I’ve been in Indianapolis just over two years, which is hard to believe. I’ve also invested a lot of time and energy, over those two years, to really get to know the Indy tech community. It’s fascinating. I’ve met entrepreneurs, techies, influencers, VCs, CEOs, and a ton of other people like me – those who are somewhere in between these common personas, but driven by interest and the desire to learn. I’ve come to be pretty comfortable in my Indianapolis bubble. Excited by the boom of the startup tech, enjoying meeting other Indy companies, making friends. But, I finally had the chance to put it all into perspective.

I was sitting on a plane en route to San Francisco – a golden land (arguably, the golden land) of tech startup culture – realizing that I’ll be an outsider looking in for the week, absorbing everything that comes my way, and seeing, firsthand, what Indy’s up against.

I didn’t go to San Fran for some vacation time (although, I would certainly take it!), but for Salesforce.com’s biggest user conference of the year – Dreamforce. Have any of you been to Dreamforce before? With the attendee count reaching 85,000 this year (crazy, right?), I would imagine the chances are pretty likely that some of you know what I’m about to experience. I went on behalf of my company – Right On Interactive – to connect with potential partners and customers, learn about trends and competition, speak the good word about lifecycle marketing automation, and season myself with some West coast experience. I began preparing myself to suddenly become a small fish in an enormous pond. Or, would it end up being a smaller world than I’m anticipating?

At any rate, I went into it with the starry-eyed, optimistic idea that national and global events like these are what fuel new trends, budding partnerships and maybe even put innovative ideas into action. They’re energy generators, that’s for sure. And I’m always ready to be motivated.

So, now I’m thinking, how do we bring this kind of generation of energy to Indy? I think Verge has the right idea. We need more events. We need to bring people in and redefine their stale impression of the Midwest. The Powder Keg has the potential to start a powerful tradition that not only brings in fresh perspective with out-of-state attendees, but also replenishes our community with a type of energy that comes with the numbers and collaboration.

It’ll be interesting to see how a conference like Dreamforce is conducive to startup company growth, or if it’s designed, at the core, to benefit those already at the top. With extravagant price tags attached to sponsorship opportunities, hosting parties, speaking gigs and the like, it’s hard to imagine having the means to break into the ranks of the tech titans. So, what else can we do, but get creative.

I’ll be sure to report back in the next few days, after I’ve had a chance to fully digest the experience and get a feel for how well local Indy companies fared with the experience. It’ll most likely shed new light on my experiences and probably lead me to a few new, delayed impressions – as is the nature of learning through experience. But, for those out there who have been the travelin’ conference (wo)man, I’d love to hear how you managed to navigate it all. The expo halls, the sessions, the random (but, 24/7) networking, the parties. What were some of the most insightful tips you picked up along the way?