On Tuesday, I attended an Information Age conference on Social and Mobile Business, held at the swanky Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Cadogan Place, Knightsbridge, London. [Update (17 February 2012): Peter Swaby’s review of the event, and links to presentations.]
It featured some excellent speakers – I particularly enjoyed Jonathan Brayshaw‘s talk on creating and building a B2B community for Psion, Shomila Malik‘s case study on using Yammer within 02, and SkyDox‘s Robert Fillmore had some interesting things to say about the impact on ICT of Generation Y, mobile devices and collaboration.
I also learned a surprising amount from Paul Johnson who talked about “making pharmaceutical data fun” (yes, really!), and showed how delivering an iPad solution (created by Roambi) had boosted IMS Health (this was topical for me, too, as only last week I looked at some business intelligence tools in the construction sector – post). And Salesforce.com‘s Xabier Ormazabal described how its internal social channel Chatter helped organisations (30% less email, 34% more productivity, 27% fewer meetings, 52% faster information-finding). Some powerful stuff.
… But no buzz
As someone who has attended many social media events (I’ve also organised a fair few too), I went with the not unreasonable – at least to me – expectation that there would be an open and reliable wi-fi connection, an event Twitter hashtag to help track the online buzz about the event, and maybe a few people blogging about the event. But no….
There was a powerful wifi signal (I got four bars on my phone and laptop), but it wasn’t available to either conference delegates or, as I later discovered, to the event organisers, Vitesse Media (the hotel excludes meetings and events from its “complimentary wifi”). And the conference room was situated well back from the front of the hotel, and the deeper into the hotel you ventured, the worse the 3G signal became. I resorted to a T-Mobile 3G dongle, but it registered, at best, one bar, and each tweet took about a minute to upload (and I gave up trying to share photos).
Shomila finished her presentation, which highlighted how hashtags could be used to emphasise internal achievements due to Yammer, by saying she was surprised there was no conference hashtag, and we spoke about it in the lunch interval. Maybe the conference’s target audience – “Senior IT professionals including CIO’s, CTO’s & IT Directors from larger medium and enterprise businesses” (and there were a lot of “suits”, most of them on LinkedIn too) – just weren’t into Twitter? Or maybe the no wifi and poor 3G signal discouraged them? Which was a shame, as I know I struck up some (slow) Twitter conversations with Shomila, Jonathan and Xabier – so at least some attendees took advantage of the network.
Some of my Tweets from the event got replies and retweets, so there was clearly online interest in the event from outside the room. But there was no organised effort to create a “buzz” about the conference – something that could also have helped in marketing future Information Age conferences.
Social Media Week is coming soon (11-15 February), and London will host scores of events with free – and sometimes over-contended – wifi. Most will also show how organisers can engage with online audiences through not just Twitter (I expect a few #hashtag Twitterfalls) but also live blogs (I use CoverItLive often), video-streaming (eg Ustream), photo-sharing, and by encouraging bloggers to write about the event both during and afterwards, maybe with linked content such as videos (YouTube, Vimeo), photos, podcasts, etc. This is the new reality of events in an increasingly social and mobile world, and business conferences should be adapting too.