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Why take notes when the twits will do all the work for you? (And four other things I learned at the V21 conference)


Arriving at the very impressive MCEC venue, for V21 on 12 April 2011, I was greeted by a palpable hum of excitement.

At least, I think it was the hum of excitement, it could have been the hum of the Apple operating systems working overtime as everyone within sight began checking emails, tweeting about how many great people they were going to meet and catching up on the daily news.

Which leads me to the first thing I learned at V21…

1. It’s difficult to network with your face buried in an iPad, iPhone, laptop or Android device.

We are all guilty of it. In this world where even our most mundane thoughts get re-tweeted, it’s difficult not to sneak a look at our mentions, DMs or Facebook updates on the go, even if we are on a date or supposed to be listening to our wife. (Sorry honey.)

I’m not sure if it was just that it was 8:45am and that a steady line had already formed for the one coffee machine or that these digital people preferred to converse in a digital world, but no one seemed to know anyone else (apart from the odd small clique). But hey, it could have been worse; as one bystander pointed out to me, “You should have been at the gaming conference, it was like sunlight was a new concept to them”.

2. Why take notes when the twits do all the work for you?

Call me old fashioned but I enjoy the sensation of pen meeting paper.

Clearly though, this is fast becoming an oddity of the past. This was the first conference I have been to where a “twitterfall” (television screens displaying live tweets from the audience as the speakers are in action) has had such prominence.

What I began noticing, as I frantically scribbled words of wisdom from each speaker before they left my head forever (and with Geof Heydon at the helm there was quite a bit to scribble), was that after every feeble attempt at capturing the moment in ink-filled glory, I’d look up and someone had just tweeted the same thought, only more succinctly.

I decided then to only write what was absolutely necessary and “steal” the best tweets after the conference. This, as I found out later, is called “churnalism” and I love that this has a name.

The pen isn’t dead people, but it is planning a relaxing retirement.

3. Acronyms are now such a part of life that their meanings are obvious

Probably most apparent during Robbee Minicola’s (CEO, Hybrid TV) talk was the amount of acronyms that surround us.

Every industry has its own but there are a number of them that have made it into mainstream society, lol.

What struck me most though, was how surprised I was at How Many Acronyms I Didn’t Know I Knew (or as @Qumpit put it HMAIDKIK). PPV, VOD, WTF, SFA and even UGC received a mention.

But one acronym takes the cake and it was the one referring to the space that Hybrid TV plays in:  Over The Top broadcasting. We all know what OTT refers to, but transporting this to the business world? That’s a little, well, OTT.

And I know I’m not alone in this realisation. Not because I talked to anyone, but because I tweeted it and was RT’d three times in a minute!

4. “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less” – Nigel Dalton, Lonely Planet (and tweeted by @ninefold @beaupurr @helmitch @boschma @venessapaech @MarketingMag)

It seems like a simple message but if you don’t innovate you may as well give up.

It’s how industries transform and this is more relevant in the digital world. It also happens to be why yours truly is an innovation consultant. But what Nigel referred to most succinctly is that you can only innovate in this space by doing it. If not, you’ll blow it.

Complaining that your latest business model is being ruined by commoditisation? Make it work for you. Starting to realise that web browsers are a thing of the past, as Geof Heydon pointed out? Build an app and start innovating your offering.

Change is scary but it also breeds opportunity, so grab it. How you make money may not be obvious at first, but if you don’t take a chance and focus on why you’re doing it, you’ll become irrelevant.

“People who have a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how’”. I’m not sure where I heard that quote, someone probably tweeted it sometime, but it rings true for any business.

I also learned that Kiwis are innovative, at least if the ratio of Kiwi/Non-Kiwi speakers at V21 is anything to go by.

5. Collaboration is the ONLY way forward!

As I sat through the afternoon session at V21, having absorbed so much information, I had a mini panic attack.

How am I, an insignificant speck in the universe, supposed to keep up with all the changes to technology, business models, apps, mobile strategies, start-ups, marketing strategies, customer engagement, generation Z (WTF?)… and the list goes on and on and on…?

The answer lies in collaboration.

I learned from Gabe Zicherman of Gamification that “fun” is the new currency; from Elly Bloom of the Bank of Melbourne that large banks may even “own” the conversation one day; from Zac Jacobs of Tigerspike that “www” stands for “whatever, whenever, wherever”; and from Lynley Marshall of ABC Commercial that if ‘Aunty’ can become multimedia savvy, anyone can.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

By connecting (sometimes, even in the flesh!) with experts from each field we are able to ‘metascan’ the greater environment and bring each relevant insight work for our business.

We can’t possibly know everything, even if we reduce everything to 140 characters or less, but I think Tim O’Neill from Reactive put it best when he said, “What’s inspiring is what we don’t know yet.”

As scary, daunting and challenging these unknowns might be they’re also what drives us forward. And ITTSITFAOU.

Ben Flavel is ‘framing ideas that will influence the future’ as co-founder of digital start-up Qumpit (www.qumpit.com.au) and as an innovation consultant with NeoCogs Pty Ltd.