E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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TLE-2007 Highlights – Know Thy Audience!

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As I have mentioned late last week, here is the last weblog post I am going to be sharing externally about the recent IBM event I attended in Paris: IBM’s Technical Leadership Exchange. There have been a few other insights I would love to share over here, but I am afraid they would be far too sensitive for me to share them with this audience. Like, for instance, the presentation that I created and that I shared on the first day of the event. Although I am not going to be able to share the slide deck (Currently checking out if I can do so though), I am going to share the experience around it, as I feel it would be an interesting anecdote of the penetration of social computing within the corporate world and getting to know your own audience a bit.

As you probably remember from a previous weblog entry, I mentioned in there that I would be doing a presentation where I would talk about some of the key concepts from social computing in general (Most of which you already know, I am sure), then make the connection with communities as the main catalysts for the adoption of social software within the corporate world and then I would finish off the presentation touching base on seven of IBM’s top social computing tools available internally, by just not giving a description of them all, but also providing a good number of tips on making extensive use of them based on my over five years experience to demonstrate how adopting such tools may not be as difficult as what most people think.

So, that was the flow of the pitch I was prepared to do on Tuesday morning, but I must say that things didn’t start up that well, from the event itself. The previous evening there was a Welcome-to-the-event reception and I actually met up a whole bunch of folks who wanted to know the purpose of my presentation. As soon as I mentioned I would be talking about social computing I got a whole bunch of poker faces clearly showing I may not be having the right audience for the day after. Sigh. Got worried, of course. But apparently, the whole reception event was a very good experience on its own and I will explain why.

For the entire morning I got myself prepared waiting for the worse, even more when, all of a sudden and at the very last minute, I found out that the room I was scheduled to speak at was changed based on the argument that there were a whole bunch more of people registered to the event than previously anticipated and therefore needed to have a larger room. At this point I am in panic mode thinking that things are going to turn out awfully wrong. Can you imagine having about 200, rather skeptic (But potentially interested), IBMers waiting for me to tell them about social computing? Yes, I know, perhaps not a pleasant experience. I am sure most of you have gone through a similar experience within your own business.

But then again things changed all of a sudden. As people were coming into the room I started noticing some very familiar faces. Phew! I started breathing again. Indeed, as more and more people started to pack the room I found out how a whole bunch of the folks I know inside IBM from interacting through our various social networks were actually starting to scatter around the large room. Most of them separate from one another in a very nice set up. I thought that this was going to be my opportunity to make it work. I actually got a few of them coming to talk to me before the event and we exchange a few words. Quite a relaxing activity, to be honest, because then it hits you that instead of you being against the world you can just share that workload with those from the audience you know about and get them involved into your pitch.

And that is exactly what I did. I went ahead with the presentation and, probably I shouldn’t say this myself, it was a blast! There I was, panicking before the session thinking that I would get hammered with skepticism and instead I had a very engaged and involving audience who were willing to share with me (With us) their own thoughts and experiences while adopting themselves some social software tools. And I got to manage all of that by realising that although some of the audience would be skeptic about the whole thing there were others out there who were really keen on listening to the pitch, chime in and share their thoughts on what their adoption experiences have been so far.

Thus instead of just hearing the message from my alone the entire audience was able to learn as well from the experiences from other folks, which made a really nice learning experience since they weren’t just listening to key messages from myself, but from that crowd who I already knew before the event and whom I decided to bring forward as well asking them to chime in and share their two cents.

And I think that was the main key success factor from the presentation itself, because I was able to prove some of the key concepts regarding social computing and the role of communities and at the same time I could mention as well how I got to connect with people from the audience I didn’t know from before face to face, but when talking to them feeling like I knew them for years already! And they themselves got to share their own thoughts about such adoption of social networking within the enterprise. And before we realised about it, everyone was sharing their own thoughts with questions and answers and showing everyone that adopting such tools has got nothing to do with the tools themselves, but with the cultural change of making use of them. And that was the whole point of how I first envisioned the presentation. Just perfect! Chaotic, energising, wonderfully unstructured and straight to the point. Couldn’t get better than that, I tell you.

They say that whenever you need to give a presentation to a group it is always a good thing to try to know your audience, or, at least, some of it, before you actually deliver the presentation. That will give you the best results and I must say that, based on my own experience from this past event at IBM’s TLE, I just couldn’t have agreed more with it. I bet that if those folks would not have been there, things would have been completely different and perhaps I wouldn’t even be sharing this particular entry over here. Would just be lamenting how slow the social computing adoption within the corporate world can be at times. Instead, it was a superb and re-invigorating event on all fronts and because of that I am going to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you, folks, (Yes, you know who you are!!), for being there and for helping me out deliver such powerful messages on the many benefits of adopting social software within the enterprise and to actively demonstrate how making use of these emerging tools is not as difficult as it may well seem sometimes.

Yes, indeed, next round of drinks are on me !

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  1. A rather belated comment — as I’m catching up on my reading!
    It struck me how very perfectly “KMish” it was of you to involve your audience members in sharing their experiences with the rest of the audience. Excellent! 🙂

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