Learning Re-Imagined

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Social Learning Through Industry Conferences: 5 Lessons From a Recent Gartner Event

By John J. Ambrose

I recently attended Gartner’s annual Content,
Collaboration and Portals
 Summit in Baltimore, MD.  As with any
event that I attend, I value these opportunities to hear from experts and talk
with peers as a form of
social learning.

 

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate the conference a
4.3.  There was definitely some great content and research shared along
with many interesting hallway conversations with IT leaders from an
amazing array of organizations, both commercial and government. 

The BIG BUZZ was “everything 2.0”!  Enterprise 2.0
evangelist and principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital
Business,
Andrew McAfee, delivered
a killer keynote.  There was plenty of weighty discussion in session after
session about the Cloud and the enterprise implications of Facebook,
Twitter, YouTube, Google, Sharepoint, etc. and other collaborative
technologies.  Plus there was lots of pom-pom waving by the various
speakers about how important these
social learning technologies
are to the world.

But what struck me on the drive out of Baltimore was how
much irony the event offered.  Gartner, one of the most prestigious
research firms in the IT space, was talking the talk …. but, were they
helping us walk the walk? 

Here’s my list of Top 5 ironies regarding
Gartner’s conference from a social learning perspective:

1) Pre-Conference Hash Tag.  There wasn’t
one.  Ok, the Twitterati will figure one out, but big missed
opportunity. Think of the excitement Gartner could have stoked by publicizing a
#hashtag in advance and inviting analysts to tweet on some of
the themes before we arrived.  (And after we’re gone!)  By the
way, there’s great conversation here:
#gartnerpcc. (Note:
Gartner claims there was one, but it wasn’t well communicated.  They admit
they should have been more active pre-event.)

2)  Power Strips. If we know one thing
about World 2.0, it’s that it consumes a heck of a lot of old-fashioned
power.  Just look at Google with its largest-on-the-planet data
centers.  So, if you are going to encourage an army of 800 to tweet
at the conference, don’t stick them in large ballrooms with absolutely no power
strips. Kudos to
Tim
O’Reilly
, who always has gaggles of heavy
duty power strips
 in the meeting rooms at his conferences. There
is nothing worse than an interesting speaker, many tweetable
moments, and a battery with 8% power remaining. 

3) Attendee List.  Seriously, Gartner, you can
do better than a 10-page handout consisting simply of the names
and company of attendees with no other contact info. If we are living
in a social world and hanging out at a serious social conference, why are
all attendees not invited to participate in a private social network tailored
for conferences?  Something like 
IntroNetworks where attendees could
opt-in, upload a picture, discuss their interests plus locate and
connect. Or, you could have one of the several “Community 2.0
sponsors host an instance for the participants to
leverage during the conference. 

4)  Question and Answers. This was a
real throw-back. At the end of sessions, staff holding large white placards
with a giant question mark on them walked slowly around the room
encouraging participants to donate a question on a piece of
paper.  Excuse me, but the average number of web devices carried per
person at this conference was about 3.6.  Everyone had the means to submit
questions digitally. Socially.  So why did we have to make those nice
ladies waltz through the crowd?

5) Interactivity.  This is a corollary to
#4.  Presenters waxed on about how cool this new media is. Why not
show it? It would have been simple to have a second projection system
displaying the live tweet stream during the main ballroom presentations.
Let’s assume there is some
wisdom
in the crowds
…. and leverage it.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the event.  If any of my
Gartner friends are reading this, please consider this as
positive, constructive feedback.  I truly believe the event
would have been greatly enriched as a learning opportunity by embracing
the power of the social phenomenon we spent three days analyzing and
discussing, hopefully for next year (i.e. @Summit 2.0).

Did you attend the Summit? What did you think of the conference?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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