by Kristy Esparza on December 18, 2019
This past October marked a big milestone for Relativity: the 10th anniversary of Relativity Fest, our annual user conference. We’ve been putting on this little shindig since 2010, and over the past decade we’ve seen it grow from a one-room conference to a complete takeover of Chicago’s Hilton Hotel.
Aside from a few Relativity team members, only a handful of people have been to all 10 Relativity Fests. And we got to chew the fat with four of them at this year’s show.
Our incredibly talented director of photography, Josh McCausland, put together a neat video of our interviews. Check it out to see why these Fest vets keep coming back for more—and why you should, too.
Josh managed to condense around an hour of footage into two-and-a-half minutes. Keep reading for more of the story.
Why did you go to the first Relativity Fest?
David Espalin, Operations Manager at ProSearch Strategies: Basically, the notice from the boss was go [to Fest]. Have fun. Take the [RCA] exam and don't worry if you pass or not. I had a really good time, and I fell in love with the city of Chicago. And so, over the next few years, I brought my family out here and I've always made it a point to have a really good time in the city.
Chris Chalstrom, President and CEO of Shepherd Data Services: We're always looking for the next best thing, and I heard from another vendor that Relativity rocks. I thought, well, okay. And we heard about Fest and we thought it'd be some something fun to do. So, we just went to explore and meet the team. We always like to know who's behind the scenes.
Matthew Porter, Solutions Architect at Epiq: I was at Falcon Discovery at the time, and we had just deployed a managed services solution for a telecom company in Denver. Relativity was at the center of that solution. I realized that building my expertise and my company's expertise in Relativity, getting certified, and meeting other people who use the tool would be a value to me professionally, to my company, and to my clients. So, when an opportunity for Relativity Fest came, I jumped at that. I'm glad I did.
What keeps you coming back?
Matt Nelson, Director of Litigation Support - Central Services at Littler Mendelson: It’s always been a great experience. There's a lot of creativity and there's a lot of energy that I feel when I come to this. It renews you every year. You get a new sense of excitement for Relativity […] and, especially early on, we were seeing a lot of our suggestions and feedback making it into the tool. That sort of feedback and listening to what customers want to see and actually delivering on it [keeps me coming back].
David: Meeting new friends and reconnecting with old friends. And that's something you don't get just by going once a year. You've got to go over several years.
Matthew: Things change very quickly in this industry, and Fest is a great way to keep up with that. It’s really about what are the best practices in this industry? What is the next thing that we can learn to better serve our clients? What are our best ways to serve clients? Relativity gives us a framework for talking about that, just as it provides a tool for accomplishing that in our careers. We're very generous with ideas and information in this community.
Chris: This is my discovery family, and it's like Thanksgiving. It's a festival of gratitude, and it reminds you why you're doing what you're doing and how important it is. That's one of the things that I always like— coming to Fest and being reminded, this is why we're doing this. And don't forget to be grateful for all the wonderful things and all the wonderful clients and people that we've met through the years.
What’s your favorite part of Relativity Fest?
Chris: I'm truly a geek at heart. The networking and everything is great, but I just love the technology. I always set aside a time to sit back and do the [hands-on exercises].
David: With the connections I've made here with some of the Relativity team members, and the relationships I’ve built over the years, I have people I can go to when I need more information. I've always really valued that.
Matt: I enjoy meeting people like you. The people behind the scenes. We work so closely with Relativity, so it's a chance to take time out and dig into the technology with the people who've made it in person. It's definitely worth it.
Every year, we have a guest speaker (or two). Who stands out most for you?
Matt: The guest speakers—like [filmmaker] Casey Neistat and Sal Khan—because they’re off the beaten path, considering the space we’re in. You go to a legal technology conference and you don’t necessarily expect to see those types of people speaking. But it fits. It works.
Chris: Amy Cuddy and the hero pose. I do that all the time if I'm nervous. Before a presentation, I’ll go and hide somewhere and do the hero pose. And I can conquer it all.
Matthew: There have been lot of great speakers, but I'd say that [engineer and inventor] Dean Kamen was probably one of my favorites. The message I took away was about how what we do shouldn't be about the technology. We should use the best technology we have. But what we're doing should be about the people, and it should be about helping bring about outcomes that we believe in. His speech really inspired me.
What advice do you have for Fest first-timers?
David: If you're shy, or you're not sure what to do, just go up and start talking to people. People are always very receptive to that. That's how I would start conversations and how I would network and now I’ve established relationships that are going on 10 years. These are people who I only see at Relativity Fest, but I've built relationships with them and we always look forward to this one event so we can see each other and go have a good time.
Matt: Come with a plan of action, a plan of attack. If you had a specific piece of the technology or part of the platform that you want to dig into, [find those sessions]. The options are there. You can get as granular and detailed as you'd like.
Matthew: Participate. Don't come feeling like an attendee or an audience member. Make sure you're a participant. Find the sessions and the groups that are about something you're passionate about and don't hesitate to share what you know and to ask questions. Also, network. There are a lot of great people and great minds in this industry that gather at Relativity Fest. Find people you know and people you want to know and try to engage in conversations. Some of the professional friendships I've made at Fest over the years have been some of the most valuable to me.
Chris: Just get here and go with the flow. Make sure you go to the keynotes and the main speakers and make sure you go to the big networking event in the evening. [It can be] overwhelming, but it’s so fun. You just have to experience it.
Kristy Esparza is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, specializing in content creation.