SOBCon is a unique social conference experience

SOBCon - @jeffreyrbunch
SOBCon – @jeffreyrbunch

There are events that can instantaneously change career and life paths in unforeseen ways. SOBCon is one of those.

SOBCon (@SOBCon, #sobcon) is a series of gatherings that has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. The three-day format is a unique social conference experience, where the speakers’ presentations are just the start of the learning – a creative firestarter.

The event series is the creation of co-founders Terry St. Marie (@Starbucker) of Portland and the iconic Liz Strauss (@LizStrauss) of Chicago. It is held in each of their hometowns once yearly. The current iteration is underway in America’s hippest city, a.k.a. Portlandia.

It is unfair to call it a conference. Or a workshop. Or a networking event. Or a business seminar. It is all of those things, to some degree, yet none of those singularly. There are hundreds of social media conferences and startup weekends held around the country.

But SOBCon isn’t like any other gathering. On one level, it’s the format. Sessions start with a keynote or a panel, but the majority of time is dedicated to mastermind sessions by attendees where they solve business problems or share success stories and pro tips.

The presenters for the sessions and their topics are vetted by conference organizers, but the event isn’t about them. That is another difference between SOBCon and many other conferences. The presenters are in the audience and participate with other attendees.

Those speaking and attending come from a variety of backgrounds, but most fit into the profiles of entrepreneurs or social media marketing professionals. Yet there are also people in the room representing non-profits, early-stage startups, or consulting firms.

It’s hard to describe what SOBCon is all about; it needs to be experienced. However, it is collectively about the people who are attending; egos are checked at the door. As moderator Charlie Gilkey (@CharlieGilkey) noted, respect is the only guiding principle.

SOBCon creates an open, trusting environment where people can share their innermost fears and modestly discuss their successes. First and foremost, SOBCon is a community. It is a place where there are no “secret handshakes,” just open hearts and sharp minds.

It is a social conference where real, long-lasting connections are made, conversations continue year-round, and long-laid business plans move forward with intuitive mentoring. It is a community, as SOBCon says, “Where the virtual meets the concrete.”

An album of photos can be found on my Google+ page. Follow @SOBCon on Twitter through via the hashtag #sobcon or by using the service. The event’s site is

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