Last week, a few of my colleagues, my web developer husband, and I attended the Collision Conference in New Orleans. To say we all came out of it with a wealth of new knowledge and insights in our respective roles would be an overstatement. But they were giving away free tickets to women in tech, so a handful of us decided to give it a whirl. The conference—billed as a digital/marketing/tech event—ended up being more of a trade show and pitchfest geared toward startups and entrepreneurs.

It wasn’t the kind of event where I walked away with new tools and templates and bursting with ideas. That said, we did gain some nuggets we’re taking back to the office this week, along with our plastic souvenir hand grenade cups. Here’s what stood out to me:

  1. Foursquare is cooler than we thought. I’ll be the first to admit: I wrote off Foursquare around 2011 when its check-ins and mayor’s badges tipped the scale from annoying to creepy (before everyone was checking in everywhere). Turns out, Foursquare moved away from that platform two years ago (if you still want to be the mayor of your local gym, check out Swarm instead). Instead, it serves as a customized city guide based on your habits and preferences. Much more useful, if you ask me. Useful enough that at least half of us downloaded the app right away and used it to discover Three Muses, one of the top 25 cocktail bars in the U.S.. We were not disappointed (and no, this post isn’t sponsored by Foursquare).

  2. We have a lot in common with Ogilvy. One of the best talks I heard was an interview with Brandon Berger, the Chief Digital Officer at Ogilvy & Mather. Anyone in advertising has known and been inspired by this agency, particularly for their exceptional creative work. But Berger emphasized the importance of data and research in the creative process and how their team uses data to help uncover great stories—which is what we try to do here at Well Done. He also discussed the importance of quality creative in the age of Ad Block, which is something that gets us fired up.

  3. Technology, data science, and social media are being used to produce a lot of good in the world. It’s easy to get jaded by greedy multi-billion dollar tech giants and even despair about the hateful rhetoric that’s spewed across social media in every direction. But at Collision, we actually learned about a lot of amazing ways that people are using technology to promote empathy, civic engagement, and respectful discourse.

    Brigade and Project 375 are two that stood out. Brigade—a social network that’s still in beta—is a nonpartisan politically driven social network that aims to “use social networking to create engagement in democracy and government.” A key part of the platform is to help people identify issues they care about and the elected officials that align with their values. I think it’s a ways away from becoming a staple app, but it’s refreshing to see leaders in the private sector helping to promote respectful and well-educated civic dialog.

    Project 375 is spreading awareness of mental health disorders from a surprising source: professional sports. Founded by Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder) and Behavioral Forensics Specialist Michi Marshall, Project 375 is aiming to end the stigma and raise funding for treatment of mental health disorders. Much of Marshall’s talk at Collision was focused on the importance of asking for help and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, especially in a space like football, where vulnerability is not praised. The community connections that the web provides are perfect for connecting people who may have otherwise felt isolated.

  4. You can’t put a price on team building. Well, I guess you could, because it turns out hotels and airfare are expensive. But our digital team did some legit bonding that we’re taking back to the office in the form of improved collaboration, communication, and just a handful of inside jokes. #2Aforlife

  5. If you’re a strategist, designer, or developer, there are better conferences out there for you. Collision was good in its own way, but I don’t think we were the target audience. If you’re a startup entrepreneur with an idea to pitch, or if you’re looking to get your feet wet in tech/entertainment/media, go to Collision. But if you’re really trying to increase your professional knowledge in marketing or tech, there are better conferences. An Event Apart, MozCon, Smashing, and C3 are some of our top recommendations.