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Big Omaha 2015: A veteran’s perspective

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Photo credit: Josh Foo

As a Big Omaha veteran who attended all six conferences thus far, I had big questions driving downtown Thursday morning.

Would KANEKO look the same? Would there be any mention of Big Omaha’s history? Would the speakers be engaging? Would I know any of the attendees?

And, perhaps most important of all, would the snacks still be tasty?

It’s no secret that questions swirled when Silicon Prairie News announced it had been acquired by the AIM Institute. What did this mean for SPN’s signature event, Big Omaha?

At the close of the first speaker – a thought-provoking, soul-examining, dance-inducing presentation by Dr. Jennifer Jones – my questions were getting answered. This was the Big Omaha I remembered so fondly.

KANEKO was transformed for the next two days with Big Omaha branding throughout (nice work, Grain & Mortar), along with an art installation and colorful furniture by hutch.

This was the Big Omaha I remembered so fondly

Shortly past 9 a.m., we were welcomed by Big Omaha’s founders (and familiar faces) Dusty Davidson and Jeff Slobotski, who encouraged us to maintain the Big Omaha tradition of standing ovations for everyone.

While I listened to each presenter on Thursday, live-tweeted a handful of their remarks, and read the feedback from other attendees, the consensus was clear: Big Omaha 2015 offered entrepreneurs more than simply suggestions on how to impress VCs and scale one’s company. The speakers looked beyond the daily grind and into our minds, our habits, our hearts, and our souls.

They each asked us not to be better workers, but better people.

It’s true that as I looked around the audience, I saw more strangers than in past years. But the steadfast Big Omaha attendees were there in the front rows. And Tres Johnson kept the music lively, interesting, and upbeat, as usual.

About those snacks: they were both delicious and delightful. Aromas Coffeehouse and Bliss Bakery served a sweet breakfast paired with the perfect roasts of brewed coffee. Our snacks were surprisingly healthy, with plenty of vegan options packed with protein. And can we talk about the adorable boxes of water? A throwback to our grade school days, that’s for sure.

Big Omaha No. 7 has much of the same feel of previous years, but its reach has clearly extended beyond Omaha’s creative community. New audiences can only mean new experiences, new feedback, and new ways to continually improve the Big Omaha experience.

Omaha native Wendy Townley hasn’t missed a single Big Omaha. She serves as development director of the Omaha Public Library Foundation, where she raises funds and advocates for the twelve branches of Omaha Public Library. She tweets at @wtownley.