Now that I can peek out from under the pile of work to be tended to in yet another post-conference period, I can fully reflect on my experience in California last week.
Jen McClure and the team at the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), who ran the New Communications Forum in Santa Rosa, did a wonderful job. In particular, Jen was everywhere, making sure we were all busy, happy and well fed (including this picnic lunch in the garden). Thank you, SNCR!
I can only imagine the difficulty in trying to come up with a program to satisfy everyone, especially when the crowd represents a mixed bag of seasoned social-media pros who are familiar with all the shiny toys, and newbies who aren’t blogging, haven’t heard of Twitter, don’t know how to download a podcast, and aren’t yet monitoring their presence on the Internet.
Phil Gomes, one of the people I finally met in person (along with his lovely wife Leticia), wrote an interesting post about NewComms Forum attendees not seeing the doughnut for the hole: ignoring big-picture issues (like net neutrality) in favour of tactical stuff like the social media news release. Phil is a very smart guy, and I see his point. But let me look at this from another perspective. I too am keenly interested in the issue of net neutrality, and try to keep up to date on its developments in my online and mainstream reading. But I didn’t fly across the continent to learn about net neutrality.
Someone like me, a small-business owner who has to plan for a month to get away from the office (and home!) for a full work week (including two days of travel), wants to come away from a conference with information I can use – not necessarily immediately, but soon. Agency types who have to justify the expense of a conference may be in the same boat. A session like Shel Holtz’s, on “Employees are the Brand,” was perfect in my view, because Shel presented a trend and then backed it up with solid examples. And then there was the panel with Mike Manuel, Jeff Rubenstein and Patrick Seybold, on “An Inside Look at Bringing the Sony PlayStation Blog to Life.” Again, a well-executed talk that was presented as a case study. Great stuff. Ditto Francois Gossieaux’s session on “How to Measure Progress and Success in Business Communities.” A little more esoteric than the others I mentioned, but interesting and valuable.
Attendees like me, who came away from some sessions scratching their heads, might have been confused by the names of the sessions listed in the program. If I’d known that “Using Social Networks to Build Your Professional and Personal Brand” was actually “LinkedIn 101,” I would have skipped it. Perhaps we need longer blurbs to explain what the sessions are about, to help us choose from among five tracks. Overall, there was a lot of excellent content, but it was hard to decide where to go at any given hour.
Everyone talks about the real-life networking at these events. And it’s true. I loved catching up with people I’ve schmoozed with before, and meeting the faces I only know online, like Kami Watson Huyse, Jim Long, Joseph Jaffe, and, at long last, “Professor” Sallie Goetsch, someone I’ve been acquainted with online for about three years (pictured in her Podcast Asylum coat). I won’t name the other people I was delighted to meet, because I know I’ll leave someone out.
Others more erudite than I have reported on the conference. If you’re a conference organizer, I’d love to hear your take on designing sessions to meet broad audiences, and on writing program copy.