Today is the last day of the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston and I must say that I had a great time meeting with and interacting with a lot of folks that I have either known for a while or have chatted with online but haven’t yet met in person. The networking and relationship building opportunities at Enterprise 2.0 are worth the price of admission alone. The events hosted by companies such as IBM and Mindtouch were also very well run and organized. I especially enjoyed the IBM boat party when I got to see the Lakers crush the Celtics while cruising around a boat in Boston and eating rice crispy treats dipped in chocolate while drinking a beer. As I mentioned before Enterprise 2.0 is really one of the few conferences in the space that is really focused around social business. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing in that E2.0 gathers some of the leading companies and brightest minds in the space that are both consulting, developing products, or working for companies seeking to implementing E2.0. It’s also a bad thing because it puts a lot of pressure on E2.0 to continuously adapt and evolve their conference to make sure they are continuously addressing current business needs and challenges while avoiding vendor spam and providing valuable resources and takeaways to attendees. By the way I hope those reading this can appreciate honesty and not misconstrue that for bashing or plain criticism. I truly think E2.0 is one of the most valuable and important conferences we have today.
I thought that for E2.0 there was still a good amount that was left to be desired. Many of the vendors essentially owned the speaking sessions and keynotes, which instead of actual discussions turned into lengthy mass product pitches. As a result I (and many others) stopped going to the keynote sessions. I also thought some of the sessions were a bit weak in terms of really addressing business needs and challenges that companies were faced with and instead focused on high level issues which provided little takeaway for the audience. I’m not bashing the conference as I still think it was a great event, however there is always room for improvement. I also know for a fact that other large conference groups that are currently focused around social media are also starting to get very interested in social business and are going to start adding Social CRM and E2.0 tracks to their events; which essentially means a bit of dilution as far as conferences goes (and perhaps less value) and even more pressure on the E2.o conference folks (who are really a great group of people by the way). I attended the E2.0 event in San Francisco last year and up until this event, not a lot has changed, which is the problem.
I think there are a few things that can be done to provide more value to the E2.0 attendees:
- Really minimize product and vendor pitches, the feedback I got from pretty much everyone I spoke to was that it was overkill. This is tough because vendor sponsorships really help make the actual event happen, so it’s a bit of a tricky situation.
- Tighter organization and ordering of tracks and sessions. I didn’t feel as though the tracks/sessions connected to one another. Why not have an entire track around how to develop business and technology requirements and use cases? Another track can be all around adoption strategies. Another track can be around business drivers or perhaps organizational structure needed to support E2.0 initiatives. There needs to be some sort of order and flow so that organizations can attend sessions not just based on topic but on organizational readiness (which can be another track in itself).
- There needs to be more of an emphasis on the customer and external collaboration, basically Social CRM. The conference is all around E2.0 yet many of the vendors are starting to offer external collaboration solutions as well but very few (if any) of the sessions addressed that topic…Social CRM. Perhaps the conference title should be changed to “Collaborative Enterprise,” to indicate the internal and external pieces?
- Have the events start at 9 instead of 8. This might just be personal preference but usually there are events going on the night before that run pretty late and I know for a fact that many people slept in and missed some really terrific speakers/sessions.
- Try hosting a free/for all session with a diverse panel of folks from various concentrations and make the whole thing a giant Q&A. There were A LOT of people that had questions and wanted to engage with other audience members and speakers but didn’t have the opportunity to do so. I have found the best sessions are the ones where the audience actually engages with itself. Again something to try but I think it would add a lot of value. I feel like people are intimidated and scared not only to ask questions but about the conference itself. There needs to be a better way to make this feel less daunting and more exploratory for those in attendance, at least at this point in the game.
- Provide for more resources for conference attendees that are front and center on the homepage. E2.0 did a great job with the paper that was put together by Oliver Marks and Sameer Patel but aside from that the rest of the resources were vendor related. By the way, I’m glad that our paper on understanding Social CRM was also featured by the E2.0 folks. Why not provide a collection of case studies to attendees (I have several and am working on others)? I feel like since the topic is still so new that it might make sense to offer additional resources to attendees so that they can really understand what E2.0 is and why it’s important BEFORE they even step foot into the conference.
- The voting session system that was used (Spigit who is a partner) was great but the problem was that the sessions that were voted the best weren’t the one’s that were selected. Several potential speakers (I was one of them) had some of the top rated sessions as voted by the community but we were never selected to present at E2.0. I know this was a HUUUUGEEEEE issue amongst many potential speakers who were quite upset because they thought that since their sessions were voted up that they were going to present, but that didn’t happen. The point is be very clear what the voting system is for and how it works. If you’re session is ranked the highest and you don’t get to present, why? The overall feeling from those I spoke to was that track chairs were just picking their friends or folks they knew to speak. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but a lot of people seem to think it is.
Again, not to sound harsh but these are just my honest impressions of the event; which I hope you appreciate. I NEVER review conferences but I’m reviewing E2.0 because as I mentioned it’s one of the most valuable events in the social business space and I really want to see it succeed.
These are just a few of the ideas I think can make the event even more valuable and relevant to those who attend (or it could just be me bitching). If you attended E2.0 this year I’d love to hear what you thought about the event. Again, please don’t take this as bashing but as my honest opinion. I do like the event and want to see it stay for many years to come, but I think in order for that to really happen that the conference needs to evolve along with the industry. What else do you think can be improved upon or what else would you like to see? Do you agree with my observations?