The plane touched down late on a Friday night in Orlando on what was incidentally my first trip to the right side of the US. I’m a left coast kind of guy but was excited to be in Florida for the first time. I spent the nonstop flight from LAX watching “JoJo Rabbit” and “Joker” back-to-back, both Oscar winners in their own right, but tonally entirely different. I took an Uber to the Air BnB where our team was staying, enjoying the fact that the driver picked me up in his brand new full-size Dodge Ram pickup. This was not the typical Los Angeles Uber ride I was used to; this ride had legroom. Florida started out making quite the impression, and I knew that this weekend, IFA would promise to do the same.
I spent the weekend with three of my fellow WebPunchers, Matt, Ginger, and Natalie. Interestingly enough, this was the first time since I joined WebPunch that I’d met them in person! While I live in the Los Angeles area, I have the unique opportunity to work remotely with WebPunch, which is based in Denver, CO. I have to say, it was pretty cool to spend some in-person time with my coworkers who I’m interacting daily within an online space (thank you, Slack and Zoom). This being a conference where the next big things in business and franchising are being discussed, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that a real sign of the times is that I’m one of many remote employees, and that business is truly being done differently as workers become more free and mobile. Sure, working remotely has its advantages and disadvantages, much like being in an office does, but it’s fascinating to me that this is the reality of the workspace we live in at this current place and time. I feel like I’ve grown to know my coworkers fairly well, but I was excited to spend some time and get to know them in “real life.”
There’s a palpable excitement in the air walking onto the floor of IFA; everyone did such a great job of making their booths both stand out and appear approachable! One booth planted a tree in my name. Go, The Environment! Another had a sumo wrestler, presumably a symbol of how this company might squash my competition? I don’t know, don’t blame me for going there, I’m a writer. Another booth had puppies. PUPPIES, guys. The little pups were up for adoption and certainly caught my attention.
At WebPunch, we always try to make a splash, and I feel like Ginger and Matt did a great job of designing our booth. I think what really knocked attendee’s socks off was our HYPERVSN wall. Yes, that’s “Hypervision.” Our 3-D video made up of LED fan blades was a hit among everyone who walked by (also, I’m not sure how many times I had to tell adults to not stick their finger in the fan blades), but it served a more important purpose in getting to that all-important question: “What do you guys do?” I personally felt that our booth being somewhat non-descript opened up a lot more dialogue about what we at WebPunch do and how it is beneficial to franchisors. While our video was playing and our logo was lit up on our backdrop, we weren’t overtly shouting what we do with giant text splattered across our booth. Subtlety was our strength.
Not everything always goes according to plan, however. Our exciting new feature for WebPunch that we wanted to show off was our smart speaker integration on Amazon Echo devices. Want to know your latest reviews for your business? WebPunch can tell you, and all you have to do is ask Alexa. I got to run the demos for interested franchisors and our current clients and felt they all were pretty successful, but let me tell you, getting there was no small feat. Public WiFi is the worst, guys. Getting the Echo device online in a public space was darn near impossible, but the awesome convention center folks got us the help of their tech guy, who suggested we get our own router and make our own WiFi hotspot to make it work. Natalie and I dashed through Orlando past ice cream-shaped buildings and discount Disney product warehouses to the nearest Best Buy and scored a wireless router. Fortunately, we were able to get our demo up and running shortly before attendees hit the floor. In my previous work, I was in television and digital, and ran into many last-minute snags like this, pulling off a solution with seconds to spare. I feel like there’s some kind of adage here, some words of wisdom: if your big technological demonstration/debut/preview/release/hoopla doesn’t have something go wrong at the last second and give you an anxiety-induced nightmare, is it any kind of release at all? Okay, not quite there. Maybe I’m not a philosopher, but I did get the Echo to work!
I have to say, I really enjoyed meeting new faces and seeing their drive to not only get better but help others get better as well. Matt had the honor of hosting a roundtable discussion about online reputation, and I was pleased to see many of the attendees in the circle offering helpful suggestions to one another, great advice, and a genuine listening ear. It really made me glad to see that in a world that can be competitive and even cutthroat at times, people actually cared for one another and wanted to see someone else do well. I was inspired by others saying “Here’s what worked for us,” or “Let me tell you who could help you with that.” I really began to see that IFA is built upon this idea: what can I offer others that will make their business grow, and what do others have to offer me? We’re all just looking to succeed and do a good job. Maybe we can lend a helping hand along the way if we stop and look to see who could use one.