I’ve attended a few events today at Social Media Week London. It’s the opening day, and things are shifting away from the usual conference model. I spoke at one event. Refused to bring a presentation, used up 5 minutes for an intro as to why I was talking about Twitter, then opened it up to Q&A. This gave me the opportunity to talk about what the participants wanted to hear and for me to speak at their level. It wasn’t the presentation I would have prepared, that would have been beyond many in the room. They would have been bored and confused, maybe even felt a little stupid.
tomorrow I’m speaking at the Recruitment Agency Expo in Olympia. I’m delivering the opening keynote. It’s a requirement that I have a presentation, so I’m taking two slides. One that says @BillBoorman – #tru story-teller, and the other that says, “What do you want to know?” I’m taking the same approach, concerned more about the participants than delivering a pre-determined message, This is the problem with most conferences and events. The speakers second guess who is going to be the audience, and deliver what they think they will want, and it is this content that is used to sell the conference.
Usually, when I’m asked if I’m interested in speaking, I have to submit a speaker proposal, a pitch for my spot and an outline of what I’m going to cover. This gets even more controlled when accreditation or learning points get awarded by organisations like SHRM or the CIPD. Turning it in to an academic presentation makes it even more controlled and regulated. You have to deliver what you said you would regardless of who is in the room. There might be 5 minutes squeezed in at the end of a presentation, and perhaps a squeezed panel discussion. Less discussion and more four or five mini -presentations.This saddens me. So much missed opportunity to actually share what people want to know. It’s also hard to get the smartest people in the room to speak, because there wedged in the audience with the job of listening. 

Next week it’s #Trulondon time. I trust the grown ups in the room enough to know that they will work out what they want to know. When they want to talk, listen, have a coffee, go for lunch or retire to the pub, it’s their event to choose.

This time around i have been thinking more about the people who aren’t in the building. They are no less participants, they just aren’t physically in the room. Everyone who watches the livestream, tweets, blogs or chooses to take part in whatever way they want are part of the event. To extend the opportunity, I’m inviting anyone to join us on Google+. I will be creating a page for #trulondon. If you want a discussion, track or conversation on anything you want to host and invite people to join in. All i ask you to do is to record it, tweet on the hashtag so that we can join in from the venue, and post the recording somewhere so that others who miss it can see the content, maybe even start their own circle in response. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and as much a part of #trulondon as what happens in the City Hotel.

If you want to get to the event, there are 6 tickets left before the fire marshal says no more. The conference has moved. It’s moved as much on-line as off it. it’s a shared experience, open to anyone, and it is about getting the best experience for everyone, in a social way. A social experience without hierarchy, and it joining in isn’t dictated by being able to afford the admission price! Conferences still have a place for those who want their learning that way, but there are an increasing number of alternatives, and more and more companies are beginning to understand that you don’t need listed outcomes to justify attendance. When you’re in a room full of smart people and you can talk to them, you’re going to really learn, and enjoy the experience.


PS: To any conference organisers brave enough to try something different, speak to me. I’d be glad to help facilitate it, and if you want a speaker who talks with their audience, you know where I am.