Last weekend on Saturday 30 June, in about 481 cities around the world Social Media Day was celebrated. I partook in this “little” event and attended my first ever, Unconference.
I really didn’t know what to expect as I parked the car in a tiny side street behind Richmond station and walked a short walk to what looked like an empty warehouse. Suddenly I started thinking that this isn’t right. Where are the large hotel venues for the conferences I know so well. Luckily I spotted a small sign that directed me to go up the stairs and hopefully, to social media nirvana.
Well it wasn’t nirvana but it was close to it where a young man smiled at me, greeted me, bowed and asked me to kindly step into the bubble.
By this stage, with walks in dark alleys, creaky staircases and open warehouses, I was ready for anything. The truth was that I had come to stretch my mind and if he wanted me to step into a bubble, who was I to complain. Besides, I’ve never been in a bubble so it was a first time for everything.
Only after I was in the actual bubble I got to thinking, “is this a metaphor?” Have I been living in a bubble all my life and only on this day, on Saturday 30 June 2012 at exactly 3:00pm I stepped into the soapy ring to have strangers giggle and envelope me into a light rainbow coloured glistening delicate bubble?
After a few attempts (alright, I did enter the bubble a few times for photo opportunities you understand), I walked into the main room where we were given our name badges and introduced ourselves to the groups standing around.
At one end of the large room, there was a massive whiteboard and we were given texta markersto write down what we wanted to talk about.
“Mmm. So an Unconference is driven by us, the participants,” I thought to myself and then I quickly thought, “how far to the door?” All of a sudden it dawned on me that this is not a time to skulk and hide away like I do at normal conferences, quietly taking in the information that is dished out. I might actually have to do some work. So we stood around awkwardly looking at each other and then the wall, and with a mass of white blank spaces at various 30 minute slots, I bit the bullet, took a texta pen and wrote on the board. It took me a few minutes to consider what I wanted to talk about so my topic was on “How to inspire a global network of people into an eClub for Service and Self” and talked about my Rotary eClub which is a group of 26 members across the globe who socialise and collaborate online through an online social platform (WordPress with Buddypress plug in). However, as we are relatively new (only a couple of weeks), the concept is new and foreign to many of our members. We haven’t established protocols of how we will collaborate and network online so we’re really feeling our way. I though it would be an opportunity to just get it out there and get some ideas of what we could do.
So I presented my topic and people looked on and accessed the Rotary eClub website and gave me some ideas on how to establish and set up some ways of collaborating with each other. They had all heard of Rotary before but thought it was an “old men’s club” or a “private secret club by invitation only” and they were surprised to hear that it’s not like that. Our club is made up of a mix of ages, many women, all working and many in their 30s and 40s where the online club is the best way for them to contribute if they can’t attend a physical meeting. It’s perfect for those people who travel and still establishes a connection.
I attended other presentations for the next couple of hours and all them had something relevant for me. I was surprised at the variety of people and professions there who all had the same issues, problems and concerns about how to implement and promote social media in their line of work. It was quite an inspiring and creative space and I appreciated being able to listen to, and contribute to discussions – there was no right or wrong. There was no right or wrong but I came away with lots of tools, references and networks! Also increased my network and got new Twitter friends!
Throughout the event, the Twitter feeds from other events occurring around the world at the same time was being fed on the large screen and we were encouraged to tweet about our experiences. It was great to be able to share something in one city, in Melbourne and know that somewhere else around the world, they were doing the same and we can share what we learn. It really puts it into perspective how small and connected this world is coming with social media. All of a sudden, through your networks you can have your question answered in so many different ways and perspectives and you are blown away with different perspectives on things. You cannot afford to live in “your own bubble” nowadays and this is what Social Media Day taught me.