11/8/99 Pick Me Pick Me
Every day in gym class was exactly like every other. Fervently, I would whisper, "Pick me, pick me," hoping against all hope that I wouldn’t be the last boy picked to play on a team. But day after day, the team captains would select their teams one kid at a time until the unluckiest of them would glance around anxiously and ask, "Is there anyone left besides Rhoads?"
Imagine my hesitation when I asked 600 Radio people to "pick me" and show up at a conference devoted entirely to Radio and the Internet. Would anyone see the importance? Was the timing right for Radio to focus on the Internet? What if nobody showed up and I got stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in hotel and convention center commitments? Ultimately, I chose to take the risk because, if I didn’t, Radio in America would be dangerously at risk of being the one "not picked." The Internet was moving at the speed of light while Radio was looking the other way. I decided that I simply couldn’t let that happen.
When the convention center doors opened and hundreds of people began jamming into the theater, shivers literally went down my spine. Within moments, every seat in the house was taken. Those who showed up thinking the "sold out" notice posted on our Website was nothing more than hype quickly learned they had been grievously mistaken. We allowed as many as the fire marshal would permit to stand at the back of the room for the full three days. Dozens were simply turned away.
Attendees showed up each morning at eight, and nobody moved a muscle until six. And then they all came back at seven-thirty. Looking across the room, I saw every person taking pages of notes, spellbound by our speakers and panelists. "This conference reminds me of the early days of FM! Radio is finally exciting again!" said AMFM’s Jimmy de Castro.
One attendee approached me and said, "You¹ve got a huge hit on your hands. You’ll have 2,500 people here next time." "No," I said, "The Radio Ink Internet Conference was designed to be an intimate experience for a select few people. I want to create the ultimate networking environment and provide an interactive learning experience. Size would kill it. I don’t want this to become another big show like the NAB or the RAB."
Will we do another Internet conference? Yes. When? Give us a breather. We’ll let you know soon. We wanted to give you a conference experience unlike any you’d ever had. We wanted to break new ground and create a whole new kind of conference. We wanted to make your heads swim with new concepts and ideas you had never previously heard. You told us we accomplished that and more.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank each of the 607 of you who bought seats, the 60 of you who stood in the aisles, and the hundred or so who crashed the exhibit area.
It felt good to be finally the kid who got picked first.
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