Last week I went to a breakfast meeting to see a presenter that I’ve been hoping to meet for some time. The breakfast was organized by Word Of Mouth Uk, (W.O.M.UK.), an organisation you should check out if you are London based. The speakers were Scott Gould and Drew Ellis, the brains behind conference movement #likeminds.

If anyone has not heard of it, #likeminds is a bi-annual social media conference that takes place in Exeter.

#likeminds is in theory a conference on social-media, but it’s not really a conference as much as it is a movement, with many similarities to #tru.

Scott and Drew launched #likeminds about the same time as #trulondon 1, so we tend to keep an eye on what they are doing. Not because we are envious, I admire what they do, but because there is much to learn as we all evolve beyond a simple event.

In my view, the event is secondary to the connections made and conversations had before, during and after the event. The number of people who have made lasting connections, started by a common theme, in both cases, the event, is the biggest factor. Contributors get a sense of belonging and give freely through blogs, links, tweets, video’s and a whole host of other ways. Those that give and help, thrive in this environment. Scott describes the most important aspect of #likeminds as the hashtag. He calls it a “platform” on a #, and I think this sums up what we have built at #tru also.

I’d like to say that we planned things out like this and had great vision. The reality is, on our part anyway, it happened by accident. It has been more a case of perspiration over inspiration, and what has, and is still happening truly astounds me. Both events occurred over a month ago, and yet the hashtag and twitter stream as well as the Facebook fan pages are alive and well.

I’m glad I saw Scott, because his story helped to make some sense of our story. Some of the similarities between the two events are:

: The date we started out and our events took place.

: Both started with zero investment, zero marketing budget or overall plan, but a real desire to do something and the foundations of a personal network to build on.

: Timing and opportunity were also crucial. We both launched at a time when people were looking at all these new channels as more than a bit of fun, recognized the potential but wanted some guidance, and I think, a sense of belonging with other people who didn’t think them idiots.

: There’s two people directly behind the event. One who is very visible and one who is less vocal, but equally industrious and a calming influence. In the case of #likeminds, this was Drew Ellis, who I warmed to instantly, and in the case of #tru, Geoff Webb. http:// twitter.com/radicalrecruit)

: Both have strong international links. From the start, #likeminds were tied with international personalities to blend global best practice. In the case of #likeminds, this was in the form of Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) and Trey Pennington, http://www.treypennington.com.) I’m convinced this merging of cultures, best practice and thinking opens up a new way of thinking, where the only barriers to communicating anywhere in the world are time-zones.

:At the second event, #likeminds attracted 350 people from 3 continents with 30 world class speakers. While #trulondon attracted 180 attendees over the 3 days, they were from 9 countries with 35 track leaders that I would put up against anyone in the expert stakes.

: The #likeminds hashtag is showing no sign of slowing down any day soon. The #trulondon hashtag is showing no sign of slowing down soon. (albeit we are diluting it a bit with #truUSA, #truAus, #truNZ, #truManchester, #truDublin, #truIndia etc etc. The presentation has made me think about whether we need to switch this to one single identity as in #likeminds, or if we are better maintaining the #tru brand but highlighting the local focus.

:Both events had a very low ticket cost in comparison to traditional conferences.

:Both events have more “ambassadors” spreading the word with passion than any other events I can think of.

Despite the conference/unconference format making the actual events polls apart in structure, there are many more similarities between the way we have both evolved. I’m not sure you could imitate it intentionally; it grows out of passion and industry.

My big take away’s from Scott’s presentation that really hit home were:

: The # is THE platform.

: Word of mouth (or as I term it: Word of mouse), is people to people not company to company. People buy the people that are involved, and the energy wave, not the company. They trust recommendations and not pitches.

:You can’t govern or control what people say on the hashtag, about you or for you. You have to let it have a life of it’s own, and a few negative comments can be as strong a message for you as all the positive ones.

: The presentation (and it was a powerpoint presentation), was titled Spreadability v Reach.
Spreadability is social, multiway, adapts, needs guidance (not control), is dynamic and is a personal relationship.
Reach is broadcast, one way, repetitious, governed, static and is all public relations. This point really hit home for me as to the way of marketing and growing in the social media age. You have to let it happen, nurture it, give it a reason for being (the events) but not force it or make it purely referenced to a company or it’s products.

The biggest point for me though was when Scott made the statement: “People don’t necessarily remember what they heard, but they remember how they felt!”

This sums up exactly how I feel about #trulondon, despite everything, something special happened. There was plenty of learning, but the biggest thing everyone remarked on was the deep connections that were made and friendships that are evolving. The same will happen at #truUSA, at Madison on April 18th/19th.

In days past, you had to cram all your learning in to the sessions and the learning finished when you left. You took plenty of business cards but how many of those people did you continue to connect with daily? How many of those people were known to you professionally and personally before the event?

The event gives you the reason to start those connections early before the day, so it’s like meeting old friends when you do get together, and you can continue connecting every day long after the event, whatever the geography. That wasn’t possible not so long ago, and it gives the # a new life of it’s own.

For anyone interested, you can view Scott’s slides here.

Thanks to Scott, Drew, #likeminds (all of you) and WOM for helping me to understand a little more about why #trulondon has grown the way it has. I’d wish you luck for the future if I thought you needed it! I’ve found another inspiration.

Keep being ambassadors, viva #likeminds.

Bill