This is the (long) third and final post about Big Omaha. It’s so long I split it up in two parts, and this is the second part. To read the previous posts click the appropriate link:
Big Omaha…and Jesus (click here)
Big Omaha…and the City of Omaha (click here)
Big Omaha…One Week Later (Part One) (click here)

We were then treated to a panel discussion featuring Jason Fried, Micah Baldwin, Jeffrey Kalmikoff and Gary Vaynerchuk. One of my favorite discussions of the day was the panel verbally destorying college. Are they against it? No, but they see it has an over-priced waste of time for most people. Students graduate with tons of debt and no idea what they want to do with their life, but at least they have a degree in a field they’ll never use…right?! (chuckling) As someone who never went to a formal four-year college I laughed along with their criticism. If I’d gone to a formal college I’d never be where I am today. Now, are these guys down on education? Absolutely not, and neither am I by the way. I think college is a great tool if used wisely and with a purpose. These guys want people to not waste time but to be able to invest themselves in things that are going to benefit their future. Especially if they are going to incur ridiculous debt. (I should add, these guys are whip-smart at what they do. Don’t believe me? Do some research on Vaynerchuk.) Jason Fried considered the education system to be the next bubble to burst because the cost of higher education is becoming so ridiculous. He predicted a return of apprenticeship, which the rest of the panel agreed with as well. Can you think of another word for apprenticeship? Hint, Jesus had twelve of them.

After the panel, Jeffrey Kalmikoff presented next and he talked about his company Threadless and the culture within it. Kalmikoff is heavily involved with Threadless, its brand and online community. He immerses himself within it and does his best to respond to comments. In his talk, he hit hard on transparency and accessibility and how it is key for an organization. According to Kalmikoff, transparency is about clarity and accesibility is about action. Thus, community is fueled by accessibility which is fueled by transparency. You’ll get trust, loyalty and credibility when you have transparency and accessibility. Working at a church I was intrigued by what Kalmikoff was saying and his approach to his work. Obviously, working at CCC we want to have community, we want people to be involved with what CCC is doing. When you have this you will see people taking more ownership in it.

Up next was Ben Rattray, founder of Change.org. Change.org is a site that hopes to inform and empower movements for social change around the most important issues of our time. He was challenging in letting everyone know that if you want change to happen then you need to be the one that brings it. Government bureacracy just clogs things up. Rattray lamented that our best minds are working on problems that don’t matter. Another way to think about it is this, if your company didn’t exist would anyone care?

In the reminder that we need to be the ones that bring about change, he reminded us that time is short. If we want change done now, then we need to do it. (Do you think government will be quick to bring about change?) Rattray also said, “We also need to ask ourselves if we are working on the most important problems we can think of.” Rattray’s talk was poignant, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he had to say. He closed off with a few more good comments, “Very few businesses built around building deeper relationships.” He wrapped up with this, “If you have a true vision, and articulate it well, people will follow.” Amen.

The problem with a lot of churches? They cannot articulate their message well, especially in this day and age where they don’t utilize communication tools. This was hit home when I was able to talk with Ben Rattray after the conference. He was gracious enough to take a few minutes to answer a few questions I had for him. I told him of my job and the church I work at and inquired what is the best way to educate people as to why they should be using and supporting the new communication tools. As I was explaing my situation and asking my question he was nodding his head a lot, as if he’s heard my situation hundreds of times before. He said that 90% of non-profits don’t get tech/web 2.0, and that’s why they are not effective in communicating their message. One of the pieces of advice he gave me was to encourage my coworkers to blog, and to blog incessantly. As Rattray put it, “They should be posting something every day, at a minimum every other day.” He went into more detail, but I’ll spare you of that. The key being, though, if staff are posting stuff online consistently, then those that attend the church will read it. Over time, as the staff consistently blog and build a readership, people who were skeptical will become more use to the website/web 2.0 and be more supportive of the tools.

Finally, it was time for Gary Vaynerchuk. He was part entertainer, part motivational speaker, part businessman and part genius. He did mostly Q&A because most the people in attendance had heard one of his many presentations before. I don’t know if I can quantify what he said. (If you do want to watch his presentation you can view it by clicking here. Be forewarned, lots of NSFW language.) One thing that still resonates from his presentation is when he said, “If you aren’t putting out your voice you aren’t a part of society anymore.” Like it or not, we are a society/culture that broadcasts to the world the minutiae of our lives on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more. It’s how we communicate with one another. People respond faster on these networks than they do email now. I think Gary has a point. Now, if you have no desire to be plugged in, that’s your choice, but to be an active part of society (here in America) I do think forces one to get plugged into these networks. The internet is where it is at. (One reason why the newspaper industry is on life support, and why television as we know it could be next.) The challenge for the church is how involved do they want to be? Do they want to be where the people are at, or do they want to retreat to their own island and reach out to their own?

The entire event was great. I met some great people and thought I came away better equipped with my work. The speakers were enjoyable to listen to, and I’d recommend people checking them out.

Afterwards, I walked around the Old Market for awhile. Since I scored a free pass to Big Omaha with the name Analog, I headed to Homer’s and bought some used records. I found a used Battlestar Galactica album, from the original television series, so I obviously picked that up. I also saw some Pearl Jam records and thought it might be symbolic to buy one since I use to buy them all the time when I was in high school. I passed on Pearl Jam and instead picked up the latest Radiohead album on vinyl, In Rainbows. Long live Analog the prairie dog.

Me? Well, I think through all these posts I have shared from a variety of angles why I was grateful to go to the conference. Hopefully it was informative to you, especially since a number of you voted for me so I could go to Big Omaha for free. (Thanks again!)

I have some new ideas, that were spawned from Big Omaha, that I hope to implement in the future. If you read this blog you’ll be reading about them soon enough.

Most importantly, I’m excited to be a part of what is going on here in Omaha and am glad God has me here. Looking forward to the future.

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