To err is human, but this conference is divine: FailCon '09

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, only this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

SNAP Summit is one of the leading Bay Area conferences on social web development and startup culture. This year they’re bringing us FailCon, with tales of failure and survival from some of the biggest names and major players in the social web world. It takes place on October 27th at the Kabuki Hotel in San Francisco. We had the chance to interview the conference’s lead organizer, Cassie Phillipps, on the inspiration behind this event and get her tips on managing high profile speakers. 

 

1. How did you come up with the idea for FailCon?

I was talking with attendees at the last SNAP Summit, getting feedback and a feel for the room. We all joked about how speakers love to rattle on about big successes, and brush over their mistakes. I, jokingly, mentioned that a conference where every speaker had to go over only their mess-ups, in detail, with examples of just what happened would be pretty new and funny. Surprisingly, people seemed to (not jokingly) agree.

 
2. What do you hope attendees will take away from the event?

I hope that they take away a great sense of inspiration. That hearing these stories of complete failure, from people who figured out how to stand up and move on, will better prepare them and excite them for their own endeavors.

 
3. Who will be speaking at the event?

A full list of people is up on our site, and while I hate leaving anyone out, I don’t want to bore your readers. To name a few, we’ve got Max Levchin talking about early failures and some missteps with PayPal and Slide, and Mark Pinkus discussing what happened with Tribe.net. I’m talking with Gary V’s PR rep to possibly get a talk about the spirit an entrepreneur needs, NOT to succeed, but to get over failure. Sandy Jen and Seth Sternberg will be discussing why solo founders are at higher risk of failure, and what variables are needed in for a strong team. Oh! And one of my favorites: a panel of top VCs like Ron Conway and David Hornik talking about how they handle investment failures!

 
4. Managing an agenda full of guest speakers is difficult task. Do you have any tips from your experience?

Have a story you tell throughout the day before you start approaching speakers. For example, FailCon isnt just failure stories; it’s the path of a company from team development, through investment and product, on to marketing, and then how to wrap it all up if all else goes wrong. With that story prepared ahead of time, I could better determine who I needed in the agenda and what they would have to discuss. Its really easy to get a hazy day without much guidance or purpose, which is incredibly hard to market.

 
5. Do you have any other best practices for event planners putting on major conferences or events?

If you can, get every presentation 24 hours in advance, and review them all. This insures a few things.
They all work.
They are in order and ready day-of.
They are relevant, interesting, and not just a pitch for their brand.
I’d also suggest getting a draft, or at least a description a good week or more before.

 
6. Anything else you’d like to share about FailCon?

FailCon is the first of its time! And while it is at the heart of conference season, it’s taking a totally new approach to topics and content. It’s definitely not to be missed.

 
7. Just for fun, if you were an event, what kind of event would you be?

I would definitely be a small user group, being shown a demo product, and then expressing their feedback. I thrive on smaller groups and personal interactions, and I love helping people develop their ideas and products.

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