I’ve been seeing a pattern for a while and some recent tidbits that I’ve stumbled across confirm my suspicions. Social media has changed the way we WANT to consume product/company/event information–from long diatribes about a company’s product to short and sweet bursts of flavorful info that spark an idea.
Twitter is the prime example. Natch! But there’s more and more coming from the face-to-face meeting world that points in the same direction. Here’s what I’m talking about…
Look at the TED Conference. Some of the most brilliant minds in the universe gather to deliver ideas that they are passionate about to an audience that has paid $2,000 to $6,000 to attend in person (less if you want to attend virtually). Speakers are allowed only 18 minutes each to present an idea that they believe will change the world.
Then you have Pecha Kucha Nights. Local groups all over the world that get together to listen to local artists, professionals and “ordinary” citizens give a PowerPoint presentation for 6 minutes and 40 seconds (20 slides x 20 seconds each) on topics they are passionate about. In Christchurch, New Zealand folks talked about guerilla gardening, the brain of a kiwi and “Hamster Squaredance” (not sure I want to go there).
Last year I attended the Global Events Partners Global Summit, a private event held by the company for it’s sales executives and clients. One day they presented a Destination Showcase involving 20-some of their partners/offices. Speakers from destinations that GEP represents walked onto a stage for 3 minutes each while a PowerPoint flashed a couple of slides behind them. There were no pauses between the speakers or the slides and as one presenter walked off, the next person in line walked on in this continuous flow of talk, jokes and even songs.
As I was checking out the run down for our monthly Salt Lake Social Media Club meeting, I noticed that it will be a joint meeting with group called Ignite Salt Lake. It sounds like a Pecha Kucha meets TED opportunity for local folks with ideas of all kinds to talk about their passions.
I realized how valuable the contribution of people’s seemingly disparate ideas are to my own thought processes at a session titled “An Industry in Transition” during the MPI World Education Conference a few weeks ago. Presenters Fiona Pelham of Organise This and Elizabeth Henderson of MPI presented a framework for problem-solving around the subject of creating a more sustainable meetings and exhibitions industry.
Toward the end of the session, Pelham posed the question to the group of 30 or so attendees, “What kinds of skills can you exchange with someone else to accelerate the learning process?” Audience members quickly threw out a number of skills including writing in British English, riding a motorcycle, becoming a locavore (slow cooking), canning (for consumption of food during the meeting) graphic design, participating in the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) program, calculating a renewable energy mix, and wine making. I walked away thinking about how to cram all of these “skills” into the mind box I created for myself called “how do these ideas help to make meetings more sustainable?” I also wanted to figure out how to re-connect with Fiona and Elizabeth.
So not only do we like to talk in short, truncated sentences on Twitter or the Facebook wall, we like to consume information in the same way. We don’t really like to be sold to (hence the popularity of the DVR and Tivo) but we love new ideas and would likely buy from someone that has a good un-related (to their product or service) idea just because we find him or her interesting.
Here’s the takeaway: Social media is teaching us the value of short, rich and succulent ideas. In the context of conference content, besides being brief, the content has to be thought-provoking and perhaps only somewhat related to the industry or the product of the presenters. Most definitely, overt product pitches are so 2006. But since, as TED espouses, all knowledge is related, there is some value in exploring ways to present great ideas about a wide variety of subjects and leave it to the audience to connect the dots about how it can apply to them, their companies, their jobs and their lives.