I believe it is helpful to look at Conferences and other Business to Business events in terms of an “Event Graph” with three main dimensions:
1. The content presented and the learning received
2. The networking and connections that take place
3. The lasting business impact which results
New digital and social tools can dramatically improve our event experience if they can help us do three key things better:
1. Prioritize where to invest our attention
2. Identify and meet with the best potential contacts
3. Integrate what we learn and who we meet with our ongoing activities
These correspond to the dimensions above, and also to three of the ways that Events today are broken (and becoming more so every day):
1. We as an audience are overwhelmed
We don’t know which events or sessions to attend, or where to really pay attention once we’re there. We often can’t leave our desks to attend events that would be groundbreaking for us. And how do we best keep up on the most important information coming out of the events that we can’t get to in person?
Once we are present in the room, we still have to battle to be less engaged with our digital devices and messages than with the speaker right in front of us. Equal parts blame here go to lame event content (uninspiring talking heads, or unfocused panels) and the ongoing crush of business activity pulling our attention back to the business at hand.
2. Networking is haphazard
We all as business people have developed the skills of working a room, being friendly, and networking with those we encounter. But it remains hit or miss. We’ve all had those great moments of serendipity, but we’ve also been frustrated by the inefficiency of knowing there are five great people in the room for us to meet—we just don’t know which five they are!
3. We fail to tap the potential events have for lasting impact
Even when we get truly inspired at a great event, we often fail to apply that new thinking into our businesses and our lives. Contacts may get into a CRM system post show, but we often fail to follow up in the most meaningful way we can.
As a result, events fail to deliver on their true promise, reducing value for participants, for the events themselves and for the sponsors who rely on them as business development and content marketing drivers.
Ultimately, we need new tools to meet these three key challenges
Ironically, technology has exacerbated or caused some of the above challenges but it also holds the key to improving and transforming our event experience.
In my next post, I will add to this Event Graph (see below) my first pass at a list of tools to help us in the key areas of that transformation:
1. Event discovery & content sharing
2. Onsite networking and
3. Overall event management.
Please add your thoughts in the comments, and let me know who should be added to this list of solutions.
Also, a reminder: leading companies in this space are invited to join with me, and my co-presenters Loic LeMeur and Robert Scoble for an Interactive Core Conversation at SXSW on March 12th. Our vision with the session (and with this online dialog) is to spark a continued and collaborative exploration that can truly make events better for all of us. We hope you can join us for it, if not in person, than via this online dialog here and on Google+. Thanks!