2018 Inc Conference Experience by Scott DeNeve

It was 36 hours before I was to jump on a plane and head to the 2018 INC 5000 Conference and Gala. Room and flight had been paid for and there was nothing holding me back. I was sitting on my couch that evening, excited for my fourth trip to this event. The years prior had been a great time because I was with friends and sharing the experience with them. Each year was better than the one before and I was ready for another fantastic event.  

There had been several years I skipped the event not wanting to go alone, only to regret the decision after the event had passed. I would justify my choice to forgo the event because of not knowing anyone there, feeling awkward on my own and out of place in the crowd. Then, I would once again tell myself I would attend the following year, even if it was by myself.   

The next morning, I received an early morning text, “Are you up?” The text was from a friend traveling to the conference with me. I was getting my kids ready for school and had a feeling that I knew the reason for the text.  At 8am, I received a call and my buddy said that he and his other two friends were not able to go to San Antonio for the INC conference with me.  This was the call I was dreading… I was on my own and wasn’t going to know anyone. “I’ll just not go,” I said to myself. “I don’t know anyone and that would be easier than going and feeling weird.”

Later that morning, still contemplating my choices, I received an email from a fellow EO member organizing a group chat for EO members attending the INC conference. I quickly responded and asked to be included in the group. At that moment, I made the decision to go to San Antonio with the goal of connecting with EO superstars from around the country. EO members who had built some of the fastest-growing companies in America and I wanted to connect with them.    

Once I arrived at the hotel, I went to the opening evening reception and picked up my EO orange ribbon meant to help EO member identify one another. I grabbed a beverage and made my rounds quickly. I told myself that I did my part and it was ok to go back to my room and relax. Tomorrow was going to be a day of conference sessions and speakers and I would connect then. 

I started to make my way out of the party when I remembered the commitment I’d made to myself that I wouldn’t hang out in my room and that I couldn’t walk around with my headphones in my ears.  Pushing through the awkwardness, I stayed that evening and connected with other EO members – some on their own as well. Our common bond of EO made an otherwise awkward conversation easy.

What would evolve over the next few days was an experience that I have had a hard time explaining to others. The camaraderie amongst this group of EO members was remarkable.  The orange EO ribbon on our badges became an exclusive designation that sparked conversations with other conference attendees about joining EO. Our band of brothers and sisters from all over the country came together for every lunch, happy hour, dinner and conference party that would evolve into fantastic conversations, laughter and fun. Of the hundreds of people attending the conference, 26 were EO members.  Most of them were there on their own and facing the same challenges I was. This experience was different from a regional EO event where most are there with their forum mates and already have connections. This was an exclusive group of independent people, there to create an experience that they owned. 

I have never put myself out there as I have with the group at this event. It was an experience that has surpassed any that I have ever had. I had so much fun with my fellow EO members, that I cannot wait until the next time we connect. I have no doubt that the 2019 INC. 5000 conference will an experience to remember. And this time, I am excited to go at it alone. 

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