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Lessons learned at a weekend conference

The irony was certainly not lost on me, nor on my fellow conference attendees: after traveling half-way across the country to attend a national non-profit organization’s conference on animal issues, I missed the opening sessions due to being bitten by my sister’s Akita. Fortunately the nearby doc-in-a-box got me patched up pretty quickly, and I joined the conference just a few hours late. I had three goals in mind: not only to become a more informed activist, but also to observe a small non-profit event and compare it to similar events in the SAP ecosystem, and to observe and learn from their community building and networking.


According the event staff, there were roughly 1,000 people attending, making it comparable to Community Day and the fall ASUG events. Most were from the US, with just a few from other western hemisphere countries.  A brightly colored dot on each attendee’s badge indicated the region, intended to enable attendees to identify folks living near to them. However I never did see anyone with my color dot, and I’d just as soon talk with people sharing my interests anyway. However, the message boards for informal networking, which has been done at Community Day, appeared to work well. Many of the speakers spoke of the importance of networking within the ecosystem, yet there seemed to be few social networking tools. Instead, attendees were forced to improvise, sharing email and Facebook information. In comparison, the SAP ecosystem has embraced these new web tools very effectively.


Because I arrived late, I missed one speaker who I’d really been looking forward to hearing, political and technology consultant Joe Trippi. However, I was there in time for his book signing, so the day wasn’t a total loss. I was also very pleasantly surprised to find that I could buy a CD of any session, and by the second day, CDs with the first day’s recordings were ready for onsite purchase. As it turned out, his remarks on building an Internet community were fairly high level and aimed at n00bs, certainly nothing that would news to us here at the SDN/ BPX Communities. On the other hand, I found his 2004 book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, to be very interesting and prescient, particularly his suggestions for “The Seven Inviolable, Irrefutable, Ingenious Things Your Business or Organization Can Do in the Age of the Internet.” Trippi also predicted that successful organizations in the Internet age would see customers increasingly becoming part of the process, which we have certainly seen in our Communities, especially ASUG’s Influence program.


One very effective speaker, Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary impressed me with his emphasis on tailoring your message to the frame of reference of the audience. It was a timely reminder that a one-size-fits-all message seldom does, in any realm. At the end of the conference, I came away with a lot of solid information on the issues, and I felt good about the things that we are doing at our events and in our SAP Communities. Readers well versed in US history may see the humor in my sister’s rhetorical wise-crack, “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” Yes, despite coming home from an animal rights conference with a “souvenir” dog bite, I did enjoy the lessons from my weekend conference very much.

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  • Gretchen:  I too found Joe’s book on the intersection of policy and technology awesome.  Makes me sorry I missed seeing him also.  Jim
    • I think you would have enjoyed hearing him, and you could have been there easily. The event was just a short walk from the Crystal City Metro station. Too bad you’re not coming to Las Vegas :), but I’m sure I can get the CD to you.