An Event Apart – Seattle

Last year, during a family meal one Sunday, I got an email ping up on my phone. I remember doing a bit of a double take seeing “Jeffrey Zeldman” as the author and “AEA 2011” as the subject. For some reason, any other explanation other than that him and Eric were going to ask me to speak, sprang to mind.

When they asked if I was interested in maybe speaking in 2011 – it didn’t take me long to decide however, AEA is kind of a big deal, right? Amongst the conference speakers it’s the one that I’ve heard people ‘throw up’ at before presenting. I didn’t want to do it before I was ready however I also didn’t want to pass up the amazing opportunity, these things don’t always come round again, and I firmly believe that when someone puts their confidence in you, for whatever reason, you should step up to the mark and grasp it with both hands, however scary it seems.

So that leaves me sitting here, in the speakers room at AEA 2011 in Seattle, listening to the fantastic Jeremy Keith over the speakers and hearing the comforting sound of Macbook keyboards tapping.

AEA is certainly special, I was told it was but wasn’t quite prepared for just how special. First of all, the team behind AEA are amazing, Toby Malina who has organised everything to do with getting me here, has just been fabulous – even down to the email we all received before we got here with clear directions on how to get to the hotel, the conference, and the after parties. There’s never been anything left to chance, and as a girl, coming from the UK on my own – I drew no end of comfort from this.

Jeffrey and Eric have been beyond generous with providing us with a beautiful hotel to rest our weary heads and kept us full to the brim with lovely food and drink. They really take care of their speakers and in return, we obviously want to give the absolute best back.

The attendees? They were right, they are smart. Very very smart people but, for some reason, when I put the word “smart” and “conference attendee” in the same sentence, my head concocts a very serious, quiet attendee. I was unprepared for how warm, welcoming and open to humour the audience would be, it was a welcome surprise and continued throughout the day, attendees are always happy to engage, 30 seconds in a hallway, a whole lunch time, whatever you can give them – they welcome what you have to say with open arms.

The other speakers, Jeffrey and Eric have all been great fun to hang out, I’ve laughed until my sides hurt and enjoyed wonderful company with them all. To have that with people who you only met a few days ago, is testament to how friendly and wonderful our community is.

So, I’m unfortunately heading home later today, I’ve been a bit ‘under the weather’ so I’m taking an earlier flight and getting myself back to a UK doctor.

Thank you AEA for having me, it’s been a real pleasure and a complete honour.

Have a ‘lovely jubbly’ time at the after party y’all! 😉

NB. A big thank you to Petra Gregorová for showing me around Seattle and bringing me medication in my hour of need.

Notes from my presentation:
Luke Wroblewski ~

  • Sarah of all the conferences I’ve been too I put AEA and FOWD as *the* premier conferences. They both have the klout to get the best speakers in the industry.

    You’re up there with Cameron Moll, Jeffrey Veen, Jason Sana Maria, etc… Great Job!


    But, seriously congratulations.

    Hope you get well soon.

  • Sarah, thank you so much for taking part and bringing your insight and expertise to our stage! You were awesome and the honor is most definitely ours.

  • I attended my first AEA in Boston in 2010 and it was amazing. Unfortunately, I have to miss this year’s tour, but I am going to plan way ahead for 2012. Hope you get to speak at AEA Boston 2012 since I have never heard you speak before. I am looking forward to it since you’ve been great to listen to on 5by5.

  • Well done, Sarah!
    You didn’t seem nervous in the least!
    Looking forward to saying hello at Interlink in Vancouver 🙂
    Hope you get well soon.


  • So glad you had a great time. I wish you were going to Boston but hopefully I’ll try to catch up with you and one of your other US appearances.

    Enjoy your new desk!

  • I wish I saw you present, since from what I’ve heard, you were amazing. I’m already looking forward to more fun times in BC at Interlink. 🙂

  • Everything I’ve heard and read about your presentation sounds fascinating. Are there any books you would recommend?

    Dear Lord, that sounds so much like the spam comments we get on our blog! I’m human, honest!

  • I loved your presentation in Minneapolis. The topic was right in my wheelhouse. (I think I’m really a cognitive behavioralist at heart. ) Superbly polished presentation style. Always great to see a really smart woman talk at a web conference. Do you have a reading list that you would recommend to go along with your presentation?

    • Sarah

      Gail, thank you so much for your kind comments. Very much appreciated.
      Reading list – have you got the PDF from the conference? The last 3 slides are the reading list for the presentation, although I’d also add “The Tipping Point” by Malcom Gladwell, infact, anything by him, he’s got a great way of storytelling.