About the CEO Conference in Chicago

For starters, here’s a little backdrop to the conference. CEO is the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization. The conference is held annually, typically in Chicago, and attracts over 1,000 college students and young professionals to learn about entrepreneurship and jump start their ideas. On top of this, there is an elevator pitch competition in which students have 90 seconds to pitch their business idea to judges (and possibly potential investors depending on the crowd).

Personally, I was not accepted to the elevator pitch competition. I’m actually not disheartened by this at all. I knew my business idea/model was a little shaky. I would practice my pitch in front of my peers and it just would not click. Sometimes when you’re passionate about something, you know maybe a little too much about it. It makes it hard to relay the value sometimes when you get caught up in jargon. Besides, not participating in the competition was more like the perfect storm. On top of all of this, I was a little disappointed about the conference in general. There were too many people and I found myself going to sessions that weren’t really helpful. Perhaps, I like a more intimate setting. Also, I think a little “unconferencing” would have been nice. So here’s how it went with much mention of the fluffy stuff that I didn’t find very useful:

Day 1: We (me, 15 students from my university and our advisors) arrived pretty early so we could sit through a fundraiser competition. Some students from our university competed and did a solid job. We didn’t end up winning an award, but it was interesting to see what everyone else did at their respective institutions. Their ideas weren’t useful for what I want to do per say….well, other than the fact that being able to “leverage” your resources is a must in any endeavour. Anyway….

Day 2: This is where the magic starts to happen. Now, for reference, I’m probably the only person in my student group who is crazy about technology education. That being said, I had to go to most of the conference sessions alone, not to my despair really. I love everyone in my group, but I also love being alone in these types of situations. It’s easier to make conversation when you’re not in a huge group of people. Okay so now for the fun stuff! The first session I went to was a talk given by none other than Neal Sales of The Starter League (previously known as Code Academy). As soon as I saw him on the speaker’s list, I knew I would have to meet him and somehow get over to 1871. Actually, ever since I found out I was going to Chicago, I knew I’d somehow make my way to 1871. Of course, I had no particular plan of action. I just knew it’d happen. Long story short (because I’m also writing a whole blog just on The Starter League), I spoke with Neal Sales.

Day 3: There was a bit of a lull in the day. Somehow, some way I wanted to go to 1871. Mind you, this is literally all that I talked about to anyone who was willing to listen to me. Ask my peers in the E-Scholars program. I’m sure they had heard enough of it. Well, good thing I did. One of the guys on my program came up to me around lunch time and said he had met some guys from @UrbanBuddyChi who were doing a tour of 1871. Cha-ching! Later that night, we went to the event and I must say it was hard to contain myself. 1871 is where it’s at!

Day 4: We got on our party bus (seriosuly) to the Midway Airport and left.

Conferences and competitions are great and all…but if I hadn’t made it clear what my intentions were when I was in Chicago, I wouldn’t have been able to meet Neal Sales or tour 1871. Both things high on my priority list.

One last note, there was not one session dedicated to non-profits. That just rubbed me the wrong way.