Posts Tagged ‘BlogWorld


BlogWorld Recap

I wanted to stew a bit over my impressions of BlogWorld in Las Vegas this last week. My experience, as it related to the conference itself, was both good and bad. I thought I’d feel more definitive on the subject, but in some ways, I’m neutral towards the event as a whole.

The organization was great. Registration was easy, signage was plentiful, and the staff helpful. Seminar rooms were set up with tables and chairs, most useful for the hordes traveling with laptops. In all, a very well-run event on the physical side of things.

For me, the real issue was the lack of soul in many of the seminars I attended. I can’t diagnose the exact reason, but a few contributing factors might include single person seminars or a seeming lack of collaboration (again, based on my experience) amongst the panel members. I don’t know for sure what role either of these possibilities played, but something was missing. To compensate, I spent less time in the seminars, particularly on the last day, and more time talking with people I’d met throughout the week.

The first time you do anything, especially putting on an event, you expend a great deal of effort working out the snags of actually doing the thing in real time. My hope for next year’s BlogWorld is that since the structure part went so well this year, they’ll spend more time on the soul part. For instance, the distraction of wondering why advertised speakers didn’t attend raises question in my mind about how well objectives and other details were communicated to speakers. I don’t believe the success or failure of BlogWorld rests on any one speaker or organizer, but if the two sides aren’t talking…

My suggestions for adding a little soul to the event are pretty easy:

1. Less is more. The number of tracks as BlogWorld was amazing, but I’m not sure that the attendee numbers justify splitting the group into so many small parts. As the conference grows, adjustments can be made and more tracks added. At last count, I think there were five or six. I never heard the total number of attendees, but I’d be surprised if it was more that 1,500. Given those numbers, I suspect 3-4 tracks would be more than enough for now.

With multiple options to choose from, equally interesting seminars competed against each other, dividing audiences. Tightening up the options would help improve the overall success of the scheduled seminars. For instance, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was one of NINE attendees to a great presentation by Shel Israel and Mike Prosceno. Granted, this presentation was on the first day of the Executive- and Entrepreneur-only portion of the conference, but only nine people? Why this happened is also tied into my number two suggestion.

2. Descriptions matter. My biggest disappointment was attending a seminar only to learn that it was either more basic than I wanted or less focused that I desired. The lack of descriptions for each of the seminars meant that attendees could only make a decision to attend based on the seminar title and the listed speakers.

As I mentioned earlier, I suspect the reason so few attended Shel and Mike’s presentation had to do with a lack of knowledge. The title itself was non-descriptive (SAP Global Survey) and only one speaker name was readily identifiable to this particular group. I believe a description of the topic to be discussed would have made a huge difference in the attendance. A lack of descriptors also made it difficult to chose between similar-sounding seminar titles. I’m positive I overlooked more relevant seminars because of this.

3. You have an exhibit hall for a reason. I felt incredibly bad for the exhibitors scheduled to present on the stage in the expo hall. I believe few attendees knew that presentations were being given or even when to attend (see suggestion #1). The timing of these presentations also made it difficult to round up a potential audience among the attendees because they usually happened during other scheduled seminars located away from the expo area.

Ultimately, this conferences comes down to a question of whether its organizers can see value in the overall concept of doing less and being more focused. My initial excitement that such a conference exists remains, and I know that many people had a great time. However, the urge to attend next year will be tempered by whether some of these improvements happen between now and then, giving this conference a chance to earn a place in the industry.

My thanks to the brains and muscle behind BlogWorld for attempting to pull together so many diverse people in one place at one event. I’m hoping it’s even more successful next year.



Conferences as Conversations

Normally, when I attend a conference I try to blog about the different sessions I attend. However, I must admit that my attendance at BlogWorld in Las Vegas, and thus any related posts, has been spotty. I blame this fact on all the great people I’ve met who’ve made me forget the time, resulting in a skipped seminar. However, Las Vegas itself is a crazy town for conferences.

So much of Vegas is wasted on me, but I’m also amazed that conference organizers are anxious to compete with Vegas for the attention of attendees. This train of thought made me start thinking about conferences in general. Why do we attend conferences, workshops, seminars, training etc.? I suspect we want to believe that we’ll learn something, but I think a bigger part of it is the desire to be around people like ourselves, or at least people who understand what we do.

Over the last two days, I’ve had amazing conversations with Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jason Van Orden, and Adam Weiss, to name a few. Their passion for what they do and their obvious talent is so inspiring and a difficult experience to duplicate in a group setting similar to what one finds in a conference panel or seminar. These individuals plant seeds for what’s possible and share perspectives that I’d never come across in a regular day. For example, Adam, a director at LinkShare, very patiently explained the potential value of the company in a totally non-sales, informative way. I may never use LinkShare, but I’ll always be immensely happy that I met Adam and feel I received something valuable from our conversation.

Jane Austen, one of my all-time favorite authors (predictable, perhaps), captured for me how I feel about conversation and people:

My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company. (link)

Luckily, this world I’ve joined has many “clever, well-informed people.” Now, going back to the question about why we attend conferences, I wonder if conference is more accurately a codeword for conversations. Humans have gotten together in groups to exchange ideas for centuries. I’m disinclined to believe that we come together to sit in little rooms and stare at a speaker in silence. We’re coming together to exchange ideas. That’s why this idea of social media and building networks has so much power—it increases the potential to have those all-powerful conversations. You can sign me up any day for more good conversation.



BlogWorld—SAP Global Survey—Shel Israel and Mike Prosceno

Yesterday, the best seminar I attended at BlogWorld was the SAP Global Survey presented by Shel Israel and Mike Prosceno. I was shocked when it became clear that only nine people were sitting in a room with space for at least 50. I partially blame the lack of attendees on the lack of a descriptor about the seminar subject in the conference materials.

A little of the back story…SAP’s Mike Prosceno contacted Shel to conduct a series of interviews around the world, getting a feel for where social media is headed. If I remember right, Shel’s conducted roughly 50 interviews and submitted a preliminary report to SAP. From those interviews, Shel shared the following lessons:

  1. I’m not in control
  2. Kid’s stuff. That’s the compelling reason to adopt.
  3. Social Networks is the killer app. Everywhere.
  4. Takes something we just used to do in the coffee house and do it with people that we only meet with in virtual places.
  5. Measurement is not yet adequate. But progress is being made.
  6. The Long Trails of geek-to-enterprise is getting shorter. Kids may overtake the geeks anyhow.
  7. The world is not yet flat, but it’s getting hillier. Closing chasms.
  8. Cultue matters in countries & companies

When asked why SAP was engaging in this type of work, Mike responded that a large company is like a super tanker in open seas—it takes a lot of time to slow and make course corrections and the data is needed to help guide SAP’s future strategy. The results also have an HR implication for companies like SAP. Shel pointed out that the upcoming generation of workers grew up in a world where the Internet always existed, it’s native to their gene pools. And they’re like Teflon when it comes to traditional marketing campaigns. If all goes well, Shel will continue to conduct interviews to increase the reliability and depth of his findings.

The most intriguing portion of this seminar was the discussion around what’s happening in China and how Twitter has taken off because the government hasn’t figured out how to filter it. My attention was caught due to Yahoo’s recent appearance and testimony in D.C. on the role they played in providing user information to the Chinese government that was then used to arrest and imprison a reporter. The language used to defend their actions was definitely geared towards CYA:

The Yahoo executive said then that the company “had no information about the nature of the investigation” when it received a demand for Shi’s e-mail records from China’s State Security Ministry. In fact, the demand specifically said the information was for “a case of suspected illegal provision of state secrets,” a charge frequently made against dissidents. When Yahoo executives took note of the language, they did not alert U.S. lawmakers to correct the record…Callahan attributed misinformation he supplied to a misunderstanding. “At the time of my testimony in 2006, it was my understanding that the Shi Tao demand contained no information regarding the specific details of the investigation,” Callahan said in a prepared statement. “I now know that the demand did contain additional information.”

As social media and technology spread around the world, companies will be faced with a similar issue—how does one engage with a foreign government and what protection is owed to its users? The SAP survey highlights what I believe is becoming a more common conversation: how will the world (and its governments) respond to creating a coffee house meeting in the virtual world and sharing conversations over the web instead of over the fence? For all the potential, it’s clear that other issues must be addressed and work like Shel’s is vital to discovering what must come  next.

I wish more people had been there. Hopefully, you’ll take the time to visit Shel’s site and follow his efforts.


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