Reflecting on RIBAforum09

For the second day running, I yesterday visited the London headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects for a social media event. While Monday’s Media140 event (see preceding posts) was thronged with social media-savvy marketing types, the audience at RIBAforum09 (see post) was, I think, altogether more conservative and cautious. The demographic complexion of the two audiences were also very different: on Monday the RIBA auditorium featured numerous faces in their 20s and 30s, while the 70 or so people in the Wren Room yesterday were, shall we say, generally a little more mature.

Audience at RIBAforum09Organiser Clare Sinclair wanted to show RIBA people that social media is relevant to industry professionals working in architecture and construction-related sectors, and I think more than a few in the audience got the message. However, some sceptics clearly remained as you might expect from an audience of professionals characterised by former RIBA vice president Richard Saxon at one point as “deep and inward-looking” and “non-trivial“. We heard presentations by (among others):

  • architecture PR consultant Amanda Reekie – a self-confessed novice in social media, but aware of the need for architectural firms to communicate with clients, journalists and other audiences, Amanda gave a quick overview of some of the social media tools
  • Architects’ Journal editor Kieran Long – admitting that journalists are among the most enthusiastic adopters of Twitter and noting that his publications’ online content will soon be subject to a subscription pay-wall (like Emap sister publication Construction Newssee The future of the construction media post)
  • Barefoot and Gilles practice manager Su Butcher – speaking from her own experience and from examples sourced in her ‘crowd’ about the benefits of blogging, Twitter and other networking tools to architects that engage with others online
  • social media consultant Suw Charman-Anderson – extolling the virtues of RSS feeds to manage incoming information, and pointing out how much money could be saved by people benefiting from the wisdom in their network

RIBAforumpagetrafficAs well as those in the Wren Room, even more took an active interest in the event online. In total 79 people looked at the CoverItLive stream that Clare set up, 113 unique visitors clicked onto the dedicated RIBAforum09 web page (and, underlining that events can help build online communities, six people joined Be2camp), and well over 400 comments were submitted via Twitter – from participants all over the world (including China, Australia and the USA). For me, this was perhaps the best aspect of the event: it demonstrated real-time broadcast and feedback via social media and opened up an event that had previously taken place largely unnoticed behind closed doors.

By the end, we had RIBA members asking why the institute didn’t use more of these tools for more of its meetings, and even asking about video-streaming (which Clare and I had considered for RIBAforum09 but rejected as too radical a step for this first experiment – probably a wise move as the RIBA wifi was still a bit creaky after Monday’s breakdown).

Despite the lack of a complete video or audio record, those unable to attend will still be able to get a good impression of what transpired by reviewing the content (CoverItLive, Twitters, photos and – as I took along my Flip – even some video) shared on the Be2camp RIBAforum09 page, creating a ‘rich and sticky’ archive of reference material.

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