Small conference problem leads to idea

April 3rd, 2011

SMACC (pronounced "smack") blended social media and a cappella to make beautiful music

I was a last-minute addition to present at the Social Media A Cappella Conference 2011 (SMACC) on Saturday (April 2) in Syracuse at the Newhouse School on the campus of Syracuse University. Yes, what an interesting combination: social media and a cappella singing groups. Who knew?

I prepared a short, fun presentation on Credibility as a competitive advantage in social media. I planned to talk about how we all determine credibility offline (quickly and often with visual cues and clues) using a series of photos. Then I wanted to focus on how we determine credibility online (websites, etc), drilling down to what we seem to be doing now in social media. I figured I would have a small attendance and this would be a good place to tryout a new topic and engage folks. Take a look at the slide deck:

“Credibility: the ultimate competitive advantage in a social media world”

[A note on the presentation: This was really just a starter presentation for me. I’d like to do more with this topic soon. I’d like to thank Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, Fogg (2003) and the great whitepaper by Soojung Kim from the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland: “Questioners’ credibility judgments of answers in a social question and answer site,” as well as Charlie Sheen, Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga, General Colin Powell, Bill Gates and Einstein for their assistance.]

So here’s what happened. I showed up early, excited to give the presentation. Then two unplanned things happened. First, I couldn’t get the projector to work. Next, only four people showed up as my session was about to start. The low attendance at my last-minute session was understandable: a new conference, Saturday morning time slot… but only FOUR?! Well, at least I wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of a large crowd, right?

But then something wonderful happened; something that only tends to happen in smaller groups, I think. We all started talking about the non-working projector and how we can proceed.

I wanted to give my presentation, they wanted to hear it. Someone said, “Why don’t you just email it to us all?” (easy with four people, right?) Done. As I was sending out the email, I was thinking about how I would modify my presentation style and content to this new medium. I moved to the front of the podium and sat on the edge of a table. Everyone opened the PPT and viewed the slides on laptops, ipads, and smartphones. Even with such a small group, there was still a diversity of mobile, connected devices in the room. (Really quite amazing, if you think about it.) One person who came in late sat next to someone who had the presentation on her iPad. Someone else came in late and had the PPT forwarded to their email without much ado or interruption.

Actually, it was great!

During the session I had to adjust how I presented the information (which kept me on my toes — especially with the little series of photos), but it went pretty well, I think. So, it turns out we had a CONVERSATION about credibility, and it was terrific. We shared different points of view, made easy comments and added new points. And, the slide deck helped hold the conversation together.

We ended up staying beyond the allotted time for the session; everyone wanted to. After the session, I received the warmest thank-yous and a few comments on how great it was to have the presentation in their hands. Most attendees seemed to enjoy it. (Hope they learned something from it, too… I know I did!)

It was GREAT to have the presentation in their hands. A loss of control on my part, but hey, that’s the world we live in.

This led to an idea from one of the attendees: why can’t we do this as the standard way to present, instead of a projector? Why not? There should be something out there to do it… Well, it looks like Slideshare is a step ahead of us. I’m looking into it, but it seems that Slideshare launched ZipCast in February and it does much of what we needed to pull off our new idea for an interactive, handheld slideshow-mediated conversation/presentation. (Ok, I’m working on the name.)

Here’s what TechCrunch said about ZipCast. They didn’t talk about how to use it when people are physically located in the same room, like we were, but you get the idea.

“Zipcast … doesn’t require a software download or plug-in, and it doesn’t take over your entire screen. Instead, it is just a tab in your browser (thank you, HTML5 Websockets)… Zipcast is also stripped down compared to other existing virtual meeting products. There are the slides, a one-way video stream of the person hosting the meeting, a conference call line for audio, and a text chat window. And if you are board [sic... they mean't bored... and you wouldn't be in MY presentation ;-)] during the presentation, you can skip ahead through the slides on your own.”

Epilogue

Social Media and A Capella came together in a conference. I had my doubts. But I must say: what a passionate and intelligent group of attendees! (And what voices!) I guess social media goes with everything! (sounds like wine advice)

And, if you told me a non-working projector and a very small turnout for my session would be considered a success, I would have had more doubts and questions. But you know what? We got creative and Creativity really goes with everything.

More on Slideshare’s Zipcast used in this way in future posts, I hope… As for the non-working projector, it turns out it was working but the touchscreen controller couldn’t sense my fingertip commands because it was a still-cold Spring morning in Syracuse. Thanks for those warm thank-yous at the end of the session, folks.

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