Creative South Conference. Columbus, Georgia. April 2017.
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
It’s a seriously great time. For those of you who don’t know, Creative South is a conference for creative people (designers, illustrators, writers, videographers, podcasters, etc…).
This is the third year I’ve been. I had a great time the last two years, but I wanted to change it up a bit this year.
First, I decided to fly to and from Creative South instead of driving. It’s a 2 hour flight versus a 15 hour drive. Costs a little more (roughly $250), but the time not spent in a car is worth it to me.
More importantly, I wanted to spend more time hanging/drinking with friends and less time watching conference speakers (more on this later).
Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of the trip, with pictures! Lucky you!
Day 1: Thursday, April 6, 2017
4am: Goddamnit. I have to get up at 4am to catch my 6:45am flight? Oh well. Might as well go for a run.
I land at the Atlanta airport around 11pm Eastern time.
I catch a ride down to Columbus with a friend and immediately set up shop at Iron Bank coffee. This spot is my jam and I return here many times for coffee or beer. The salad and beer combo you see in the picture below was delicious.
I helped moderate the chat for the Hiring Bootcamp my company was hosting and then headed to my hotel to check in and rest for a bit before the bridge party.
Hell of a lunch
Iron Bank is the best place in Columbus
It was a beautiful sunny day in Columbus
My roommate Matt joined me for a brew. Bottles up!
I need to pause for a minute and talk about this Motel Six.
This motel wasn’t a great motel last year, but it was noticeably shittier this year. I didn’t mind too much because it was cheap ($45/night) and I didn’t get robbed or stabbed last year.
That being said, someone started doing renovations and it looked like they gave up about 30% of the way through. There was sawdust everywhere and walls with the paint half-scraped off.
When I was 7 years old, my family moved into a decrepit farmhouse in rural Minnesota (close to Cedar Mills, if you care to look it up), so old/ghetto places don’t really bother me much. I spent a few years living in super-shitty apartments in my twenties too. But still: I’m dropping cash for something better next time.
The Party Where Everyone Stands On a Bridge
The opening bridge party! This is one of my favorite parts of Creative South. Everyone meets up on a bridge and there’s free food and drinks and people draw on big canvases and set off fireworks. Lots of fun.
Friday, April 7, 2017
I get up at 6:30am to go for a run. I’ve found that running in the mornings at conferences makes you feel better throughout the day. Or maybe I just like running. I don’t know. It’s nice to start the day with movement.
First official day of the conference. I get checked in and head to the room where people sell stuff and pick up a shirt and some patches from my friend Terrence Tang, who runs a little thing called TinLun Studio.
Terrence is rad. Anyways, to the main hall where I saw approximately one speaker—my friend and client, Jason Blumer.
Ok. I need to pause for a second to rant.
I’ll start by saying I have much respect for anyone hosting a conference. It’s a ton of work. I know because my company put on a conference last October, and I got to see behind the scenes. It’s time consuming and expensive and complicated, and I appreciate that no one is perfect and we’re all trying to get better. That being said:
There were no titles for any of the talks. At least none that I could see on the website or on the schedule on the back of the conference badges. There was just:
- 9am: Some Guy
- 10am: Some Gal
- 11am: Some Other Guy
If you are giving a conference talk, or making a video, or recording a podcast episode, or hosting a conference, or creating anything that resembles a video or a talk or a blog post or a podcast episode:
There needs to be a title, and it needs to be a good title. Your title’s job is to convince people to give a shit about your thing.
I had never heard of most of the people giving talks at Creative South. Some of them had cool titles from companies I’d heard of, but working for a cool company does not mean I’m going to risk giving you 60 minutes of my time. My time is precious, and I have hundreds of hours of awesome audiobooks in my Audible library that I don’t have enough time to get to, books that will change my life.
Give me a title, tell me why I should give a shit about your talk. Please.
Mike, if you’re reading this, please; talk to the speakers next year and ask them to give you a title for their talks. Put that shit in big letters on the website and on the back of the badges. If any of your speakers need help developing a compelling talk, send them a copy of Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker. Hell, I’m willing to jump on a Skype call to help them develop their story so that they have some solid takeaways for the audience.
Because there were no titles for any of the conference talks, I only attended one. Which makes me wonder why I even bought tickets in the first place (I love the bridge party, but I don’t really care about the conference swag.)
Ok. Back to my recap.
After watching my boy Jason Blumer give his excellent talk about pricing on value, I headed to Iron Bank to help with the final part of the Hiring Bootcamp live stream. It was beautiful outside. After the stream was done, I was tired so I headed back to the hotel to take a nap and a shower. I got up at 6pm and went out for the evening.
Columbus does this thing every year where they block off a block downtown, setup a stage, and everyone brings chairs and beer and they sit and walk around drinking and listening to bands play. It’s pretty rad. Following the local customs, I bought myself a 32oz Crowler of very strong beer.
Good times in downtown Columbus.
My friend Matt and I hit up Mellow Mushroom pizza (so good) before heading back downtown for the Creative South after-party, where once again, people were drawing on large canvases.
This year was something new; someone wrapped a Bentley in white and invited a few artists to draw on it.
Turned out pretty cool. I drank most of my beer but I was getting sleepy by around 10:30pm so I headed to my hotel room for sleep.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
My friend Darold asked if I was going running in the morning. I said I was, so we made plans to meet up at 7. In retrospect, that was a bad idea, but we agreed on 7, so I set my alarm early and stumbled like a zombie into the shower.
We met downtown and had a nice run by the river, which was swollen and angry.
Running was a great idea. I felt awesome afterwards.
I forgot to mention; Friday night I was checking out Yelp to see what was cool in Columbus, and I saw White Water Express (most of you probably wouldn’t have guessed, but I was a little rugged outdoors-man when I was younger).
I browsed through the website and saw that there was a white water rafting trip leaving at 9am, and it only cost $30. So I signed up.
I got to White Water Express at 9am and was told that the Chattahoochee river was too high and that trying to raft it would almost certainly result in death or mutilation.
I was excited about this new development until they told me that meant that rafting was canceled until the river came down. Bummer. But I did get to do the zip line across the river. I didn’t get pictures of me zipping across the river, but here are some of a smaller zip line we did after the main one. They were both fun.
After zip-lining, I grabbed lunch at a little Thai place downtown called Chili Thai. If you’re ever there, get the Rama Curry, extra spicy. So damn good.
The downside to delish Thai food for lunch is that it made me very sleepy, so I headed back to my hotel room and rented and watched The Void from iTunes. It’s a pretty solid horror movie, if you’re into those.
I headed to Iron Bank late Saturday afternoon to work on editing an episode of the Dribbble podcast that needed to go out that upcoming Tuesday.
Backup a second: I met this dude Blake Stevenson in the conference hall Friday morning (he works at Shopify). He walked by Iron Bank while I was working, and said hi. He told me he was going to a rooftop bar to hang out with some friends, so I wrapped up editing and joined him. I spent Saturday evening hanging with the Shopify crew, which was really rad.
I even sat next to Meg Robichaud, who had been a guest on a Dribbble podcast episode I’d edited a few months before. Small world!
I had a beer with the Shopify team, then we headed to grab pizza and ended up back at the rooftop bar where a bunch of my friends were.
I got sleepy around 11 and headed home.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Darold and I had made plans to run again, but I told him 8:30am this time, because I wanted to sleep in.
I woke up at 7 and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I packed all my stuff and then walked to Iron Bank for a pre-run cup of coffee.
Darold and I had a great 4.7 mile run. We would have done 5 miles but I told my friend Matt he could pick me up from the hotel to head to Atlanta at 10am and we were running out of time.
Turns out Matt was running late too, so it wasn’t a big deal. We stopped by Iron Bank on the way out. Some of my friends had a bottle of nice whiskey that Terrence had brought. They said they needed someone to finish the last couple of shots because they couldn’t bring the bottle on the plane. I may or may not have finished it off for them before doing a few push ups outside with Matt. That was a fun morning.
Matt and I headed to Atlanta to catch our flights.
We were on different airlines but thanks to a delay on my flight, we ended up landing in Dallas at almost the same time.
- I had such a great time. Creative South continues to be a great investment.
- The best part was hanging with friends, grabbing food and drinks. In fact, I’m not sure I’m going to buy a ticket next year. I definitely won’t if there aren’t titles for the talks.
- I’m going to spend a little more on a nicer hotel next year. It wasn’t a big deal, but I like the location of the Marriott that’s right by the party bridge.
- I’m definitely going white water rafting next year. I’m going to do the most difficult trip, in fact.
- Flying was a lot nicer than driving, but I’m still feeling the same conference hangover. I wonder if it’s more about all the energy I expend at the conference and less about the travel time. Three days later, and I’m still tired as shit.
- Would I recommend this conference? Yes, although I’d really like to see more thought put into making the conference talks valuable to the audience. Give us titles, give us takeaways. Make it worth our time.