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Last week, I was in Sacramento to help long time client and friend Laurie Webb with a presentation at the Government Technology Conference. This is a conference entirely geared toward the California state government's I.T. needs. Laurie had taken a booth and sponsorship at the event and had a one hour speaking slot, with the topic "Reaching Citizens through Web 2.0". My job was to help her prepare and deliver that presentation. If that seems a bit outside what you think I do, keep in mind that as a consultant I do not focus strictly on technology. I see my role, very specifically, as doing whatever I can to make my client look good. That could be helping with a presentation, performing a security review, writing software, project planning, or helping to navigate the tricky political waters to get a project approved.
What made this conference unusual for me was that it wasn't geared around any particular product -- IBM's or otherwise. The topic had to be addressed from a planning and policy perspective and be software agnostic. It also meant that the audience was far different from what you'd get at a technology conference like AdminCamp or Lotusphere. Also, as it turned out, Laurie had a family emergency come up while there and had to fly home, so I ended up delivering the presentation in her place (see above -- whatever it takes).
Although the session was fairly small, it was a great group of interested people. We had a very good interactive discussion and that helped me tailor my approach as we moved through the hour. What struck me was how hard so many people in government are working to understand how the social internet is changing the expectations of the end user for what websites do, and how we interact with them. A good example of that is how my own site www.Thenorth.com fails to be much more than a Web 1.0 brochure, while this blog site actually attracts much more interest (yeah, I'm really overdue to update and integrate the two). When you use this blog site, you're a part of it. That's critical.
Response from the session has been amazing. For a room of less than 50 people, I've already had two direct relevant contacts and a stack of fantastic session feedback forms. Compared to a tech conference, that's a much stronger "business response" than you'd expect. More interesting, is that the contacts and feedback directly relate to the topics we discussed and are thoughtful and interesting to read.
I think I may look at opportunities to do more of that kind of speaking in the future.
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