Report from the Main Street 2.0 conference

While the Virginia Main Street staff was unable to travel to Chicago for the 2009 National Main Streets Conference, Becoming Main Street 2.0, Jessie Chase from Harrisonburg was able to attend and reported back that it was fun, interesting and worthwhile.

We returned from the Chicago National Main Street conference on Wednesday evening tired and a little jet-lagged, but with a lot of new knowledge to share. Four days of sessions, presentations, talking to vendors, and exploring, taught us a lot about the windy city and even more about Main Street 2.0.

Things We Learned in Chicago:

* When taking event photos, use the “auto” setting on your camera. Manual settings are too slow, especially when a great picture depends on a split-second decision;
* Barack and Michelle Obama were married at the historic South Shore Cultural Center, the location of the opening reception;
* Despite the downturn in the economy, this was the biggest Main Street conference yet with more than 1,600 attendees, 650 of which were first-timers;
* Track your online presence through It brings up blog hits, Web links, and more;
* A free blog can serve as your Web site. Create static pages for consistent information and use posts to update your community on current events;
* Purchase the matching domain name and link directly to your blog;
* Chris from Lynchburg wears furry shoes;
* The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned 2,000 acres in downtown Chicago. A reporter actually made up the oft-repeated story that the fire was caused by a cow kicking over a lantern;
* The National Trust makes it easy for your constituents to support your organization via secure online contribution pages. The trust can host secure online contribution pages on their Web site and you can link to the pages through your Web page free of charge;
* If you sell alcohol at an event, you should definitely consider purchasing Special Event Alcohol Liability Insurance;
* Use to post nonprofit volunteer opportunities. Potential volunteers search the site by location and key words;
* Chicago plows their snow into Lake Michigan and the river that runs through Chicago is aptly named the Chicago River;
* It took television 13 years to reach an audience of 50 million. Facebook accomplished the same in just two years;
* If you need more membership money, try asking for it. A Main Street community in Iowa asked members to increase their pledges by 20 percent and 80 percent of respondents did just that; and
* If you embrace social networking tools – Facebook, Flickr, blogs, etc. – you must keep them current or they are useless.

Thanks, Jessie!

You can see Jessie’s slideshow from her trip here, and all of Harrisonburg’s slideshows here.