Firstly, I really want to compliment Tim and Emile for putting on the show in the first place. Whilst I always realised it was a lot of work for them, I always knew that there was a lot that goes on “behind the scenes” and this has been exposed somewhat by Tims slightly alarming recent blog post:
This years Expo felt completely different to me for several reasons, the first being that it was in Las Vegas, a different venue to Ontario in so many ways!
The second was that I took my family along for the ride which resulted in me skipping on many of the evening activities and meetups that went on, outside of the Expo.
So my thoughts on the Expo….
New Media Expo: Although I was initially sceptical about the removal of podcasting from the name of the event, I don’t think it caused the Expo to suffer in any way, shape or form. Quite the opposite in fact, I felt supremely comfortable being part of the New Media Expo, Time and Emile were right on the money to rename the show.
Location: Whilst I can understand and in most respects, agreed with the reasoning for moving the Expo to Vegas, I don’t think it completely worked this time round but I see it very much as a traumatic first step that needed to be taken.
The venue was much, much too large for the event.
We were overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the convention center and despite being located adjoining the Hilton Hotel, the Expo was a considerable distance away from the Hotel. It just felt pretty soul-less rattling about in such an enormous space. If the Expo is to remain in Vegas for next year, I’d be hoping that they moved it to another convention center in one of the other Hotels or even to one of the halls closer to the hotel itself. Each seems to have a pretty big convention facility built right in. Another moan – why no power on the desks in the sessions and no coffee available after mid afternoon? These are all things that can be fixed and should not be taken out of context.
I still believe that it was right to move the Expo to Las Vegas for this year and many lessons will have been learned. Whether the show needs to remain in Vegas will be down to many different factors some of which are discussed here and others that will be discussed behind the scenes.
Networking: One of the major benefits of the Expo or any similar event, is the networking element and this is probably my primary reason for attending the Expo. It really is invaluable to meet up with like minded people and share experiences. My expectations this year were not really to learn anything new but to make my experiences available to anyone who wanted to listen or anyone trying to break through and make some money from their content. I feel there is a real need for people to realise that it is possible for independent content creators to make a decent living from their efforts and to learn from the example of others. I was humbled to meet several people at the Expo this year who were inspired by my story last year, and have gone on to make their own way successfully using the same model as I use.
This is what the Expo is all about – sharing experiences and learning.
It was a pleasure to meet with each and every person at the Expo even just to say hello, making many new friends and meeting up with old friends. The professional podcaster, the enthusiast podcaster and corporate podcaster (oops New Media peeps) were well represented and the enthusiasm for podcasting and New Media is undiminished.
As an aside, one of the major benefits of being a speaker is access to the speakers room, a place where you can go and hang out with the other speakers, grab a drink and plug in your laptop. This really is a fantastic networking opportunity and another reason for stepping up to being a speaker. If there was some way to expand the concept of the speakers room to all the attendees that would be really beneficial and a huge plus to the event.
Expo Floor: The expectation (and the intention?) was that moving the Expo to Las Vegas would result in the Expo exhibition floor being much bigger and it would attract some additional major vendors this year. As it transpires, the floor space was the same as last year and yes, there were some big names on the floor (Microsoft and Sony for example). But somehow, the buzz on the show floor seemed to be lacking and expectations were not fully matched causing some grumbles and moaning from Expo veterans. The biggest draw on the floor, and the one to cause the most excitement, was Leo and Twit Live. Leo streamed live interviews with various podcasters for the first two days of the show – a great feature, well executed, even if I didn’t manage to get on for a slot with Leo. The connection made between the Expo attendees and the Twit live audience who in turn, could communicate back via Twitter was quite amazing.
Confession time – I don’t really care about the Expo exhibition floor! Well, let me rephrase that. I care that the vendors support and subsidise the Expo for the benefit of the show as a whole but I don’t really see the Exhibit hall as a major draw, not for me at least.
Others may see it as a key part of the conference but I wander round and see what’s there but I almost never engage with the vendors as I have to admit, it doesn’t really do a lot for me. I really only hit the floor as a diversion between the sessions and to see who is around – it’s the “speakers room” for the rest of the conference attendees. Obviously, from a financial standpoint, the booths on the Expo floor support the rest of the conference but I really have to wonder if we should pay so much attention on who and what is there. Just my personal take, but if there were an alternative meeting forum, I really wouldn’t care if the Expo floor was there or not.
Perhaps as a “New Media” event, we need to see a breakaway from the traditional format of the typical trade show? The Twit.tv live concept seems to be a great way to go and should be considered as an integral part of the show going forward. Obviously, the costs of putting on such a major event need to be carefully controlled and that’s not my area of expertise but perhaps include options for streaming content live for paying customers may be one possible way to go considering the costs of a trip to Vegas are prohibitive for many people both in the US and internationally.
Sessions: I have to admit I was surprised to see so many speakers presenting for the second, third or even fourth time at the Expo, and this is from my viewpoint as someone who spoke last year. In my own defence, the session I did this year was completely different from last years session and it might well be that most of the repeat speakers sessions where also different, but it still seemed a bit strange to have so many repeat speakers. Even with fresh content, it could well appear to seasoned Expo veteran that some duplication is inevitable. Quite a few of the Expo veterans seemed to be there for the networking rather than the sessions. Might be time for some fresh blood for next year?
Keynotes: Gary V was inspired and inspiring but very much addressing his own space. Some good take away messages though especially around effort required to build a personal brand and community. The Blendtec blender guy put on an interesting session and based on his numbers, I don’t think he’ll ever be out of work in the marketing field. The final keynote was an interview session with the Epic-Fu people. I’d never been aware of them before but they had a good story of starting from scratch and building up a brand and a following. They are obviously pretty smart people and destined for greater things but it was refreshing to see such serious savvy heads on young shoulders. One to watch me thinks!
So in summary, yes, my feeling was that overall the Expo was a success and is well positioned to move forward if it gets the support it deserves.
One thing is certain, we definitely need the New Media Expo to succeed for the industry to grow and we all need to support it in what ever way we can.