Discussion of Innovation and Business Ignites Dialogue at Inaugural Second Line Conference

On May 2 and 3, leading thinkers, entertainers and entrepreneurs from across the country gathered in New Orleans to listen, exchange thoughts and have a good time at the first annual Second Line Conference. Held in XLIV in Champions Square, attendees gathered each day to listen to speakers like James Carville, Treme’s Wendell Pierce, Grammy-winner Irvin Mayfield Jr., Kickstarter Founder Perry Chen, Vogue Contributing Editor Julia Reed, Chef John Besh, Hornets’ CEO Hugh Weber, Chief Content Director for Playboy Jimmy Jellinek and more, as they discussed innovation in business, entertainment and New Orleans in today’s economy.

The conference was a mix of panels and presentations.  Speakers discussed new technology platforms and groundbreaking branding strategies, while some provided solutions to world issues like the BP oil spill and coastal erosion.  The presentations filled up the majority of the day and were quick stories from each presenter and were followed by 4-5 minutes of questions and answer from the audience.  The talks were dynamic and moving, and some included photo slideshows, music and video clips.  Robert Fogerty, the founder of Dear New Orleans, a photo art project that helps fund his non-profit Evacuteer.org, did his entire presentation without saying one word.

When asked how he felt about New Orleans’ new entrepreneurial brand versus our arts and entertainment brand, conference speaker and Grammy-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield Jr. said, “You have to have both. I’ve never been anywhere where someone said this place is so great because it has so many corporations. People come here for the arts and music, but they’ll stay here because we have a strong businesses too.”

Sandwiched in between the largest jazz festival in the United States, Second Line’s mission parallels Mayfield’s statements.  “With The Work Week and Jazz Fest, you can feed the soul on the weekend and the mind during the week,” said Chris Schultz, Second Line speaker and producer of The Work Week.

Nearly 250 attendees gathered each day for the conference and another 350+ followed along via social media.  Over the two days of the conference, over 400 tweets were sent out about the conference or the content and on Monday the word #secondline became a trending topic in the Greater New Orleans region.

Conference producer Gerard Cox says plans for next year’s event are already in the works.  For more information, visit www.secondline.com.

This article originally appeared in New Orleans’ Downtown Development District Newsletter, What’s Up Downtown, On May 6, 2011.