Thriving in spite of Vegas. Opinions about Las Vegas vary. For many, the bright lights and myriad attractions confer bigness and importance on a trade show. More people will come, the theory goes, to combine work with pleasure, and more people from all over the country will be able to find discounted travel options. But Vegas is not conducive to community-building. From the awkward layout of the LV Hilton/convention center, to the sheer size of the venues, Vegas tends to swallow people and communities up. That certainly happened at this year’s NME. and BlogWorld Expo, from my observations of the 2007 event, was far less focused on interactions between people and groups than it was on the content of its events, and its “name” speakers. Making recommendations on this topic is hardest, because you must essentially offer people compelling reasons not to wander away from the trade show. And that’s incredibly difficult.
BlogWorld-sponsored social events and BOF sessions, as I’ve already suggested, will help. and it may be that scheduling more informal events inside the cavernous convention center would keep people together. Finally, using the SXSW model of pre-expo meetups around the country could help attendees make connections in their own areas before they arrive in Vegas, giving them pre-made connections that stem from their commitment to supporting Blogworld Expo.
Loosen up and think outside the box. From my perspective, BlogWorld is a less welcoming and open environment than NME has been. There, I said it! Even in its first year, BlogWorld seemed burdened by the hierarchy of blogging’s A-list, and a set of relationships that existed long before the show began. It lacked the genuine enthusiasm and innovation of BlogHer, or the community focus of NME. It was, in short, a bit of an old boys’ club, that was also burdened by some procedural weirdness, such as onerous session signup and verification measures, and keynote sessions held in dark, echo-filled spaces. I also sensed a lack of participant diversity, despite the event’s heavy focus on political blogging. In a nutshell, I did not feel that BlogWorld Expo met my needs as a publisher who does not operate within the celebrity strata of the blogging world.
Spend some time at a BlogHer event. Even in an environment where I knew few attendees, the contagious enthusiasm of attendees, and willingness of organizers to engage all comers, whatever their blogging specialty or level of fame and expertise, came through. The show was efficiently run, but laid back.Use the addition of podcasters to broaden the speaker pool, focusing, as I suggested previously, on tech, content development and business topics.
Listen to passionate podcasters. If podcasting is to become a vital part of the BlogWorld experience, the event’s organizers need to integrate the collective wisdom of the podcasting world to build good conference programming and exhibit hall experiences. Besides the kinds of technical content I wrote about yesterday, I see great opportunity for podcasters to learn how blogging and other media tools and methods can be used to build their shows, their brands, and their world domination infrastructure.
Seek out formal and informal advisors from within podcasting; people who can enhance conference content, exhibit hall programs, and after-hours social opportunities. These advisors should represent monetizers, hobbyists, techies, advertising brokers; the widest possible range of podcasters and podcast businesspeople. Survey Tim Bourquin’s mailing list to find out what past NME attendees want and don’t want. Use social media tools to facilitate open discussions between now and next year’s expo.
I wish Rick Calvert and BlogWorld Expo a lot of success. I also recognize that Rick is first and foremost trying to run a business. I sincerely believe that excellent content and attendee experiences are the first requirements for a successful event.