Posted by David Hablewitz
On May 19, the 140 Characters Conference was hosted in Vancouver, WA. The focus of this conference was on social media and how it fits into business. The format is unique and in my opinion, brilliant. Rather than having a bunch of breakout sessions and hour-long speeches saturated with hundreds of Powerpoint slides, the audience was kept in one venue and blasted with short 10-minute presentations in rapid-fire succession. Time was managed with great precision. Due to the short time permitted for each speaker, their presentations were distilled down to the essence of just a few points. No fluff, no boredom. Just intense content. If a topic came up that wasn’t interesting to you, that’s OK because you knew it wouldn’t last long. The short presentations also allowed for nearly 70 speakers to have their voice heard in just one day. Coincidentally, this closely followed the format used in Toastmasters. Surprising it took this long to get implemented outside of Toastmasters. I expect we will see a lot more of it in the future. I would like to see a separate track added to Lotusphere that followed this format. It would be a great venue for rising talent with low risk and I think a better format than Speed Geek.
Here is a short video by Jeff Pulver, responsible for 140 Characters Conferences:
There was an additional dimension to this conference: Twitter. This made the conference truly interactive. Some thought it distracted from the presentation, but I think it added to the experience. (In fact, it’s exactly what my speech was about.) The best points of a presentation were often immediately tweeted and retweeted, inherently adding emphasis to the points found most relevant by the audience, much like a tag cloud. It was really cool to go back and see all the quotes from my speech echo around the room and the world via the Internet and gave me excellent, immediate feedback. I can see Twitter becoming a bigger part of live presentations in the future as well. This was done at Lotusphere 2011 with great success.
For the hearing impaired, here is a transcript of my speech.
“How many of you actively participate in social media? How many of you REALLY know what Social Media is? What is media? Media is any form of mass communication. Radio, television, newspapers, books, even the guy standing on a soap box in the middle of town square, shouting out to anyone who will listen.
Today we have a new soap box. It is the Internet. It’s facebook, twitter, youtube, Foursquare, biznik, Linkedin. It’s blogs, wikis, forums, webcasts. It is any digital means that allows your voice to be heard by the masses. But one crucial difference from other media is that social media is interactive, it’s a two-way street. This is also the key to making you a genius.
My Dad was a brilliant man. One day we were having one of those Father-Son talks and he said to me: “David, The secret to being a genius is having the answer before they ask the question. Now you may have learned the answer 5 years ago or just 5 minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you have the answer when they need it.” Powerful words for an 8-year-old to hear! But in that wisdom lies the power of social media and your social media network.
I have been in the computer industry for 26 years.
26 years ago… if I couldn’t figure out an answer or get it from someone in the cubicles around me, then I didn’t get the answer.
10 years ago… there was a simple knowledge base website and a discussion forum for the software I used where people could post a question and someone else might post an answer. There were many more questions than answers.
5 years ago… things began to change. there were many more people on the forums and a few people were starting to blog. I started to get answers.
2 years ago… There was a quiet explosion in social media. My social media network began growing exponentially.
Today… My linkedin Network alone has over 100,000 2nd degree connections. A first degree connection are the friends I am connected to. Second degree connections are all of their friends. And those connections can put me in touch with over 5 million more people around the world.
I am in contact with thousands of professionals in my industry via my social media network.
I can rely almost exclusively on tweets and blog aggregators to guide me to news relevant to my work.
My Mom asked me: “David, what’s a blog aggregator?” I explained “it’s a website where I can go to a single source to find out what everyone is talking about. Mom said: “Oh, you mean like Aunt Ruth!”
Thanks to my social media network, it is a very rare event that I encounter a question or problem at work for which I cannot quickly get an answer. We all have this potential. This is really nothing new. You’ve always had a social network. Soap boxes have been around for centuries. It’s just that the Internet makes those connections more visible and more accessible. The amount of information we have access to today is mind-boggling.
Many people view Social Media as a marketing tool, but it’s so much more than that. Your social network can turn you into a genius more brilliant than any individual could ever be on their own. The year 1897 was a pivotal year for mankind. That year Thomas Young died. He happens to be considered the last man to know everything known by humanity at the time. Today it’s hard to imagine knowing everything about one topic, much less everything about everything.
So it really has become all about who you know, not what you know. Your true genius comes not from the knowledge you have, but from the knowledge you have access to. It is the IQ of your social media network.
Much like the scene in ‘The Matrix’ where Neo downloads the knowledge of Kung Fu or Trinity learns how to fly a helicopter. It’s “Just-in-time learning”.
This will become so relevant that one day employers will consider the value of your social network and how adept you are at navigating it in their hiring decisions. In fact, that day is already here. They already look at your facebook page and your Linkedin profile. They read your blog. My blog has helped build my credibility and opened opportunities I would not have had otherwise.
Another big difference between social media and traditional media is that everyone is equal on the internet. I have a friend who was born with a birth defect. It is difficult for him carry on a normal conversation. People avoid him in public. Yet people flock to read his blog.
Among the variety of people in my network are senior executives from companies like IBM. I met one of them at a conference recently and when I introduced myself, he said: “Yes, I know you. I read your blog.” Wow, It really made me think about what I write!
On the Internet, we are all equal.
Earlier I mentioned that Social media is interactive. It’s all about sharing knowledge. Today I contribute answers to those forums. I post comments on others’ blogs and I have a blog of my own. Hopefully I contribute to the genius of others’ social media network. It’s called “Sending the elevator back down.” By all of us contributing to social media, we can make each other a genius.
That’s my soap box. Let’s get social!”