Editor’s note: Noah Garrett is the former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association who now owns and operates NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

Participate in the Exchange. Send ideas and feedback to: noah@thinkngc.com

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.– Anyone who has ever been involved in putting on a conference knows that it is important to take a moment to reflect on what happened at the event – the rights, the wrongs, the oversights, the goofs and the mix-ups. The goal is to put on a better event next time. With that in mind, as a veteran conference attendee and organizer, I offer up some words of praise as well as critiques for this week’s Internet Summit in Chapel Hill.

There always will be room for improvement in whatever you do. Overall, event organizers from TechJournal South and its partners Southern Capitol Ventures and the Council for Entrepreneurial Development did a tremendous job with the execution and delivery of a sold-out event in its first year. Going a step further, here’s a more in-depth breakdown of the highs and lows from the day.

PLUS: Optimism

The attitude was refreshing. Despite a deflated economy, it was nice to be a part of a positive atmosphere where the overwhelming majority considers the Internet to remain a profitable platform.

MINUS: Caution

The technology community is known for disruptive discussions and innovative ideas. Surprisingly, many things discussed throughout the day have already been heard many times before, some jargon even a bit old school. Usually the shock and awe at events like this – especially on discussions around the Web – are much higher. Our current economic status probably caused this sense of tentativeness, but there is certainly many things happening online now that could have sparked some more timely discussions.

PLUS: Attendance

The event sold out in its first year, even with a soft economy. More than 650 business leaders, investors and technology entrepreneurs packed the Friday Center. Definitely a positive!

MINUS: Separation

The conference was segregated into two main auditoriums with sponsorship vendors and active networking opportunities in the hallways between the two. At one point I wanted to attend the blogging discussion, but couldn’t because the software-as-a-service discussion was happening at the same time. I was forced to choose between the two, which was unfortunate.

PLUS: Keynote participants

The Summit had a phenomenal lineup of panelists and presenters. The vast knowledge and experience made available for public consumption was definitely a highlight.

MINUS: The Topics

The Summit covered just about every aspect of the Internet today. There was high value on discussions ranging from the venture outlook and technology law, to SaaS and marketing in a 2.0 world. However, the agenda missed some topics. Personally, with so much talk being made about the importance of content, I would have liked to have seen a panel focused on writing for the Web. And, although there were several experts in Search Engine Optimization on panels, I would have preferred to have attended a discussion totally focused on SEO. Lastly, one of the critical components to the Internet is having a Web site. It would have been nice to have seen a portion dedicated strictly to the latest and greatest trends in Web site development and/or choosing the right content management system. These are just a few ideas for next year.

PLUS: SaaS Discussion

In a packed-to-capacity room, the SaaS panel provoked some dynamic conversations as many see the delivery model in this space as a critical component for developers to survive in our current economic downturn. The topic is really hot and the panelists involved on Wednesday were outstanding.

MINUS: Marketing 2.0 Discussion

Despite the moderator accepting audience questions via Twitter, the overall discussion really was disappointing. I’m no expert by any means, but some of the information being discussed was really dated and lacking in structure. The caliber of panelists was phenomenal, but the information was just a bit unorganized. Funny, even with the Twitter thing, it was like the discussion was more on the stage with the panelists instead of with everyone in the auditorium – thus the irony of the 2.0 title.

PLUS: Delicious Lunch

The vegetable lasagna, steam vegetables and crisp salad were excellent in providing the necessary fuel midway through the event. To top it off, the chocolate raspberry cake was the perfect end to the meal.

MINUS: Long Line and Seating

I waited and smelled the food for almost 20 minutes. Fortunately, waiting in line allowed for active networking with my fellow starving attendees. However, after 10 minutes of introductions and small talk, there wasn’t much else to talk about, creating an uncomfortable scenario for everyone. Then, after finally getting some food, there wasn’t enough seating for everyone and I also had to go on a dining room adventure to find a clean fork. Oh well, the food was great when I finally sat down.

In general, this was a great event. It would be difficult to give a high mark on something like this in its first year, so giving it a "B" seems more responsible. I do look forward to attending next year’s event and to see how the conversations that began in 2008 evolve a year from now. It should be interesting.