When I went out on stage to introduce NerdCon: Stories to the world I said a true thing that I was a little afraid to admit…I didn’t yet know what it was going to be. 

Like, I knew who we’d invited to do stuff on stage, I knew what the panels were, and what performances there would be, but I think a conference is just like any other platform: You don’t try to force people to use it the way you want them to, you create it and then you leave people alone to make of it what they will.

And so I really didn’t know what NerdCon: Stories (or the broader idea of NerdCon as a collection of celebrations of various enthusiasms) would be. And so I watched through cracks in doors, and from back stage, and inside audiences, and on my own panels and I basically just spied on the conference and here’s what I’ve figured out. 

It was special for some of the reasons I anticipated, and for some other reasons that were a complete surprise to me. 

  1. It was a chance to treat some nerds like the stars they are. VidCon featured guests, for the most part, already know they’re a big deal. But authors and podcasters and game creators…these people have huge impacts but for the most part they live pretty underground lives. I wanted to put them on stage and treat them like Brad Pitt…treat them like the massively influential nerds they are. This worked…it worked really well and I loved it.
  2. The diversity of kinds of creators built a vibe that was way more cool than I was expecting. Mostly authors hang out with authors at conferences. Radio producers all know each other. New York theater people are caught up in New York theater stuff and musicians are always aware of other musicians. But put all of those people into a bowl and shake it and I had no idea what cool things would pop out. Everyone was just so happy to get to hang out and perform with cool people who did things they didn’t really understand. I’ve heard people complain that the conference’s focus was too non-specific, but I think that broad cast (while certainly not letting us dive deep on talent in any particular vertical) let us dive maybe even deeper on the actual topics being discussed.
  3. The focus on fun was a kind of accident, but I can see now that I clearly did it on purpose. Like, I didn’t sit down and say, “The vibe of this conference should be irreverent and peculiar,” but I did ask a bunch of New York Times Best-Selling Authors if they’d like to play “What’s In My Mouth?” on stage. Both special guests and attendees caught on to this before I did, and almost immediately the reality that you silly and serious can go back to back seemed very natural. 
  4. The attendees were just fantastic. So many great questions, so much respect, so much interest, so much enthusiasm. Everyone was there to have a FRIKKIN GOOD TIME and it was obvious. Some of the panels hit touchy, important, difficult topics, and everyone handled themselves so fantastically. I don’t know if it’s just Minneapolis people or if it was that the conference was a lot smaller than others I’ve been to or if it was just a crowd of people who clearly were up for whatever (having bought a ticket to a weird mysterious event) but they were all such cool people. 

I’ve come out of this event energized and amazed. I honestly can’t believe we got so many fascinating awesome people to come to this thing. This is also the first conference I’ve ever done that didn’t sell out, so that’s something to consider. Maybe I really just made a conference for me and other people aren’t ever going to be super interested in it. And though it didn’t make any money, it didn’t lose a ton either, so I think we are absolutely going to do it again next year. 

After all, VidCon lost a similar amount in year one.

And now I have a better idea of what I think NerdCon might be and want to immediately start planning on focused on science and possibly one focused on the core of Nerdfighteria. The thing that I thought when I decided NerdCon might be a thing has not changed…and that is that people love stuff, and that feeling of enjoying and celebrating something you really love with other people who really love it is so frikkin’ good. 

I don’t think there are enough opportunities to do that, so I want to make that happen. So, look out for more NerdCons in the future.