Internet Hungary was surreal. Unlike any other conference I’ve ever spoken at. The day before it began I was met at my hotel by my driver, the Hungarian version of Vin Diesel who I was sure spent all his spare time enacting scenes from Fast and Furious 1, 2, 3, and 4. He was accompanied by an attractive, effusive college student who introduced herself to me as my ‘hostess’. Hmmm.
In front of us was a two hour drive in the rain from Budapest to a Communist-era four star resort on the Tihany peninsula. I needed to digest some anxiety so I went for a long run through the misty rain along the shores of Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest. When I returned to my room a copy of Hungarian Playboy – complete with a DVD of amateur videos – was placed perfectly on my bed.
This was clearly not the typical conference I have grown accustomed to speaking at. Over 2,000 people were on their way and, I quickly realized, their priority – in fact, what seemed to be there raison d’être – was to make money online. The night before the conference I had dinner with a fellow speaker, Norm Johnston, who helped get me up to date on all the latest ways that advertising agencies were making money online. (Norm, I should point out, is an extremely likable fellow despite his occupation.) What, I wondered, could I possibly say to a large crowd from the business class all hoping to make money off of people like … well, me. What I truly wanted to say was this:
The night before my presentation was the famous (infamous, I was told) Internet Hungary party with an open bar and throngs of attractive women in pencil skirts and high heels. I was up in my room. Pitiful, I know. I was adjusting some images on my slides a few pixels one direction or another. I was trying out different font types and character spacings. I was leveling the audio on a video I made specifically for the presentation.
While I worked late into the night I could hear giggling, temporary couples stumbling down the hallway and fumbling with their electronic keycards. By 1 a.m. it became obvious that it didn’t matter what I said the following morning; most of the world at Tihany Club Resort would be too hungover to get out of bed. And for the sober minority, I doubt anything would bore them so much as a 30 minute talk on craftsmanship. But still I worked on. I wanted to get this presentation right – not for them, not for me, but for the sake of the presentation itself.