As everyone in Nashville surely knows, if the room is packed, you've done alright for yourself. By that reasoning, ESX is thus far a wild success. On the first full day of educational programming, every room I was in was standing-room-only, with at least 75 people crowding into the smaller rooms to see speakers, and the larger rooms (generally used by the central station operator crowd) holding more than 125. And people weren't even complaining about having to stand. Wild success, right? The programming was above average, too, just about all of it focused on the business aspect of the industry, with a little technology thrown in for good measure. With everyone picking up CEUs, there was generally a line at the end of each session of people waiting to get their certificates signed. As you'll see in some of the stories we post later today, RMR creation was a big theme of the seminars, with at least three dedicated to that subject alone. Even the session on accounting for alarm companies, led by Michael Marks, head of Sedona Office, spent a lot of time on how to create metrics that let you accurately judge your RMR creation multiple. I've gotta say, if I was opening a business in the security industry, I'd be doing high-end residential and light commercial alarm work, without a doubt. The number of services you can offer for incrementally more money per month is exploding right now, with people getting $30 a sensor per month for GPS, or $10 a month to send out weather alerts, for goodness' sake. That seems like a lot better way to make a buck than trying to navigate the government bid process for a highly technical job that doesn't pay you for two years or something. I doubt it surprises anyone that I'd go for the easier buck... I also enjoyed Eric Pritchard's "art of the deal" presentation. Most of it was pretty common sense (don't try to lie, cheat, or steal in the process of selling/buying accounts, basically), but there was also a good deal of information on which type of corporation to be (S or LLC, definitely not C) and why it's better to buy accounts than to buy whole companies. That's a point I think I've reported incorrectly in the past, implying that stock was bought when really it was just an account transaction. Now I understand why some companies emphasize that they've just purchased the assets of another company. There is a difference. The toughest thing about programming an event like this is the wide range of knowledge base you've got to try to satisfy. In one session, you've have a guy like Pat Egan, who's bought all kinds of account bases and has a fairly large operation (and is a Weinstock award winner, to boot) alongside any number of people who simply manage a small central station (or maybe even just lead a shift at one). How do you make a presentation relevant to both? Though there is a kind of "track" system to the seminars, I think it could be more clearly defined and I think there could be larger differences between a kind of introductory seminar on exploring your first account purchase, say, and a presentation that gets into the finer points of how to rook the IRS on your 10th purchase. That said, I'd have to say the programming is the best I've seen at an industry event. Today, I'm looking forward to seeing keynoter Cris Carter, the most famous person in the security industry, and hitting the Marty Stuart-headlined Big Bash tonight. Oh, and hosting my first luncheon forum. People are ribbing me about the under 40 aspect of the deal, but that's because they're over 40 - I can't trust them anyway. But I promised you blurry pictures. If you don't like at least a little country in your music, don't bother going out in Nashville, because that's pretty much all you're going to hear. Maybe you'll catch a straight blues act, but let's just say all three of the bands we heard last night busted out Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." These guys know their audience. I was hoping that Layla's Bluegrass Inn would actually have a bluegrass band, but not so much. Instead we got these guys: They were alright (SIA's Richard Chase and Honeywell's Gordon Hope held down the back of the room for a while), but I can assure you that bluegrass bands do not have low-slung electric basses. The frontman looked like he hadn't eaten in about 2 days, so I gave them a big tip. We stayed for a couple of beers and then headed into Robert's, next door, where there was a closer approximation of a bluegrass band (they played a version of "Ida Red" that wasn't half bad), and the version of "Folsom" included two verses of "Pinball Wizard." Pretty sharp. The place has been chosen as one of the best bars in America by Esquire, though, and it wasn't that great. Just another PBR-serving dive with dollar bills on the walls. Whoopty-doo. Finally, we hit Tootsie's, which might be the most famous honky-tonk on the strip and was definitely packed shoulder to shoulder in a way that neither of the other bars were. For the second night in a row, Cher was there, too. She sat in a corner (which happened to be in the window - she wasn't shy about letting people know she was in the house), and didn't fraternize with the hoi polloi. My goodness does she look strange in person. Her face is all smooth like the Newcomers from Alien Nation. I can't say I was blown away by the Tootsie's experience, but it was alright. Cool photos on the walls of all kinds of country legends (and not) and a decent layout that went straight back and up a floor so you could catch a band at either end of the bar, and the one at the back was elevated in a weird way so that the singers were up high but the band was kind of down in a pit, so that for a while I actually thought it was karaoke (the singers weren't that bad, but they weren't that good, either). Anyway, the band at the front was pretty good - lots of George Jones and Merle Haggard (who a lot of people went and saw last night - the CAA's Jerry Lenander said it was great). They could really play their instruments, the frontman had a legitimately professional voice, and they looked like this: That blurriness has to do with the quality of the image sensor in my camera phone and not my level of intoxication, I can assure you. I mean, hey, I'm posting before 8 a.m., so I must have been fairly responsible, right? Tomorrow, look for notes on the exposition floor here and the Earl Scruggs show. I'm pretty geeked about the latter.