This last couple of weeks I was lucky enough to:
Speak at the Social Media and Mobile Apps forum, with a Telecom case study; “Social and corporate values – making them play nicely”
Attend The Flying Social Network’s The Social Media Breakfast
Both were fine events, and they made me think about conferences and expectations. If there’s one thing ‘social’ ‘media’ has been good at, it’s creating conferences. And nobody is happy about them, if you read the Twitter commentary. They’re too ‘101’. They’re just an argument about why you should do social media. The presenters just read this shit on Mashable this morning*.
I’m just wondering what people expect. In the information-diarrhoea age we live in, there is no shortage of social media how-tos, gossip, case studies and news on the internet. It’s highly unlikely that a presenter will give birth, live on stage, to a unique information snowflake that will instantly make everything crystal clear and can be readily adapted to make your own SM strategy roar like a some kind of online Harley Davidson.
It’s worth remembering that this stuff is still new to most people, especially if they’re not among the daily-Mashable-reading set. It seemed to me that at the SoMo forum in particular, many of the audience WERE there for a 101. Fair enough, and that’s pretty much what they got for their money.
Over at Air NZ’s event, Wildfire’s Jessica Gilmartin gave a fairly 101 level presentation and the twitter hashtags lit up, railing against the basic level it was pitched at, as well as a lack of local case studies. But when Randi Zuckerburg gave her top ten ‘what’s hot’ tips, which included mobile, gamification and curation, the audience gave her a considerably easier ride than Gilmartin, despite many of the hot tips having been around long enough to cool off somewhat by now. It helped that RZ was generous with the war stories about Facebook’s early days and appeared relaxed, charming and to be thoroughly enjoying herself. She’s a great presenter, so folk were willing to forgive the content, which I dare say you could have largely googled up yourself, saving yourself the early start and $75.
So what about conferences then? Should you bother? Yes, because there’s other actual humans there articulating the problems and solutions they’re working on, both on stage and over shit coffee. There’s a limited pool of both presenters and potential attendees for social media conferences in NZ, so maybe we should just decide if we can take the time to attend, and if we can, STFU and take the day on its merits and enjoy meeting new folk and catching up with old ones. Or maybe I shouldn’t read so much into the Twitter conversation.
*Incidentally, at both these events, at least one presenter advised reading Mashable. One specified ‘every day’.
This is a pretty common theme at any technical conference though, “it wasn’t technical enough” or “I’ve heard/read/seen that before”
It’s a hard balance. If all the presenters went into real meat-axe technical specs, then half the audience would feel stupid/confused or alienated. If you tone it down and keep it really high level, everyone’s see it before, heard of it before etc. You can’t win.
One of the main reason to go to these events is to meet people, to ask questions of those who have done it before, learn from them with a bit of face to face. The presentations are often just an excuse to get a bunch of smart people in a room together.
Also, someone’s usually handing out free beer. That’s why I go.
I steal this analogy from someone else (Vaughn Davis actually) but learning about and working in social media is like taking part in a long endurance race. There’s usually always someone behind you and someone in front of you. To embellish the analogy, everyone is running the race for different reasons. There are ninety million commentators and a finish line that changes everyday. All this makes it virtually impossible to pitch a conference or talk about it. I try and remember this when I go to conference thingees and as you say, enjoy meeting other folks who usually have tips to impart or battle scars to share.
Conferences are the opposite of social media in that they are focussed on broadcast as opposed to interaction.
It’s why Kiwifoo rocks – interaction focussed. I go to one smart card conference a year where the chair runs sessions that are one hour long – 30 mins presentation and 30 mins discussion. And he prompts most of the discussion. There’s no goofing off tweeting the content as you’re keeping up with the discussion.