they’ve become great new friends and will keep in touch.

At WDS, you can find friends that you’re comfortable with, even if you know no one to start, and I think that’s great.

A Great Ending to the Weekend in Portland

The day after the conference ended, I had this hangover, but in a good way. My head was spinning from what I heard, saw, and experienced. I was sad that it was over.

I had a final experience that typified why I enjoyed this conference so much and want to come back. It was a great way to end my time in Portland.

I had about five hours in the airport so I spent the first four in the airport lounge, but an hour before my flight I wanted to walk around and stretch my legs.

As I exited, I saw a guy I met at New Media Expo this past January, but didn’t talk to him too much besides saying hi in a group setting. I saw him often this weekend, but just long enough to say hi.

He was on his computer, so I could have easily walked by him, and he wouldn’t have known I was there. The old Benny that attended the previous two conferences would have done that, but not this one.

I know Joel Zaslofsky is a nice guy just from the very short time we’ve interacted. I just got that feeling. So I went to say hi. He looked up and said, “Hey Benny!” He shook my hand, closed his laptop, and we just started talking. We just talked about the weekend, what we’re working on, and what our plans our for the near future. It was like two old friends talking. It was a two way conversation too. It wasn’t just me asking him question, but he was genuinely interested in what I had to say as well.

I had to leave to catch my flight, but when I left, I realized this is what WDS is all about for me. It isn’t it only for the event that Chris and his team puts together. It’s because of the people that attend.

Conclusion

The World Domination Summit is about being remarkable in a conventional world. That’s the definition I used when locals would ask me what was going on around town.

It’s a weekend where you can be yourself, talk about what you’re doing or what you dream to do and not get ridiculed for it.

A guy shared his story on stage about wanting to sail around the world despite having zero experience. A self-professed geek had a goal to write a book about how to meet women for geeks. Outside of the audience of 2,800 people that were listening, it might have gotten a lukewarm response and lots of doubt. At WDS, they both got loud cheers and applauses.

We all have our own dreams. No matter what they are, they are our dreams. Who are we to ridicule what someone’s dream is? Coming to WDS makes you realize that your dreams aren’t crazy. You’re only crazy if you don’t act on them. You don’t have to be perfect to start either. You might fail and that’s okay. As bestselling author Donald Miller said, “You are not your failures.”

I now know why people keep coming back. It’s to be around people who understand you. It’s to hear stories from others and realize that if they can do it, you can too. It’s to see old friends and make new ones. It’s to have great conversations where you’re not looking at the clock every five minutes waiting for it to end. It’s to laugh a lot.

It’s go back home as a changed person, filled with memories, inspiration, and hope. I’m ready to go back to WDS next year in Portland.

 

Photo credit Chris Guillebeau

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  • Paul

    Wow , Looks like you had a great time. Ok- What about the airline trip. Did ya use the miles to get a dirt cheap trip or just looked for the best price like the rest of us!. By the way I hope to got to Blog World this year. The line up looks great as they just posted the speakers. Hope you can make it this year. I think it also backs up to Affiliate West conference this year. Have a great week

    • It was so much fun. I just bought the ticket and saved my miles to use for international travel. I’m leaning towards going to Blog World (now called New Media Expo) this year. If I do, hope to meet you out there!

  • Benny,

    Serendipity is a wonderful thing! Thanks for the shout out in this post and I’m totally on the same page, man. WDS is a magical place and event, but only when you use it to make real connections with people.

    I’m thrilled you walked by me in the airport and I’m glad our chat was a microcosm of the whole experience for you. Keep rockin’ it!

    • Hey Joel! It was a fitting way to end the whole trip. Just meeting great people like yourself was the best part for me. Hope your flight back went smoothly!

  • Liz

    Was that you Joel was talking to?! I was in the restaurant right across and I was going to say hi but I decided to wait until I left the bar for good. I was tackling 150 emails. If I would have known it was you I would have rushed. Joel and I spent a good amount of quality time together, but I totally missed you completely!

    • I think so Liz! You should have totally come over. It was around 9:30pm or so. I totally didn’t run into you at all. I found that a common theme. Some people I knew who were going I never ran into at all. Hope you had a great time at WDS! Next time, we’ll definitely have meet for sure.

  • Benny–what an amazing recap! Jia Jiang’s story was my favorite, by far. I didn’t know him beforehand, so it was extremely refreshing and unexpected. I went to WDS for the second year (went in 2011) and had no expectations. For one reason or another, I didn’t plan anything–barely glanced at the speakers.

    In the end, I believe I had the sense of wonder that you had. All these people from different walks of life, who wanted to grasp, to believe in ‘remarkable,’ despite our very conventional and governmental way of life.

    So glad I hijacked your conversation at the Meetup–it was a pleasure. I hope to meet you and other remarkables for years to come 🙂

    ~Linda

    • Yes glad you hijacked my conversation at the meetup as well! That was a fun meet up. I was telling a friend last night about WDS and said before Jia spoke, he probably could walk around WDS and not get noticed. After he spoke, he became a mini celebrity. LOL. But well deserved because he, along with the other speakers too, did a great job. Hope if we’re both at WDS next year, we’ll get a chance to talk more.

  • Great meeting you, Benny! Awesome summary of what went down, and I really loved the stories you included, too. I think a lot of us have special moments like those, and that’s what really makes WDS special. Cheers!

    • Great to meet you too Jeffery! Glad you came over and said hi at the zoo.

  • Sounds like an amazing experience Benny! Did you feel the same after NMX or was this even more intense? Did you get actionable ideas to improve your blog and other projects? Seems like Jia’s talk really struck a chord with many people. I read another recap that said the same. Kudos for stepping out of your comfort zone. Only good things come out of it!

    • I felt more comfortable at WDS. While NMX had some of the same people there as WDS, I got to meet many more that don’t go to NMX. Also I love that it is in Portland. It’s the right vibe for this type of conference. I definitely took more away from this conference than at NMX. That’s just me though. It’s not really about learning XYZ, but already knowing XYZ and just needing to do it. WDS gets everyone inspired and motivated to act on their goals and it’s up to each person to keep that momentum going back at home.

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  • Mindy Crary

    Great post and recap! You’re right, one of the best things that is unexpected is all of the great people you meet. You have to go to get it. See you in 2014! :o)

    • Thanks Mindy! See you in 2014!

  • I was really surprised at how introvert-friendly this conference was! Probably the reason we had so many introverts going extrovert and dancing Bollywood style by the end of it.

    • I think it’s very introvert-friendly because Chris G. is an introvert so he totally understands. I saw your blog posts about WDS and loved the coins you passed out as business cards. So unique!

      • Thanks, Benny! When you’re in the business of ideas, it’s important to stand out.

  • Victor Björklund

    I didn’t attend WDS (something I now regret) but guess I just have to attend next year! Thanks for inspiring me! =)

  • What an amazing recount of your experience at WDS… i wonder if i will make it next year. i have been telling myself i won’t ever make it because well, it,s expensive to fly from France. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be in a room at a conference fille with people who have dreams and ambitions outside the bell curve. How energizing and electric that must have been for you.
    I am going to a travel conference in Dublin in October. It is my first one EVER!!!!! i am very nervous because like you i am an introvert… I am sure it won,t be like WDS but i hope it will prime me for WDS when i finally do get a chance to go..

    take care my borhter from another mother. 🙂

    • You would definitely love it Annie. If for some reason you do make it, that would be so great. We could finally hang out! Your upcoming conference sounds really cool! I bet you’ll have a great time because you’ll be around people who get what you do.

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  • Carawilson

    it my fist time visiting your blog … Great meeting you, Benny! Awesome summary of what went down, and I really loved the stories you included, too.

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