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Mice Net : June 2009
award winner Miles Clarke business events communication award Ian WhItWorth is the inaugural winner of the Miles Clarke Business Events Communications award. I the imparting of insightful thoughts, opinions and information through the written word an was named winner of the award, devised by the Business Events Council of Australia and mice.net magazine, at the MEA Gala Awards Dinner in Adelaide recently. The award has been named in honour of the late Miles Clarke, well known writer and media contributor. The aim of the competition is to stimulate discussion, to raise the profile, to reward and encourage communication about business events. Entries in 2009 were judged by business event industry consultant, Ian Stuart, chief executive of BECA, Elizabeth Rich, and mice.net managing editor, Brad Foster. Two entries received Highly Commended status – Vanessa Cali from Encore for her piece entitled A Change of Tack – add a dose of CSR to keep business events stimulated”; and Judith Mair and Professor Leo Jago for their article entitled: “The Impacts of Climate Change on Business Events”. The following is Ian’s winning article: Time to Embrace the Unvirtual STORY BY IAN WHITWORTH Will the meetings industry still exist in 10 years? Bigger industries than this have been swept away by technological change, gone forever like the neighbourhood CD store. Why should we be exempt? To avoid digital extinction, every business must constantly re-examine what it actually does. Conferences were invented to distribute information and ideas among people with a specialised interest. People would travel from afar to watch experts project information on screens. And that’s pretty much how conferences still operate. What does that mean now, when you can get unlimited expert information from around the world, while sitting on your couch with a laptop, a glass of red and the TV on? Do slideshows still cut it when screens permeate every corner of our lives, and everything on them is better than PowerPoint? With unlimited free information, plus growing environmental and financial objections to flying people everywhere, you could argue that the speeches’n’lunch conference model is as doomed as the fax. 36 mice.net The start of the solution is embracing digital behaviour – not the actual gizmos themselves, but the mindset of their owners. Conferences have always relied on the broadcast model of communication: delivering the compliant masses a one-way stream of information from the people who ‘know best’. The audience might play a small part, through Q&A and audience responders. But Q&A always feels like an afterthought, following a speaker who has already run over time. Each questioner feels the simmering resentment from the rest of the audience, who can smell the coffee and muffins out in the corridor. Responders are better, but they can only choose from answers pre-written by the organiser, blocking the unconventional thinking that might lead to a breakthrough. Digitally-minded audiences won’t wear this straitjacket. A sign of the future surfaced at a US developer conference last year, while the MC ran a badly received interview. A steady stream of people posted Twitter messages saying ‘I’m in Texas at a conference session that sucks’. Soon they all realised they were in the same room, decided they had the numbers, and staged an uprising. Ugly mob rule or exciting audience empowerment?