Confused at [re]think Hawaii

So I learned and observed a few things at [re]think Hawaii, but now it’s time for some uncomfortable questions about the conference that left me confused.

Where’s the Hawaii in [re]think Hawaii?

At the outset, I had the expectation that [re]think Hawaii would focus on Hawaii and look at how our islands can be re-thought with respect to startups/entrepeneurs, environmental sustainability, and social media. Of course, my immediate assumption was of major representation from Hawaii in these areas along with international experts lending their experienced views.

The attendee list showed significant Hawaii participation, but my surprise upon arriving at the conference? More not from Hawaii than from Hawaii. Yes, confusing. This was [re]think Hawaii, wasn’t it? I had to re-examine the intent of [re]think Hawaii, and the event is described accordingly:

At [Re]Think: Hawaii, a group of amazing people will be retreating from the day to day that conforms their thinking and venture outside of their digital ponds to meet offline in Hawaii.

There really is no inference that the event is targeted for Hawaii per se, just that it is held in Hawaii to connect:

entrepreneurs and investors during a series of panels, lunches, excursions, dinners, cocktails and aloha style exchange of ideas and relationship building in Hawaii.

So with regards to making connections and building relationships, [re]think Hawaii met its goal. However…

I would have appreciated more Hawaii representation, both as presenters and attendees. Where were Hawaii’s social media pioneers, @hawaii and @bytemarks? Wouldn’t you think @hawaii would be at [re]think Hawaii? There were a few conference go-ers from Bytemarks’ Top Social Media Geeks in Hawaii list, and Hawaii’s aloha ambassador, @alohabruce, was engendering the Hawaii way. But there should have been more. And this is where it gets messy. Why weren’t there more people from Hawaii? One main reason was the conference cost. Daily admission went for just under $300, the entire week for $1300. Luckily discounts were available and for disclosure purposes, my invitation to [re]think Hawaii from @NEENZ came with a $100 discount. I wouldn’t have gone without this discount, and even then I hesitated. It’s my simple belief that more didn’t attend purely because of the cost.

So what about [re]think presenters from Hawaii? Again, I only attended Day 3 Blogworld Social Media Business Summit, and for that day, there were three Hawaii panelists (Nathan Kam, Neenz Faleafine, and Jay Talwar) who participated in the Basics of Social Media and Participatory Marketing. That’s it.

The counter point is should and could there be more [re]think representation from Hawaii? Should, yes. Could, not yet. At this point, I doubt Hawaii could have presented a delegation to match the expertise and experience of the [re]think presenters and attendees. Don’t get me wrong. Hawaii has passionate people fighting for their causes, and I have no doubt their passion rivals that of Jill Buck, Amanda Rose, and others. But as far as launching successful national and global campaigns, Hawaii does not lead the way.

Was It Worth It?

As I mentioned above, I struggled with the cost of attending [re]think Hawaii. Even at the discounted rate of $200, that is costly for one day at a conference. What convinced me to attend was the caliber of people. Known names were attending and when else would these names be available in Hawaii? Maybe never again? And that’s why I went. The opportunity was too good to pass up even at the cost.

Would I have preferred a cheaper price? Sure, but we have to be realistic. There are costs involved with an event like this. There’s renting out the facilities and equipment, providing snacks and meals, paying fees for speaking engagements, and of course, the event hosts have to make a living too.

So in all, yes, I was satisfied with price of [re]think Hawaii. But I was vitalized with the combination of [re]think Hawaii and TEDxHonolulu! This yin and yang duo completed each other so well there’s no question about cost.

What About Next Year?

I really do hope that [re]think Hawaii becomes an annual event that further exposes Hawaii in new, innovative ways. While I believe outsiders need to comprise a big part of the [re]thinkers, I look forward to more Hawaii representation. Let’s showcase our own high tech, sustainable, and entreprenurial efforts! And a kamaaina discount wouldn’t hurt either. πŸ˜‰

Finally, I have to say thanks to Christine Lu and NEENZ for organizing this wonderful week. Through my initial confusion, I learned and observed so much to make me rethink Hawaii.

Read more posts about [re]think Hawaii.

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14 Responses to Confused at [re]think Hawaii

  1. Ryan Kanno November 9, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    Nice commentary, Mr. Yamane. I was a little confused about the whole thing as well. Maybe one day you can represent a local blogger’s perspective. πŸ˜€

    • Gee Why November 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed. I’m hoping for rethink 2010, you might represent with some big time initiatives! πŸ˜‰

  2. Gypsy Raven November 9, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    I attended the entire ReThink Hawaii event and TEDx, and found the visiting speaker / local speaker ratio to be quite balanced. It’s a rare opportunity for us to stay in our home city & have the global experts come to us. The venue was small enough that many of the local attendees got to talk to the visiting speakers from China, Tokyo & parts of US on a one-on-one basis, not just hurried polite chats but actual exchange of ideas & establishing friendship. I would’ve paid a LOT more for an opportunity like that.
    I feel strongly that the aloha should be extended to the business world by means of encouraging visiting speakers to come to Hawaii & share their ideas. Speaking as someone that live in Hawaii, I have many other opportunities to hear local speakers at many of the other local events or read about them in the papers or meet them at tweet ups; so I rather hear more international points of view & learn what others are doing at an event like ReThink. For example the case studies that were presented at this event were wonderful, learning from other companies’ growing pains, & the mistakes/failures they went through to get to their successes. The point I’m trying to make is that we don’t know it all here, none of the local businesses here have what it takes to complete on the global scales YET, so by being humble & listen to what the visitors who have the global experience have to say, take advantage of their expertise will make Hawaii that much more attractive in the eyes of the business world.
    I do not think the event is perfect, after all it is its first run. Personally I wish that it was a single tract event rather than having to choose between 2 simultaneous talks. But all major conferences have that issue, and attendees just have to learn to be selective. Realistically, the visiting attendees didn’t come all the way to Hawaii to be flooded with topics on the challenges in Hawaii, they were here the hear the international opportunities highlighted by the global experts. We don’t need to do a “hard sell” on Hawaii by increasing the ‘face time’ of the various Hawaii experts. It’s not hard for the visitors to see Hawaii is perfectly positioned (at least geographically) to be an important player. To be fair, there were enough Hawaii centric topics on the first day of ReThink (including lunch time talks) that all the visitors went home with very fond memories of Hawaii and the ReThink event. Hawaii is a jewel in the eyes of tourists, but we can be an even more precious jewel in the global economic stage if we choose to.
    I enjoyed the whole week thoroughly, now it’s time to review notes & implement some ideas right here in Hawaii.

    • Gee Why November 9, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

      Thanks for the insight full feedback. I only went to the 3rd day of [re]think so didn’t get to see the presenters from the first two days.

      My expectations and therefore assumptions for the event were just off, hence my initial confusion. It was great to get global experts in, no doubt about that. Just bummed that Hawaii can’t yet represent on the same level.

      In all though, I thought [re]think Hawaii and TEDxHonolulu were very worthwhile and look forward to the next ones!

      From TEDxHonolulu, I did like how Henk and Jill Buck did provide some possible solutions for Hawaii.

  3. Christine Lu November 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm #

    I appreciate your feedback and thankful to you for taking the time and cost to join us for this first one. πŸ™‚

    I wrote a blog post about my purpose for [Re]Think. I say my purpose because everyone had a different reason for attending and each person got something different out of the experience.

    Hope this gives a bit of insight:

    This was my first time ever organizing a conference. And like many conferences on their first run, they often lose money. This one did, but it was well worth it because I see it as the start of something that’s only going to get better over time. You’ve got to start somewhere. πŸ™‚

    And your guess is right. This conference wasn’t about focusing on Hawaii, it was really about bringing a group of people together for a shared experience in Hawaii — but in doing so, we ended up connecting with people living in Hawaii and that made it all the more awesome.

    [Re]Think : Shanghai is already underway and hope you can join us for that one! πŸ™‚

    Thanks again!
    Christine Lu

    • Gee Why November 9, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

      No, thank you for organizing [re]think Hawaii! My expectation for the event wasn’t set right from the start therefore my confusion. I am grateful that you and NEENZ organized this event for Hawaii (if not you then who?).

      [re]think Hawaii was a solid start and hope to see [re]think back in Hawaii soon enough!

  4. pam November 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    It turns out I’m not really a conference person. I’m more of a dinner table person. I want to sit at a table with, like, four people, not 100. I mention this because even though reThink was tiny, I still felt overwhelmed. Meh, that’s about me. It’s just context.

    I was struck by some of the things we did NOT talk about. I was amazed that we could spend all that time talking about sustainability and not bring up tourism and the impact on the islands. (alohabruce and I talked about this some, afterwards.) I was sort of surprised that we could talk about Hawaii as having great potential for a tech market, but not talk about the gutted educational system — will that tech market just create more jobs for wannabe islanders like me coz island kids aren’t getting the skills? I really enjoyed Kaiser Kuo (and yes, he has awesome hair) but I was sort of fascinated that we could discuss China and the Internet without bringing up censorship.

    I can go on and on — I have a whole slew of unasked questions that I didn’t get around to, uh, asking. That’s my fault, I should have raised my hand more often. I suppose if reThink has me still thinking, that’s a good thing.

    • Gee Why November 10, 2009 at 8:43 am #

      Pam, you bring up some good points, but we’d need waaay more time to get into your questions. πŸ˜‰

  5. A Maui Blog November 10, 2009 at 4:44 am #

    You brought up a topic that I had been pondering a lot regarding Re-think. Many of the issues and items that you and the comments touched are close to what I have in mind. I hope to come back here and discuss that, but for now I just want to thank you for continuing to posts your thoughts and reflections on Re-Think.


    • Gee Why November 10, 2009 at 8:44 am #

      No problem. Feel free to comment about your thoughts on [re]think, and I’ll keep an eye out on A Maui Blog for your [re]think blog posts. πŸ™‚


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