Friday, February 19, 2010

Judging the quality of a Gov 2.0 / social media event

In the last week four separate Gov 2.0/social media conferences have crossed my desk. All claimed to provide a line-up of star speakers with important insights into these topics.

Clearly all events vary in quality, but when looking at relatively new areas, like social media and Government 2.0 how do you select those that will give you value for money. Teach you useful material and provide practical examples?

Here's how I judge them....

First I look at the topic covered throughout the event.

If there is emphasis on areas like 'Email marketing', 'Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)' or similar non-social media/Gov 2.0 topics it is likely that the organisers don't understand these topics or are pushing a different agenda.

Next I check the social media support

If the brochure doesn't specify whether there will be wi-fi available, if there's a Twitter tag, liveblog or a social media group for participants to discuss topics before, during and after the event, check with the organisers. If they don't understand what you mean, they probably don't have the knowledge to consistently select good speakers.

Finally I look at the speaker list.

I look for speakers who either practice Gov 2.0/social media in their day-to-day role, or who are active participants in social media - with their own blog, twitter account, profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn or other services or participate in forums. I also check for indicators that they regularly use these channels in effective ways, via looking at the frequency they publish, how long they've been publishing for and how interesting their comments are.

If a Google search doesn't turn up their name with a link to any social media site it is quite possible they don't 'do' social media - they simply talk about it. You wouldn't take your car to a mechanic with clean nails, don't expect to learn much about Gov 2.0 or social media from someone who doesn't practice what they preach.

I also look for speakers from social media companies themselves - but carefully. It pays to check that they are going to give practical examples and suggestions rather than simply advertise their service. This can be hard to judge from briefs in event brochures.

I am very cautious about speakers from management consultants, web developers and advertising agencies. All of these organisations have begun to step into social media and Gov 2.0 spaces, however from the evidence I've seen to-date, most approach it from the perspective of their other work ('creative messages', 'quality control processes' or 'building cool tools'). In my experience not that many of them really know what they are doing in social media and very few understand Gov 2.0 (though some are very very good).

So when you receive your next invite to a Gov 2.0 or social media event, take a good long look at whether the event organisers and the speakers walk the talk.

If they do you'll probably learn something valuable during the event - and you might even see me in the room :)

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