IAEM 2011 Conference logo

Initial thoughts on the IAEM conference

IAEM 2011 Conference logoThe International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) conference has ended and I’ll be flying out in the morning.  Here’s a couple random thoughts from the conference.

There was a lot more use of Twitter at this conference then before.  That’s a good thing, but still not enough.  I don’t have the exact numbers of people tweeting at this conference but it was far shy of the ~2800 attendees.  I’d guess about 20 really active and maybe 50 or so total.

I did an experiment at this conference.  Instead of my normal @krobertory, I used @krobertoryIAEM to tweet out all my conference notes.  This kept @krobertory clean to what most of my followers have come to expect.  Those who were interested would either follow @krobertoryIAEM or the conference hash tag of #IAEM.  By the end of the conference, I kicked out 354 tweets and had 67 followers on the account.  On a normal day, I might do 10-20 tweets through @krobertory.  I suspect that it really didn’t matter to the people in the conference.  Instead of a positive, I just avoided a negative – which is still a good thing.  I didn’t lose any followers to @krobertory because of a little conference twitterhea.

There was a decent number of people that I met at this conference solely due to my Twitter presence.  I can attribute this to a number of things.  I’ve been active on #SMEM prior to the conference so I already knew a number of people to look up.  We did a TweetUp the first or second night of the conference so those introductions were done early where we could interact through more of the conference.  Finally, the techie (aka geek) crowd was very active in showing others Twitter and explaining it.  Alisha (@Alisha_Beth) did a great seminar on Twitter tools that was standing room only.  Hal (@Hal_Grieb) had a great idea of guerilla tactics to make social media converts one person at a time.

The IAEM Emerging Technology Caucus got started officially at the conference.  That caucus (we?) need to take charge of the social media / social engagement sessions at the next conference.  All the right SMEs are in the caucus.  Create a series of sessions that build on each other through the conference.  Pascal (@schuback) was the only speaker that setup dual projectors.  The second project was a TweetDeck column following #IAEM.  The session attendees could see in real time what was been said about the session – and all the rest.  I know of three people that said they created Twitter account during the session because Alisha and Pascal were so convincing.

This is the first time that I’ve live streamed a conference room.  It was really easy and I think I’m going to just start doing that at all conferences I go to.  The best part about this is that others who can’t get away or afford to come to the conference will get a taste of the sessions.  Now I know that the conference hosts don’t want to do free live streaming because of the thought that less people will attend if they can get the content at home.  There is a fundamental shift in general as a result of technology.  People look for the free things first, then will pay money later if interested.  It’s no longer the pay to play model of 10 years ago.  Think about it. Amazon and iTunes both offer free previews.  Many applications have a demo version.  Streaming a conference will allow more people to experience the conference.  The more experience they have, the more desire they have to go.  I believe there are very few people who will really sit down and watch a three-day conference on their computer.  Besides, they’re still missing out on all the networking which was my high-point of this conference.

Eric (@Eric_Holdeman) made a great remark during his session:  “Death and retirement solve many problems.”  This was said in the context of moving EMs and other first responders into the new world of social media and directly engaging the citizens.  I think that EMs are starting to get that this isn’t a fad and will be around (in some form or another) for a long time to come.  The challenge that many of them face is that they just don’t know where to start.

Let’s hope that during the next 12 months, IAEM can get it together to start using technology more effectively and teaching EMs to use technology to elevate our status in the communities we serve.