Silicon Prairie News

Big Omaha Behind the Scenes: Event Details - Part I

Omaha October 15, 2010 by Dusty Davidson

Big Omaha 2010 event programs. Photo by Malone & Company.

Earlier this month, Danny and I spent a few days in Kansas City at the Startup Organizers Summer. There, we had the privilege of presenting to the group about our experience producing Big Omaha. For this talk, we chose to highlight some of the little things about Big Omaha that we feel make it stand out amongst other events.

Our hope was that these startup organizers, many of whom run multiple events in their hometowns, would take away a few suggestions on how to focus on the details of their own events. These ideas are borrowed from our collective experiences at other events, and we hope that we can help others by sharing some of our own thoughts and opinions. Also, we encourage you to leave your event best practices or pain points in the comments below.


Websites of Big Omaha 2009 and Big Omaha 2010. Identity and design by Oxide Design.

Probably one of the most-overlooked things events face is how to stand out from the crowd visually. We're super fortunate to have amazingly talented design partners in Oxide Design, who have been with us since the very beginning. When they first showed us the cow, we were skeptical, but have since eaten our own words many times over. Great design and identity is a crucial part of a memorable experience.


Big Omaha 2010. Photo by Malone & Company.

Another thing that bothers me about other conferences is just how little attention people pay to the name badges themselves. One of the most vital parts of networking at any event is actually being able to see someone's name, and yet all-to-often you see events with teeny-tiny, one-sided name badges, with the names written in super small print. Not at Big Omaha. Our badges are massive (by conference standards), so big actually, that we have them custom made. The single most important piece of information is the person's first name, so naturally, it's the largest. And lastly, they are two-sided, so that when they flip over they're still legible. We borrowed much inspiration on this from Mike Davidson, who wrote a great post about conference badges several years ago.

Timing & Food/Beverages

Big Omaha 2010 opening party and conference breakfast. Photo by Malone & Company.

As with most great conferences, the best networking happens at the parties. Because of this, of course it's a little difficult to get up the next morning and be wide awake ready to sit and listen. We time things accordingly, with the first speakers not starting until after 9 a.m. Additionally, we offer ample free coffee, Red Bull, and soda to allow people to get their morning pick-me-up.

Photos & Video

Photo Booth at the Big Omaha opening party and conference. Photo booth set up by Malone & Company.

Similar to our design and identity with Oxide Design, we're super fortunate to have great photography and video partners with Malone & Company. Not only are they the best at what they do, they're all very cool people and believe strongly in what we're doing. Photography allows us to tell the story and sell the experience of Big Omaha long after the event has ended. Just looking at the photos from the stage brings chills back. The photo booth provides a whimsical way for attendees of the conference to interact with and remember the event, some even going so far as to use the photos for their Twitter and Facebook profile pictures. 


Big Omaha 2009. Photo by Malone & Company.

In my opinion, besides having great speakers, this is the single most important element of any event. Simply put, we are asking people to sit down for eight long hours and it's our responsibility to make sure that their butts don't hurt. The typical chairs that you can rent for an event like ours have a maximum sit time of no more than a few hours. We painstakingly butt-tested every rental chair in Omaha to find the most padded, most comfortable chairs around. They cost several times more than that average chairs do, but the added cost is worth it: we haven't had a single complaint about uncomfortable chairs.

More to come…

Big Omaha 2009. Photo by Malone & Company.

In part two of this series, I'll go through some of the remaining detail elements of Big Omaha that we've learned make all the difference:

  • Presentation Setup
  • Stage Signage
  • T-Shirts and store
  • Speakers and Sponsors are VIPs
  • Off the stage
  • Surprises

If you'd like to see our Startup Organizers Summit presentation in its entirety, you can view it at

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