Firstly I’d like to say thank you to everyone (some of whom I met today) who retweeted, liked and commented on yesterdays post. I’d also like to extend a special hello to Shirley Ayres, CEO of Aspire Knowledge and Conference Organiser, who caught me before I left today to exchange a few words*
So, day 2. Another sweaty trip to Waterloo, although I’m pretty sure I only lost a pint this time, and pleasant walk along the South Bank. No navigation issues today, but I was disappointed to have missed the bacon butties due to my inability to catch the early train.
I made my way to the tea and coffee room for some pre-conference fuel and was immediately pounced upon by the lovely Tamasine from the National Trust, who, unfortunately for her, was to become my sounding board throughout the entire day. We discussed yesterday’s sessions and our thoughts on social media generally as we made our way to today’s Welcome Address.
Once again, Shirley expertly opened today’s conference before handing over to Caroline Diehl MBE, Chief Executive of the Media Trust.
In stark contrast to Jon Snow’s blunt, journalistic approach, Caroline was extremely enthusiastic about everything. At times, perhaps, bordering on the sycophantic. But she ably moved the discussions along interspersing thoughts of her own.
Today’s keynote address was given by Bill Liao, Co-Founder of Xing. Once again I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by Bill’s presentation. There were certainly some nuggets of useful information buried within it, but, and I know this is going to sound a little counter-intuitive, the whole talk felt too polished. I never felt that I managed to connect with Bill at any point and was left feeling that a couple of pints with Bill down the local tavern would have provided A LOT more.
Up next was Sarah Dyer, Director of New Media at Beatbullying, with a… Dum Dum Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuum… case study. Now if you read yesterday’s post you’ll already know how I feel about case studies and this one didn’t change those feelings. What Beatbullying are doing online is awesome, but these lacklustre slides didn’t convey that, or provide us with any useful take-aways. Now there’s nothing wrong with not being able to provide useful tips. In these super-connected times it’s almost impossible, so to counter that I believe your presentation has to convey the human stories behind what you were trying to achieve so that the viewers can leave inspired and revved up to take some action of their own.
This leads me very nicely onto the next speaker, Justine Roberts, Co-Founder and CEO of Mumsnet. Similarly to Sarah’s presentation, there was very little that the well informed digital native could learn from this, but there was a plethora of human stories to be shared. These stories and Justine’s obvious (and honest) enthusiasm gave the audience a much needed lift and I could genuinely feel the energy in the room, the true mark of a great speaker.
As with all the presentations so far today, there was little if any time left over for questions from the audience. Considering the main topic of this conference was conversation, there just wasn’t enough priority given to this vital ingredient.
A quick wee, tea and biscuit followed up by a catch up with a delegate I met yesterday, brought us to what I thought was the weakest session of the day. I hate being negative, and will try my hardest to find the positive in any situation, but Lawrence Clarke , Head of Consultancy at SiftGroups, presentation felt like a school lecture or corporate pitch and (for me anyway) sucked all of the energy out of the room.
Another panel discussion once again managed to provide vague and general answers to the audience questions, but for two individuals. Seemingly freed from the restraints of his formulaic presentation Bill Liao shined, providing honest and inspirational responses to the listeners. However, top marks and a gold star has to go to Tom Latchford, CEO and Co-Founder of Raising IT. I have had the privilege of seeing Tom speak at length and his passion and enthusiasm for social media and the third sector positively explodes out of him. Definitely a person to talk to further if you have any interest in making this whole social thing work for you, and before you ask… NO, I am not on the payroll or had any previous dealings with Tom or his company, I just love to give credit where credit is due.
Lunch. A very pleasing chicken in white sauce followed by cheese and biscuits standing at the bar. More seats next time please, it’s not good for my digestion 🙂
I spent my afternoon in the same seminar room following the Online Content stream and the first session on the power of the blog was a superbly upbeat affair filled with audience participation and some excellent learnings for those in the audience who were not familiar with blogging. Matt Haworth, Digital Producer at Reason Digital, was an enthusiastic presenter with a genuinely visible passion for the medium of blogging.
Due to the absence of Vikki Chowney, Lee Smallwood took over the reigns of the Online Reputation seminar and provided those in the room with a comedic, slap in the face wake-up call about the dangers involved when you’re posting to the world. There were some good general tips on monitoring and a nice overview of the various laws involved.
So far the afternoon had been a hit, but instead of ‘third time lucky’, it was a case of ‘two out of three ain’t bad’.
We were excitedly informed by the chair that the last session of the day was fully subscribed and it wasn’t difficult to see why. Billed as ‘How to use evidence-based psychological techniques to effectively communicate with, and influence, your online audience’, the session promised to let us in to how the big brands use the power of psychology in their web design and how our organisations can apply successful psychological techniques, whatever the size or budget. Compelling stuff.
What I was expecting was a serious exploration of the psychology of human behaviour punctuated with juicy morsels of underhanded techniques for converting your website visitor. Unfortunately what followed was a rather basic ‘Web Design 101’ containing screenshots of the homepages of most of the larger charities who were likely to have representatives at the conference, myself included. As a veteran online designer I realise that I am privy to a whole lot of information that your average fundraiser, pr person or even CEO isn’t, but this was really beginners stuff and I would be ASTOUNDED if anyone in the audience hadn’t already considered the majority of it.
It was a real shame that the conference had to end on this downer, but overall I would say that it was a success. As I said briefly yesterday, I’ve been to many socmed charity gatherings in basements and back rooms and this one felt grown up and lent an air of professionalism to the socmed conference scene for the third sector. I met some great people. I, hopefully, made some new friends. I ate some good food and, most importantly, I had two days out of the office 🙂
As usual, everything that I say above is my own personal opinion and I would be delighted to be shown how wrong I am through the prolific use of the comments section below. Here’s to next year!
P.S. Should you require a speaker for your social media event, I am available to speak and promise to do my absolute best to provide a useful and engaging presentation. Either that or a selection of humorous photos designed to deflect attention from the imponderous content.
*Shirley was very appreciative of my thoughts on Day 1 and thanked me for taking the time to write them down. I felt that she genuinely wanted to create worthwhile and informative conferences and I wish her all the best for the future.