Part three-ring circus, part university and part revival meeting--all rolled into one--this year's eBay Live! community conference made a long-lasting impression on the 12,000 community members who attended. I love eBay Live!, and I've participated in every one of them since its inception. I've had the pleasure of teaching my "Starting an eBay Business" class to huge crowds every year--it seems there's a never-ending stream of people who want to learn how to successfully run an eBay business.

This year, the conference seemed better than ever. As always, the eBay staff was constantly excited and ebullient. The expo part of the show--the trade show--was full of a selection of vendors who offered products designed to increase an eBay seller's bottom line. But there were some special things that stuck in my mind that I'd like to share with you.

Educational opportunities. This year, eBay's list of seminars and classrooms went for pages in the program, with more than 160 eBay sessions specifically tailored for the beginner, intermediate and advanced eBay user. Topics for these sessions included coming trends, legal and tax tactics, tips for running an eBay store and how to expand to the world market as well as classes on popular eBay categories such as clothing, accessories, motors, electronics and more. Classes were held not only in the convention center but also in the hotels and the varied adjacent buildings. You could literally spend every waking minute learning something from someone. A very welcome addition this year were the computer labs, where users could sit down and learn hands-on.

Fun stuff. As always, eBay came up with a wonderful set of 10 new collector pins which were given out at various spots throughout the event. The pins were themed by year to commemorate the many changes and advances that eBay's undergone during the past 10 years. Not to be left out, many of the vendors in the exhibit area also gave away custom-made pins. My publisher, Wiley, had a special pin made with the "for Dummies" man holding up a birthday cake with candles in the eBay colors saying "Here's to 10 years."

eBay also gave away "award" ribbons near the registration area that proclaimed phrases like: "I'm a Power Seller" and "I make my living on eBay." People picked up these ribbons and attached dozens of them to their ID badges. It was fun seeing people with super long strings of the ribbons and seeing just what they'd picked out to display.

In the exhibit area, it was booth after booth of interesting vendors who make their living from eBay not be selling on the site but by producing products software programs to help sellers sell. Each of the major eBay categories also had booths, staffed with eBay employees ready and excited to get some face time with the users in their niche markets.

Some of my favorite eBay Live! memories?

  • The keynote address. An amazing time was had by all in true "event" style with lots of junk food and favors. Meg Whitman was the star of the show, giving her keynote address to the almost 12,000 eBay loyalists in attendance. Jim "Griff" Griffith was a top talent warm-up for Meg, interviewing the crowd and making thousands of people smile.
  • EBay and PayPal community barbeque at Paramount's Great America. eBay took over this amazing amusement park just for the eBay community. There was a free BBQ dinner, lots of rides and a charity auction sponsored by the PESA (Professional eBay Sellers Alliance) to benefit the NetSmartz program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. There was both a silent and a live auction. The top prize of the night was to be able to ride any ride in the park with eBay North America President Bill Cobb. The prize went to Jack Sheng (eBay ID: Eforcity), who placed the top bid of $4,000.
  • 10th anniversary gala. At the end of every eBay Live! conference, there's a wonderful dinner party (read: extravaganza) for all the attendees. It was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center this year, and the music was great. Bering Strait, a Russian country band, was the opening act that got the thousands of eBay members rocking. Then, the main event, the B-52s, totally rocked the house. It was so much fun, and a great time to meet more sellers and eBay employees in a less formal setting.

Those were the big events, but there were small ones, too. Let me share a personal one. During one of my book signings, I was approached by a deaf eBay user who was interested in finding a mentor program. Luckily I had my "SideKick" on and I switched to AIM and looked for Marjie Smith, president of the DOUA (Disabled Online Users Association). Marjie was online, and I introduced the two of them. They IM'd their information and Marjie set up another mentor program. That's the magic of eBay Live!--when users like Marjie and I can connect with a new user, all in the name of community.

eBay charged a fee for attending Live!, but I can easily say that visitors got way more than they expected--and certainly more than their money's worth. I can't wait until next year when I can meet more members of the community at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.