This 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.
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:
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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
Personally 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:
@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!