I could have just as easily titled this post “An Old Dog Learns ANOTHER New Trick” (“An Old Dog Goes Back to High School“), but I really have quit taking notes at conferences. Instead I have crowdsourced this task. How, you ask, did I do that? With Twitter, of course (right now everyone reading this who is under 30 something is saying “Duh”)! Hey, keep in mind, I am a former COBOL programmer that once declared, “Real programmers don’t need mice!”, these lessons are a big deal!
In the past, I would dutifully scribble notes, sometimes pages and pages of notes. Later, I would go back and transcribe them (assuming I could actually read them!). About a year ago, I got really technologically advanced and used my iPad to type notes, thus saving the transcription step. I still found that I would miss things because I was busy typing the previous nugget. (on this subject, don’t those people that use laptops with noisy keyboards to take notes incessantly throughout a conference just drive you nuts?).
Several weeks ago, I attend MIT’s CIO conference (#MITCIO) and decided I was going to try to use Twitter to take my notes. I set up a stream on Hootsuite to monitor the hashtag (jeez, three years ago I didn’t even know what a hashtag was, now I am using it in a sentence!). When one of the speakers or panelist said something that struck a chord with me, I tweeted it. Of course, there was a room of several hundred other people also tweeting. By monitoring the stream, I could see what others thought were important points, or see what comments someone might disagree with, or what thoughts were amplified through additional ideas. Since there were multiple tracks, I was even able to follow the comments from sessions I could not attend. Weeks later attendees are still adding thoughts to the dialogue. When I returned from the conference, I merely archived the stream and have my notes (and hundreds of others’ notes) to review for as long as I like.
As I write this, I am attending the Connected World Conference (#CWConf13) in Santa Clara. I have used the same crowdsourcing techniques to take notes at this conference. Talk about being connected! This morning I attended my first Tweet Chat. Peggy Smedley (@ConneectedWMag) of Connected World Magazine and the Peggy Smedley Show (www.PeggySmedleyShow.com) interviewed Mike Tinskey from Ford (@Ford) about their connected and electric cars. People could join live at the conference, on the web, or by following the conversation and posting questions on Twitter (#FordCW) or on the Tweetwall hosted on Tweetwally (http://fordtweetchatcw.tweetwally.com/) and presented to the live audience. It sure beat the old way of Q&A…of writing down your question to be handed to the speaker, or stepping up to the microphone to ask questions. Again, by archiving the stream, I have a permanent record to review later.
So what of the random thoughts, ideas, or actions that I didn’t want to share with the Twitter universe? Since I live in my in-box anyway, I just jumped over to Gmail and shot myself a quick email. All the follow up items are now sitting safely in my in-box and I don’t have to remember to go back and read my scribbles.
I think over time as more and more event planners adopt these strategies the process will improve even more. For example, I would love to see separate hashtags for each session. This would enable you to further organize your “notes”. Also, it would be great if events included the speaker’s Twitter handle and LinkedIn link in their bios to facilitate learning more of their thoughts and potentially continuing the dialogue. I would also like to see more events put their guides online, in e-book format or even in app format, that would enable clickable links.
Will I ever take notes again? Sure, most meetings aren’t appropriate to Tweet publicly and some conferences or events may not support the technology to make it possible or some sessions may not have the critical mass of attendees that tweet, but you can bet, when I can…I will.
If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.