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GEL Conference notes

By Michael Sippey, VP of artist development, SAY Media (via

I’m on the plane home from New York, having just spent two days at GEL Conference, and I feel the need to capture a few snippets about the conference while it’s still fresh. If conference wrapup blog posts annoy the hell out of you (like they usually do me), then feel free to read it and be annoyed. Or just skip it. Up to you.

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We live with instant access to information–from anywhere, at any time. This is useful! And exciting! And powerful! But that access has shortened my attention span and made me incredibly impatient–if I can’t find it & grok it in under 30 seconds, it takes too long. Which makes having uninterrupted time to enjoy new experiences and learn about new people and their projects this week at GEL was a wonderful luxury. It had been a long, long time since I had been at a conference purely as an attendee (and not as a speaker, organizer, etc.), so having the opportunity to relax and go with the flow of the programming was fantastic.

Not that all of the content was relaxing. Day one of GEL seems designed to get people out of their comfort zones and connect with other attendees in ways that don’t involve coffee and muffins. During the morning they offered an improv workshop, where a group of us were invited to improvise “the story of our lives” in 60 seconds. At the end of my 60 seconds, the improv team running the session extended my little vignette (“Yes, and…”) with material that made me profoundly uncomfortable and I honestly lost myself for a minute. That doesn’t happen every day.

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One of the other participants in the improv class was Abner Ramirez, who is half of the singing duo Johnnyswim. I didn’t know who he was on Thursday, but when he stepped on to stage on Friday to perform with his wife, his killer improv skills suddenly made sense. The guy was born to be on stage. As Matt tweeted right after they performed, “Holy shitballs this group Johnnyswim is great.”

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