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“Hey – Didn’t you know it’s not rude to tweet whilst someone talks to you?!” or “How to incorporate user generated content to the conference format”

12 05 2009

ny-for-cc-course-announcementThis last week I had the pleasure to attend the World Innovation Forum held in NYC’s Nokia Theatre.  Although the conference was well stocked with top class speakers,  it wasn’t their content and inspiring speeches that really made the conference noteworthy to me – but rather the attendees – or more specifically, a sub section of the attendees and the conversations that were ongoing throughout the speeches.  You see – what made this conference unique, at least to me, is that it was the first conference I’ve been to which has explicitly encouraged and exploited the work of social media mavens during the conference itself.

Imagine the scene then – as you walk into a classic theatre type settings – only with two balconies either side marked explicitly for pre-registered bloggers and twitterers ( or should that be “twittees”? :p )  looking not a million miles away from a press box at a sports game.1121734099_8067

Once up there, the dedicated space had everything you needed to cover the event live – including plenty of power outlets for laptops, and several dedicated wireless signals to ensure plenty of bandwidth.  Outside the conference, several large elongated screens displayed a constantly updated feed showing all the entries in the Twitter-sphere which had been marked with the pre-agreed “#wif09” tag – allowing non-twitters and other mere mortals outside a voyeur-esque view into ongoing virtual conversation.  The effect was quite startling with a large amount of content being exchanged in real time during the various speaker’s speeches.

Now, I’ve been playing with Twitter for some time now, albeit with limited ideas of how useful/applicable it was to the business world…until now. Watching and observing the interactions between the people in the room was a revelation, and you could quite clearly distinguish between several different participatory styles/roles of Twitterers:

Minute-Man-lg

1)   The Minuteman – The Minuteman would primarily be taking notes of the speaker’s talk – including any noteworthy quotes, points, and stats that they might mention. The end effect was to enable people not physically at the conference to follow along, and judging by the response rate, there were several people who were indeed “watching” the conference live in this manner. Personally I also found this role increasingly useful to me – as the rate of information exchange increased, I found it increasingly hard to pay attention to both the conversations taking place online in addition to the material the speaker was sharing. A quick glance along the various minuteman entries gave me an easy way to catch up on what the speaker had been saying whilst I was debating his previous point with other participants online.

librarian_google_tee_opt2)   The Librarian – The librarian role would primarily be adding supporting material and/or other referenced material from the speaker.  Maybe it would be a link to a video shown on screen, or a to a report referenced, or to a list of articles recently authored by the speaker – the end result was a steady flow of material enhancing the content being shared by the speaker that greatly added to the value of the speaker’s talk.

31debate.xlarge33)    The Debater – Focusing more on comments, opinions, and shared viewpoints – the debater added unstructured and less formal contributions, essentially contributing a discussion flow that allowed people to openly support/refute arguments made by the speakers in real time as well as provide a more interactive community experience to the group.

The end effect of these three roles was to provide an enhanced experience for both the conference participant, as well as for the remote non-participant – and to further network and connect a group of people interested in the same topics.

6a00d8345224a669e200e54f5780a78833-800wiPersonally I can’t see why all conferences in the future shouldn’t be organized in a similar vein, and I have to take my hat off to HSM Americas, the conference organizer, for taking on such an innovative approach to an Innovation conference. Bearing in mind the buzz created by the invited bloggers to this event, it’s sure to increase interest in attendance next year, and thus benefit them in the long term. The whole effort was also sponsored by Pitney Bowes who definitely got some very positive buzz and attention out of the effort – so well done to them too for a very open minded and innovative approach to attention marketing.

If you haven’t already, make sure to do a twitter search on the #wif09 tag and read through the contributions. One of my blogging colleagues at the event, Stefan Lindegaard was talking about the changing nature of the conference market in an increasingly digital, global, and economically challenged world. I don’t know about whether or not some of his ideas around the death of the conference industry will ever play out – but by adding value enhancing innovations like this, the conference industry certainly seems to me to be prolonging its lifespan substantially.

For those of you interested in following some of the participants in the #wif09 event – here’s the partial list I have of active Twitterers at the event:

6a00e5540e11a7883401156f7bb757970c@AndreaMeyer @YourBoot @HelenWalters @georgelevy @Jeffhurt @FHInnovation @dixitboy @innovate @chrisflanagan @ReneeCallahan @katiekonrath @stu @stevetodd @ssusman @bhc3 @twinnovator @ctcoco @pinnovation @PBConnect @wearewhatif @vidales @wrighth1 @hsmamericas @lindegaard  @donpeppers  @Pauldunay  @dominicbasulto @LeftTheBox @Stu   and of course, if you’re not already following me on @bpluskowski, shame on you :p

If I’ve accidentally missed your name out please add it to the comment section below) many have since put up blog posts on the event too and are definitely worth looking at in more detail!

Do you agree with these viewpoints? Have something you can add to improve them? As always, would love to hear from you!

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10 responses

13 05 2009
Andrea Meyer

Great delineation of Twitterer roles, Boris! I hadn’t thought about that, but those roles are spot-on. I also hadn’t realized that the tweets were streamed outside the conference – but now that you mention it, it explains the Twitter logo I saw on the screen when entering the Nokia Theatre.

Thank you for sharing your views and value-added insights. I think you’re right about conference live-tweeting becoming a trend: After the conference, I heard from one meeting planner who plans to use this idea for future conferences.

13 05 2009
JeffHurt

Wow Boris, great commentary and reflection of the event. You listed me @JeffHurt as an active tweep tweeting and I was actually a virtual participant. At that time, I was following @pinnovation and noticed his tweets with the #wif09 hashtag so I decided to check it out through TweetChat. The content pulled me right in and before I knew it, I had changed my schedule so I could participate in this event. Then my tweets with the hashtag extended the content reach to my followers, who started attending as well. Some only quietly, just observing and listening.

My learning and experience was completely dependent upon you the bloggers and Tweeps sending out tweets. As a virtual attendee, my experience would have suffered if each of the three Tweep conference roles that you described had not been present and active. It felt like I was participating in a live news team roundtable discussion as the event occurred with the ability to ask questions, voice my opinions and listen. The speakers’ content, bloggers posts and tweets challenged my mind and thinking.

I’ve attended several conferences as a virtual attendee and think we’ll continue to see these concepts integrated into more events and conferences in the future. It’s a great way to extend the learning and reach of the conference before, during and after event.

13 05 2009
Julie Lenzer Kirk

Thanks for this, Boris. Great distillation!

I would also add “color commentary” as I really enjoyed doing that. Could be combined with the debater, though.

13 05 2009
Boris Pluskowski

Thanks for the comments so far everyone!

Jeff – apologies if there was confusion, knew you were remote for this one – but as I found your comments and questions quite useful, it ‘felt’ like you were an active participant in some format…maybe I should add a fourth role for “The Remote Participant” 🙂

13 05 2009
Boris Pluskowski

Andrea – likewise regarding that feedback from conference planners – including from a good source that World Business Forum might have this integrated too (you heard it here first folks :p ). Interestingly was speaking to a friend of mine here in London today who told me she had a very negative experience watching a tweet streamed conference from Spain on e-business. Could it be that the various roles described above were not adequately fulfilled? If you have only debaters, would there be no content? If you have only Minutemen would there be no “personality” to the conference? If you had only Librarians would there no context?

This certainly brings in implications that for conference organizers to have a successful “broadcast conference” you’d have to make sure you actively invite a broad spectrum of bloggers/twitterers to cover it in order to ensure a good balance of contributions…

19 05 2009
Midcourse Corrections » Blog Archive » Eight Ways To Make Your Meeting Or Event Blog And Twitter Friendly

[…] I was very impressed with the quality of content and the insight of the planners for WIF09. Blogger Boris Pluskowski described the Blogger Hub like […]

22 05 2009
Braden Kelley

Great article Boris. I definitely shifted amongst all of the roles, and one other one not listed (troublemaker). 😉

I feel that because the BloggersHub was organized and that we were mostly together we were able to deliver a better experience to followers distributed around the globe, than a group of random conference attendees. Our hive mentality and self-organization after duplicating the same tweets for the first hour I believe definitely enhanced the experience for those not fortunate enough to be in New York for the event.

Plus I had a chance to try and make you laugh. 😉

Braden (@innovate on Twitter)

5 10 2009
The Blogger’s Hub Mark II – The World Business Forum 09 and Social Media Innovation « The Complete Innovator

[…] readers will remember a piece I wrote about the Blogger’s Hub at the World Innovation Forum – also run by HSM – where they first tried out the concept.  Inviting a core group of […]

5 10 2010
Deb Mills-Scofield.

great insights…the 3 types of tweeters is an interesting and accurate way to view the “content” and i found bif-6 so much more valuable because of the running commentary, questions, additional links…and your smiling face a few folks down 🙂 seriously, this adds a wonderful dimension to conferences and is a very helpful way to follow conferences i can’t attend.

thank you for this analysis and segmentation!

13 02 2012
Piados, blogs e links | Planeta em Perigo

[…] O blogueiro Boris Pluskowski – The Complete Innovator – postou um link curioso  a respeito do hub, dos blogs e tweets – e de como eles representam […]

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