Ever since eBay cancelled its annual confab/conference, eBay Live!, and replaced it with local events, we wondered how the strategy would play out. So we contacted longtime eBay seller Stephanie Inge to learn the behind-the-scenes story of the most recent eBay: On Location event, held at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dallas, May 7 to 8.
This was the second of the On Location events. The first took place in Atlanta, March 19 to 20.
At the time eBay announced these On Location events, Lorrie Norrington, president of eBay Marketplaces, said the company would choose sites that were within a day's drive for as many eBay sellers as possible. Dallas certainly fit that criterion, and more. One of the most interesting things about Dallas is its committed group of eBay sellers who have remained passionate about their small businesses through many changes.
Donahoe asked sellers what they liked and didn't like about eBay these days. He filmed their responses to share with staffers
The eBaybes & eMales sellers group, founded in January 2002, claims to be the largest and most active eBay group, and no one has stepped forward to dispute those claims. So naturally, in planning the event, eBay turned to this group and Inge, its founder, for ideas and help organizing the event. eBay President John Donahoe had his team contact Inge two weeks before the event to ask for a private meeting with her group.
She and a committee of eBaybes & eMales members decided to organize a kick-off party that would take place just before the start of eBay's official event.
"I got the idea from the kick-off parties that used to be held at eBay Live! in a restaurant near the venue," Inge says. "I wanted to continue that tradition."
Based on the pictures, videos and Facebook comments we read, the event was a smashing success, and featured a lot of the fun and camaraderie of the old eBay Live! events.
The theme was a "Red Carpet Affair." It was all about having fun and putting everyone in the mood for eBay: On Location, Inge says.
"This is what everyone misses the most," Inge explains. "We wanted everyone to feel special, to have their 15 minutes of fame."
As they entered, each of the 100 or so kick-off party attendees was pulled aside and placed on an actual red carpet. There, Inge conducted brief interviews (a la Joan Rivers), which were later posted on YouTube.
In another throwback to eBay Live!, there was a contest for the wildest eBay outfit. The winner, Dorothy Kennedy, fashioned a complete outfit—dress, shoes and purse—out of eBay-branded Priority Mail tape and boxes. Everyone had to bring a gift bag filled with goodies for the gift bag exchange. There were loads of door prizes. About 10 eBay staffers attended, including eBay Radio's Griff and Richard Brewer-Hay, who writes the company's eBay Ink blog.
While in town, eBay invited Inge and nine other local Top-rated sellers to attend a luncheon with Donahoe and other staffers. Donahoe asked the sellers what they liked and didn't like about eBay these days. He filmed their responses with a Flip video camera so he could share them with staffers when he got back to San Jose, CA.
They realize that smaller sellers are responsible for what eBay is today
The main event
The eBay: On Location event itself was limited to 500 attendees, and sold out. It was also a great deal: $35 for early bird registrants; $45 otherwise. That included breakfast and lunch!
eBay's curriculum was basic but informative with courses split into two tracks. One was eBay-focused with sessions like Strategies to grow your business, Top-rated Seller Secrets and The Power of Productivity (about running your business as efficiently as possible). The other track covered business building in general. These sessions included The Art of (Customer) Attraction, I Just Tweeted on FaceSpace and 10 Steps to Entrepreneurial Success. Additional sessions covered eBay Stores, eBay Seller Tools, Shipping and Knowing Your Numbers.
We're happy to say that the feeling in Dallas was that eBay: On Location had a much different feel to it than recent eBay Live! events. Much of that had to do with how Donahoe and other eBay staffers made the attendees feel. The takeaway: The event was all about sellers and listening to what they have to say.
"They want to know how we feel and think," Inge reports."They realize that smaller sellers really do matter, that they are responsible for what eBay is today."
After the official event, eBay hosted a private ice cream social for the Dallas eBaybes & eMales who attended the eBay event to show their appreciation. What's more, an eBay staffer called Inge two weeks after the event to make sure that a question that had come up was answered. The staffer also asked for the names and addresses of everyone who attended the ice cream social because eBay "wanted to do more for them." Inge says this never would have happened three years ago.
When we called her for this article she was still giddy, even though a couple of weeks had passed since the event.
"It's almost like I'm on an eBay high," she says. "This is a good place to be. I haven't felt this way in years. This feeling trickles down into my business."
The next two eBay: On Location events are planned for Chicago (July 9 to 10) and San Jose (Sept. 1 to 2). We hear the San Jose event may be more like an old eBay Live!, in that the company will be celebrating its 15th anniversary. Will eBay Live! live again for a brief shining moment? After the Dallas event, that may not matter.