This time it was a virtual conference. No driving – except that it drove me crazy(er). Last year the presenters were marketing folk from the field who knew what their audience wanted. A few platitudes to begin but then they delivered solid material we could use. This time the presentations were mostly by corporate division heads. They were on display for one another to see. They obviously knew their stuff, but they also felt the need to tell us how inventive, responsive and capable Intel is. They felt that need often.
The result was that the density of usable information was considerably lessened. Even worse, when the presenters did have a slide with juicy material on it, the Flash they were using prevented us from cutting-and-pasting it into our OneNote or note-taking weapon of choice. On three occasions I resorted to the Snipping Tool and hoped that OneNote could decipher the long URL’s without error. At the live conference, most of the presenters gave us the URL where we could get the slide-decks, so we didn’t have to bother copying URLs, but only one presenter said his would be available and I didn’t understand where. Maybe they will email attendees a post with all the links, but if that was the plan, it wasn’t clear that it was. And a day later the detailed program with the names and titles of the presenters was down (or at least extremely difficult to find). For this article I had wanted to include names and titles, but apparently they will have to remain nameless. The virtual exhibit hall was still online, but only the lobby. None of the links worked. The Agenda in the invitation was also up, but it gave one-line topic lists with no names or titles. The only other links I could find ended with either, “You are already registered” or “The event has expired.”
For us to take away useful information, there should have been a well-defined path to get the names and titles of presenters so we could ask questions that occurred to us the next day when we weren’t fuzzy from staring at a monitor all day. And for there to be no follow-up path to get program notes and slides is unforgivable. Maybe that information will get to us eventually, but the path should have been clearly stated during the event. If the day after the event they are going to take down all the useful information, they should have put a link to where the follow-up material would be on the event home page so it would remain up for us who wanted to revisit topics. I’m a bit thick and don’t get everything on the first pass. I doubt I’m alone. For us in the field, it is critical that there is follow-up material and program notes. Without it, we digest less than half the information available.
I suspect that most of my problems with the event are wrapped up in the dynamics of the event and not any intentions of the presenters. When the marketing folk get in a room alone with a couple of hundred real people, they can hardly miss where their audience is. When corporate rolls out a virtual event, the speakers never see a real audience, but they have trotted down the hall to compare notes with colleagues, brainstormed ideas with subordinates and read copious notes about product written at headquarters. For the presenters, I think this transfers the mental focus of the audience from being us in the field to the folk at corporate. Those are the only real faces they have seen.
Say what you will about virtual events, but they aren’t yet nearly as engaging as real ones. The speakers can’t read body language and the audience can’t compare notes. Rather than drip breadcrumbs on my keyboard while pressing virtual flesh on the screen, I’d infinitely rather share a real meal with real techs and compare notes on presentations, trends and business. Yes, even if it means driving clear across LA.