eBay Live! 2006

ebay_live.jpgWell, it’s been a couple of weeks now, and I think I’ve pretty much fully recovered. The week of June 12th was the week of the 2006 eBay Live! user conference, held this year in Las Vegas. The event was at the Mandalay Bay convention center, and the staff all got to stay at the Mandalay Bay itself.

Now, I know most folks have been to conferences before and in general they’re all the same. Lots of classes & lectures, and a big solution center floor where various vendors can hawk their wares to the attendees. I’ve been there, done that – IT conferences are full of tall skinny white geeks (just like me!) all wanting to talk about “optimizing their IT porfolio” or some such corporate nonesense.

eBay Live was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

First of all, the demographic for eBay Live is quite unique. Rather than your stereotypical IT manager, the users on eBay come from all walks of life – and are proud to show it! We had 15,000 attendees from all around the country. I have some photos here of some of the folks I met with that I found particularly interesting.

shooting_star.jpg The first is the Shooting Star lady. For those eBay novices out there, you get stars based on your feedback – 1 positive rating = 1 point toward a star. To get a shooting star, you have to have a minimum of 10,000 positive feedback points – a huge accomplishment! The red shooting star is the highest, reserved for people with 100,000 feedback or more. This particular power seller had her hat signed by Meg, Bill Cobb (President, eBay North America), Jeff Jordan (President, PayPal) and a few other execs.

cat_lady.jpg Second is our “cat bag” lady. This woman was more of a casual seller who sold all sorts of things cat-related. She also made herself a cat purse! Kind of creepy if you ask me. I swear it was grimacing at me.

belly.jpg Finally, on the last night of eBay Live, there is a huge Gala celebration. One of the great parts of the conference is when all of the employees (there were about 800 of us there) line up on either side of the walkway into the Gala and form what’s become known as the “Clapping Tunnel.” As the members all enter into the Gala, we clap as they walk down the red carpet. It’s quite a thing to see – and takes about an hour! Needless to say, hands were chafed the next morning. But the effect it has on the members is dramatic – there were women with tears in their eyes saying how it “made them feel like a celebrity.” Many of the members that I helped – either in the classes I taught or in the booth – recognized me in the clapping tunnel and actually came over to thank me. It was a pretty powerful experience & connection with the community.

But I digress. This woman I encountered outside the entrance to the Gala. In the solution center we’d had spray-on tatoos available for members (featuring the eBay logo, the “it” branding from our media campaign, etc.) This woman (member “oohbabybaby”) was 8 months pregnant and used her stomach as a canvas – each day with a different message. On Tuesday, it read “Future eBayer.” On Wednesday, “eBaby,” with a cartoon thinking cloud featuring the eBay “it.” And the last day (pictured) – “See you at eBay Live! 2007.” ooobabybaby had just started their eBay venture, selling (you guessed it) cool baby t-shirts and other baby products.

fuzzy_it.jpg All in all, this was a great conference and quite an interesting experience. Here’s a final facet of the culture of this conference: Each year, eBay gives away collectible pins during the conference, to be worn on your badge lanyards during the show. This year’s pins were in the theme of casino chips – pretty cool. Most employees think these were the best of the pins created. In any case, they are limited in number and distribution is done on a surprise basis – when music plays overhead. This year it was Elvis – “A little less conversation.” When this comes on, the members have to look for the nearest staff who will be handing out a supply of these pins. Let me tell you – people WANT these pins! It’s actually rather intimidating the first time – you literally get rushed by members trying to grab these pins out of your hands! As a novice, I tried the “bird feeder” approach the first time – namely, hold out your hands and let members take a pin. Bad, bad idea. I nearly got knocked over and probably had a few folks take 5 or 10 for themselves. Needless to say, I learned how to ration them out. But it is quite a scene! Of course, the most interesting thing was that within 10 minutes of distributing a particular pin, you could do a quick search on eBay and see that someone had listed it for auction! If you’re interested in seeing what the pins look like, go here.

That’s the summary – I can’t wait until next year, when the event is in Boston!

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~ by Nathan on June 27, 2006.

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