From the “140 Conference” to “The State of Now” – A Conversation with Jeff Pulver and Becky McCray

Jeff Pulver’s 140 Conference has taken place in New York City, Los Angeles, London and Tel Aviv. The events have explored the effects of the emerging real-time internet on a wide range of topics including business, the media, advertising, politics, fashion, real estate, music, education, public safety and public diplomacy.

In 2010, renowned Oklahoma-based blogger, small business expert, and small town advocate Becky McCray, persuaded Jeff Pulver to bring the 140 Conference to Hutchinson, Kansas, and the “140 Conference Small Town” was born.

On November 8, the conference returns to Hutchinson’s Historic Fox Theatre for a third year. Something different for 2012 – a change of name from the “140 Conference” to “The State of Now.”

Social: IRL is pleased to support The State of Now: Small Town. We’re looking forward to our third year attending and would encourage you to join us. Use discount code friendofST12 and you can register for just $40, a saving of some $60 on the standard $100 rate.

You’ll also be able to get a preview of the State of Now: Small Town and connect with Becky McCray at a special event Social: IRL is hosting in Lawrence, Kansas, the evening of October 25.

Meantime, we chatted with Jeff Pulver and Becky McCray to get their perspectives on what makes this event so special, insights on what attendees can expect to experience, and to understand the re-branding to “The State of Now.”

For people who haven’t attended before, could you give a brief outline of what they can expect at “The State of Now” and what makes it such a unique experience?

Becky – Expect real people sharing their own short stories. Expect to feel a connection, as they tell how our shared online space has changed their work, their friendships, or their life.  Expect to get more ideas than how-to’s. Expect storytelling, not PowerPoint. Expect to make friends with people nearby or far away, people just like you, but completely different. 

Jeff – When I curate these conference, I try to be the “Human DJ” trying to mix the voices and stories shared.


Hutchinson KS, saw the first “Small Town” State of Now conference. What brought about the specific small town focus, and why Hutchinson?

Becky McCray with Jeff Pulver in Hutchinson last year. Source:

Becky – Jeff had dreamed up the idea of bringing together 140 characters in the real world, to strengthen our online connections. He debuted it in New York and took it on the road. As he went to Barcelona and Tel Aviv, Steve Tucker and I teased Jeff about coming to a smaller town, getting out of the big city. Of course, Jeff took us up on the offer. So then I started looking for a town near me, but closer to an airport, and also cool enough to host an event that I knew would draw people from all over the world. I had been in Hutchinson for a tour of bloggers that Cody Heitschmidt and other locals created, so I knew a bit about it. And Hutch managed to beat out the two other towns I looked at, so Hutch it is. And it’s turned out to be great. Occasionally, I get some static that Hutchinson isn’t a small enough town, but I live in a town of 30 people, so I get it. The people of Hutchinson have given us a small town welcome.  


Focusing specifically on Hutchinson, who are the speakers? What type of stories do they share?

Becky – At Hutchinson, we have the people you’d expect in a small town: business owners, teachers, people from nonprofits, farmers and ranchers, and more. And they came from 18 states and 3 countries last year. Then we also have people from big cities who have a connection to small towns, like Ron J. Williams of New York City who has family in small towns. So we’ve had Val Wagner of North Dakota talking about making time for social media in agribusiness, Grant Griffiths sharing how he launched an international high-tech business from his basement, and Jay Ehret of Waco, Texas, talking about selling your soul for business. Then we had Steve Tucker touching our hearts with the story of an online friend who passed away, Laura Girty talking about what happened after her son died and came back to life, and Joe Cheray talking about surviving incest in a small town. That is a pretty amazing mix of stories! 


Some of the stories shared at the State of Now events are intensely personal. What do you feel motivates people to step outside their comfort zone and share at these events in a way they might never typically do?

Becky – I really think it’s because Jeff asked. He offered to share the stage, and he invited the people of small towns to step up. And the stories just came pouring out. It was like no one had ever asked before. 


From the first couple of years in Hutchinson, any stand out memories you can share?

Jeff – My memories start before the first conference. “School Bus Racing” in Hutch was a surreal experience.  For me it is always about the people and the communities that get formed.


Jeff, As a native New Yorker, what were your key personal takeaways from the “small town” experience and that first Hutchinson event?

Jeff – As a result of visiting Hutchinson, I have made it a point to include the stories of some of the people I met in NYC at our annual global event. It helped that in August, 2010, I drove across the Midwest for 6 1/2 days. I visited quite a number of small towns during that journey. Key take away was that I needed to return to Hutchinson and make this an annual event. Our conferences provide a stage for people to share their stories. It doesn’t matter where they are from or who they are. Everyone’s voices matter. And we try to offer as many people to speak that we have room for.


Until recently, “State of Now” was known as the 140 Conference. Why the change?

Jeff – Mostly because I wanted to take away the false belief that we are a Twitter conference. Our conferences provide a portal into what is happening at this very moment and the continued effects of the evolution of the real-time web on our lives – both from a personal and business perspective. “Exploring the State of NOW” was the original tagline. Now it is the formal name of the conference.


State of Now returns to Hutchinson on November 8. Anything you can share on what attendees can expect to hear or who they can expect to hear from?

Becky – The call for speakers is still open, so I can’t reveal any secrets. But I can say that I see lots of returning favorites, and even more new names. People from Iowa, Wyoming, Michigan, New York, Louisiana, and Kansas are already in there. I know this will be another amazing year! 


For someone who hasn’t attended before, what would you say to encourage them to make the trip to Hutchinson?

Becky – Let’s share some of what people who have made the trip said: 

“Rather than leaving with a bunch of tips, tools, and systems, I left with a bunch of ideas, concepts, and connections.” –Scott Wendling

“Some things are just too small to miss.” -Jay Ehret

“Hutchinson was the perfect place for this small town event. It’s filled with warm, welcoming people and unexpected surprises. We traveled 650 feet underground into the tunnels that run under the city and got to experience life as an ant. After the conference there was a party at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. We got to see space suits and space ships that actually went into space. Who could have imagined that this small town in the middle of America could hold such wonders.” -Nelson DeWitt

“I encourage anyone within 1,574 miles of Hutchinson to attend.” –Greg Falken


State of Now: Small Town

Hutchinson, Kansas – November 8, 2012

Event website:

Register with  promotion code friendofST12 to save $60.

Join Social: IRL and Becky McCray in Lawrence, Kansas, October 25 for a special evening event sponsored by Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, and Social Media Club of Lawrence. 


    • socialirl says

      Tom – It’s a one day conference running from 8:30am to 5:30pm.

      Just follow the link we shared in the post for additional information and to register, and make sure to use the discount code we shared…

      Hutchinson, Kansas – November 8, 2012
      Event website:
      Register with promotion code friendofST12 to save $60.

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