So it’s Day Three of four days in Shanty Town… sorry, Sydney Town. Now that I’ve had time to come up for air, it’s apposite to pause and reflect; and since I’m a serial virtual voyeurist, it is only fitting that I perform the intensely personal reflection in front of my digital peers — my ‘imaginary friends’ as one of my workshop delegates once called you lot.
One can consider themselves lucky if they have one epiphanous moment in their life per year; God has blessed me with several within this trip to Sydney, to wit:
- I got paid handsomely to do what I would do for nothing* share my passion for all things ‘Social Media + Business’ with people actually willing to listen. In return I was rewarded with spending time with some very talented, thoughtful and smart people of all demographics and experiences who wanted to know more about how an understanding of Social Media can fit into and should inform the overall communications mix
* (but shhhsshhhh please don’t tell anyone that!)
- Courtesy of Lloyd Grosse, Annabelle Warren and the PRIA NSW I got to enjoy a bloomin’ fabulous dinner with some of the brightest, sharpest and down-right clever senior PR people in the industry (and a couple of whom were bloomin’ physically attractive to boot, which helped one’s dinner go down just that little bit more smoothly!); AND I didn’t have to pay a cent towards the no doubt expensive meal (much wine was consumed by all in a location not much frequented by the McDonalds set).
I have a wonderfully funny moment from that night that has forever etched itself into my brain — one of the dinner guests asked me how to engage in a blogger relations policy, and like any true bloke full of confidence, a very nice steak and a bottle of fine wine I gushed forth at a respectable length a sermon from the mount. The dinner guest then turned to the whip-crackingly smart Antonia Christie from Text100 Australia and asked, "Is Lee right?" (bear in mind that Text100 is one of the few PR agencies anywhere in the world who really have got it*) and she replied, "Yes, Lee’s right about everything." As a husband and a step father of teenage children those are words I never thought I would ever hear again. Bless her, I wanted to marry her on the spot!
* Mind you, you would never know that Text100 had it if you judged them by their website; it is truly appalling. And how credible do they sound when their copyright footer on each page says, "copyright 1998-2005 Text 100 Public Relations Consultancy. All rights reserved. Please address questions or comments to email@example.com?" On top of that, the Australian staff have a firstname.lastname@example.org email address but there is no website at text100.com.au, nor is there a website at text100.com.sg,the Singapore office email address. No domain name redirection, nothing. This is kiddy-level web basics! The site looks old, is old and hasn’t been updated since 2005 it would seem. Come on, Antonia — sort it out! [And it will be a good test of their own social media monitoring prowess to see how quickly they pick this post up and act on it, hey?!]
- I finally got to meet my Australian arch-rival and nemesis, Ms SilkWorm… sorry, SilkCharm herself, Laurel Papworth. After having spent the last year or so gently paying each other out (Aussie lingo for being good-naturedly sarcastic about and to each other*), it was wonderful to finally meet her in person and recognise in each other a shared belief and passion — the future of online life, from both a social and a business perspective. Now, Laurel and I had met each other once before, at a Text100 event for one of their clients, but we didn’t know each other then. It was only after that event that we drifted across each other’s radar and so meeting her today was a true joy. And I have a shocking story about a panel presentation she once gave that I will share in another post about social/business ethics.
* To understand Australians it helps to realise that the more someone ‘pays you out’ and ridicules you, the closer you are as a friend. Being called a ‘bastard’ is the ultimate Aussie compliment. Truly. In the majority of circumstances. However, cut us up at the traffic lights, cut in front of us at the cinema queue or cut our lunch with that really cute girl over in the corner and ‘bastard’ takes on a whole new invective meaning…
- I once again got to be in the presence of Gary Hayes of LAMP and much virtual world fame. He actually remembered who I was (from a previous conference we both presented at and where our two individual presentations were pointed out by delegate feedback as the two best presentations by a country mile). He was polite enough to nod his head when I babbled like a star-struck school boy whilst trying vainly to sound as half as smart as the main whose brain power could light up a city. Enough said. Epiphany.
- I got to meet a whole stack of people at the ad:tech conference who’s names I knew but never knew what they looked like. To have them recognise me (even before I had recognised them) was exceptionally flattering. To then be able to engage in conversation with some of the smartest web-savvy entrepreneurs, marketers and C- and D- level managers who are engaged in this online space was truly inspiring. The challenge of having anything to do with the internet and business is that there is so much going on at any one time that keeping ‘across’ it is stunningly impossible. But to hear about new (and existing) businesses and business models that were doing well, that were achieving very healthy visitor and conversion numbers, was really heartening and enlightening. Of course, there is the usual posturing when someone else mentions a site or business that one has never heard of — nodding sagaciously as though we know all about it and probably even blogged about it years ago (after all, one must never admit that one doesn’t know something, must one?)
- I got to catch up with Ross Dawson, who is across the Enterprise level of the Social Media space (I focus more on the SME — Small-Medium sized Enterprise). It was a pure pleasure as I got to hear about a whole lot of Aussie enterprise-level businesses who were moving into and engaging with their customers and prospects in the Social Media space. One smart cookie is Ross…
And that’s only Day Three… Day Four beckons beguilingly from the wings, with promises of catching up with my mate Trevor Cook (and there’s the next edition of our White Paper ready to launch; I just need to get back to my office to format it — should be out by the middle of next week!), catching up again with Marnie Macdonald from the Australian Wool Institute and Stephen Noble from Hill & Knowlton on a panel discussion, grabbing a coffee with Alex Manchester from Melcrum and seeing his and Justine Atkinson’s shiny new offices on Pitt Street, and watching my back to see if my stalker is following me (NewMediaJen keeps turning up at workshops and conferences I run and we joke that she’s stalking me. She’s not, but I’m flattered and it’s a nice little joke we share).
So, having got the good stuff out of the way, here’s some of the less-brilliant stuff by way of balance:
- Don’t stay at the Citigate Sebel in Surry Hills unless someone else is footing the bill. The decor needs updating, the whole place has a ‘run down’ feel about it and the technology doesn’t always work. To wit, the network cable I’m using to connect to the internet has the retaining clip on the plug that goes into the laptop missing (snapped off at some stage in the past) which means that I am constantly losing my broadband connection as my laptop or the table slightly vibrate or move and the connection breaks; additionally, the cable is only long enough to reach up to the desk by the wall socket, not allowing me to sit in bed, watch the tv and check my emails at the same time. "Ah, ha!" you might say, why not connect to the hotel’s wireless network. There isn’t one, at least not that my laptop can find.
The light above the door entrance doesn’t go on, nor does the light above the minibar and wardrobe ensemble, so I have to turn the toilet light on and leave the door ajar to make myself a coffee or tea. Oh yes, and for three breakfasts in a row I have asked for a ‘mug’ of cappuccino (it costs an extra $4 and is provided courtesy of a mobile vendor based out the front of the hotel) but each time I’ve only been given a cup. The first night I was here the smoke alarm decided to let me know it was running out of battery power by beeping loudly every 60 seconds.
Today, day three, I returned to my room to find that my cardkey into the room doesn’t work. So, exhausted, I return to the Reception desk to get another. The nice receptionist gave me two cards (they give you two cards as standard, even though I repeatedly said I was alone and only needed one; I was getting two whether I liked it or not); the first didn’t work despite repeated swiping attempts, the second only worked on the seventh swipe. Each and of themselves these minor niggles would be just that, but when combined they leave me with a feeling that somewhere in the hotel’s hierarchy someone important doesn’t really care too much about the hotel guests…
- The ad:tech conference panel sessions were not as exciting as I would have liked; I don’t know if that was a reflection of the panel moderators or the panelists themselves. In my humble opinion far too much time was spent on letting the panelists wax lyrical about their experiences rather than letting the audience members (who, after all, had paid a chuffin’ nora amount of wonga to be there) get answers to their questions. Personally, I would have preferred to see folks getting value for their considerable dollar rather than hearing experts having to be as generic as possible to ensure that no member of the audience might be left out.
That is absolutely no reflection on the organisation and speaker list put together by Beth at ad:tech; rather it is a sad reflection on the egos of the luminaries up under the spotlights and the direction/freedom (or lack of it) they were given by the panel moderators.
Of course, you and they can all come back and heckle me tomorrow when I moderate the ‘Digital PR‘ panel!
But that one huge collection of niggles aside, I have so far had a wonderful time. I look forward to yet another day of excitement, adventure and sharing my passion for all things Social Media and business communication with friends, peers and friends I’ve yet to meet.
My apologies for asking you to read something so long as this post…