Last week, I went to Las Vegas so that I could attend the Blogworld New Media Expo. What that means in practical terms is that I decided to hang out with my friends and meet a bunch of new friends and call it a business expense. And also to repeatedly spend $4.50 on single, non-refillable mugs of regular drip coffee. And to learn about hookers and their advertising methods. (Spoiler: Hire Mexicans who can’t speak English for $1 per hour.)
I could write some long-winded intro, but let’s just say that Vegas is a city not only of sin, but also of interesting lessons and realizations, some of which have to do with business and some of which don’t.
So, in random order, here’s some of the stuff I learned in Vegas:
1. Baker does not know where the Vegas strip is
It’s possible there’s a legitimate explanation to this one, but here’s the background, and let’s all pretend that I’m totally right because it’s funnier that way.
My friend Adam Baker from Man vs. Debt announced haughtily at breakfast Thursday morning that he had scooped me on writing the Vegas posts we had all been discussing. So just now, before starting work on the post you’re reading right now, I decided to head over and read it.
And I must say… he certainly did not SCOOP me. Where is the talk of hookers? There were no hookers in that post. And he totally could have added them, because he’s a personal finance guy and hiring one would certainly be an investment with rapidly diminishing returns. (I’d guess the sharpest diminishing probably happens sometime between dialing the number for the hot woman on the card and the time when you discover what monstrosity has actually shown up.)
But in addition to its hookerlessness, the post featured this line:
Our hotel room looks out over the airport, which at first I thought was kind of lame. But this morning, I woke early to get a peek of planes landing and taking off as the sun rose up over the mountains in the background. It was an soothing and inspiring sight – much better than looking out over the flashing lights of the Strip itself.
Now, my hotel room had a view of the airport too. It was the place with all of the planes that was located right beyond the Strip, directly in the same line of sight.
Meh, he was probably drunk.
2. People are lazy
In a hellish, “ironic fate” kind of way, the casinos have realized that average people are lazy and so have decided (pardon my marketing jargon) to fuck with them. While I was walking around last week, I realized that our group kept re-tracing the same paths… out of one hotel/casino and into another hotel/casino, then out of that one and into a third. The easiest way to get from the Mandalay Bay (where Blogworld itself was held) and into the Luxor… and from there into the Excalibur, from which you could actually eventually cross the street… was to walk through the hotels and casinos themselves. Which was, of course, totally intentional.
Everything about the casinos is designed to keep people inside them, to force people to walk through them. The idea is that if you have to take a leak and walk through the casino, if you have to grab a bag of chips and walk through the casino, if you drop your keys and a leprechaun grabs them and runs and puts them on the opposite side of the casino, then eventually the repeated exposure to bright, flashing lights will cause you to sit down at a table in resignation and empty your pockets.
One thing we noticed right away was that there were moving sidewalks going into the casinos, and that it was all perfume and roses and welcome. But if you wanted to leave? Fuck you, fatty. Walk your ass on out of here. At one point, we ended up at the New York New York casino, which was actually down a flight of stairs from the street. If you were coming in, you rode an escalator down. If you wanted to leave, you had to walk up. Hell, if they’re giving you only one escalator, shouldn’t it be the up one? I mean, I can understand why there would only be one… casinos are sparse places without any lavish, excessive displays of “fuck you, we got your money!” wealth at all, so they obviously simply ran out of cash, but at least point it the right way.
And as we’ve all heard, the casinos are labyrinths (Baker, Clay Collins, and I went to ride the roller coaster at the hotel (you heard that right) and eventually, after the tenth “turn this way to find the roller coaster” sign, Baker psychologically snapped), there are no clocks, and there are no windows.
But what struck me most was that they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work, and that was depressing. I kept picturing some fat, drooling slob of a typical American Vegas visitor running out of money and deciding to leave, but then looking at that flight of stairs and thinking, “Hell with that… waitress, bring me an ATM!”
3. You cannot defeat a game’s odds by being fatalistic
On my last day, I decided that I should at least gamble a LITTLE, because to do otherwise would be rude to the Mafia. So I sat down at a roulette table and bought fifty dollars’ worth of chips. I decided “This is an expense. I in no way expect to win.” And I was totally correct.
4. The best networking is non-networking
See that photo up top? Don’t let anyone fool you with big words and shiny marketing websites — THAT is the best, most fun, and most important part of any conference. If you attend every single conference session and take diligent notes but never hang out with your fellow nerds over a drink or a $4.50 drip coffee, then congratulations, you’ve just spent hundreds or thousands of dollars to get what you could have gotten out of a textbook.
But wait a minute there, killer. That doesn’t mean that you should be all douchey and stalk people further up the success chain than you are, and then grill them about business and pitch your ideas the first chance you get. That sure as hell won’t work with anyone I talked to, and it certainly won’t work on me. If someone I’ve never met before corners me at an event and starts pitching me their thing, I start covertly dialing in a bomb threat on my cell phone so that I can escape, and then I avoid that person forever after.
That photo up top? Perfect example of the right way to do it. Sit down, chill out. Watch Twitter to see where people are who you’d like to meet, then saunter over and introduce yourself. If you’ve done this right, you and the people you’re meeting will have “met” at least briefly before online, sufficient that each of you can say, “Oh, you’re [insert name] on Twitter!” or something.
I met a bunch of new people this time who I’d previously only known from Twitter, and some that I’d really not known at all. And they were cool. We all hung out. And if you get business nerds together, they’ll eventually wile away the hours in extreme demonstrations of, “Let’s stay out all night, get sober, and talk business!” And that’s when magic happens, right around when Laura Roeder starts talking about the best ways to do karaoke.
5. Some cities can get away with whatever the hell they want
I didn’t really love Vegas, but I had to respect it. You know why? Because Vegas walks up to you and gets in your face and says, “Give me your lunch money, punk,” and you do it. You want a can of Coke? That’ll be five dollars. Oh, you forgot your toothbrush? No problem. Six dollars, please.
There’s probably a lesson there. Like, “Be a loud flashing neon asshole in the middle of a desert and you can set your own prices” or something.
6. You don’t really need sleep.
I didn’t go to bed before 3am the whole time I was there, and it didn’t faze me in the least.
Case #1: I got a text message from Naomi Dunford at 3am Wednesday night/Thursday morning that she and Dave Navarro were in “some bar at the Luxor,” so, since I was staying at the Luxor and had just gotten back to my room, I headed downstairs and looked through all of the bars to no avail. The next morning, I met Naomi and Dave for breakfast, and they said, “When we came out of the bar, the Luxor was on the right.” Which, for you science fans, means logically that they had not come out of the Luxor.
Case #2: Got another text message from Naomi at 7am on Friday announcing that she had already eaten breakfast and had not gone to sleep the previous night. As for me, I’ll just say that I had gone to sleep at 4am and yet was up to receive the text at seven.
I suppose if I had stayed a few more days, my mind would have failed and I would have started seeing Oompa Loompas, but that interestingly didn’t happen.
7. Guerilla marketing is alive and well in the skin business
When you walk down the Strip in Vegas, you will repeatedly be accosted by Mexicans who are surely working for an illegal wage as they hand out business cards for call girls. Only, “hand out” is way too kind of a term. It’s more like they attempt to insert the cards deep into your sinuses.
Eventually, most of the people in the various groups I walked around with started ignoring the hawkers with the photos of hot, hot babes on them despite the fact that they kept giving us paper cuts. Jade Craven did not. She was collecting them or something. I’m pretty sure she took a card from every single person and I’m equally pretty sure that I saw her heading back because she’d missed one. Kind of like, “Do you have Candy? I’ll trade you two Debbie rookie cards for one.” It’s like Bakugan, but with fewer dragons and much larger boobs.
Kudos goes to Baker (again, that spotlight hog) for the idea to stand with the Mexican card distributors and hand out our own business cards. (Hey, you get lonely in Vegas. Sometimes you want a little bit of small business marketing advice without any messy questions about what it all “means.”)
Pretty sure I’ll be at the South by Southwest conference in March. I’m sure it’ll be fun, but will there be black hole casinos, six dollar bottles of water, and sexual solicitation?
Well, maybe at that one place. You know the place I’m talking about.