Getting the most out of a Pub Expo Virtual Conference.
It is true that there is no substitute for the real thing – but there are alternatives that can be less exhausting and more immediately rewarding – and entertaining. This thought came to me as I was reflecting on the Sept. 13 Book Business online Pub Expo.
The virtue of the virtual conference is that while it provides desk top access to timely programmed expertise in an inviting visual on-screen setting, you can also arrange your time to multitask in such a way as to take care of a necessary phone call or two, have your coffee and snacks nearby to keep the batteries charged, keep a corner of your screen open to access any important e-mails coming through – not to speak of your smart phone or iPad at hand if you really want a communication center at your side.
Earphones and a writing pad or keyboard enable note taking as you go along. Resource documents referred to can be downloaded into your electronic briefcase for later reference. And all of the presentation slide shows become available for revisiting or download when the conference is over.
My first virtual conference experience came three years ago at Book Business’ first virtual Pub Expo. I have to say my expectations were dampened by prior efforts to master the navigation of online events. However, I was quickly disabused. It was awesome!
True, first time around required a little orientation – but the simulation was inviting, the navigation tools easily accessed, and once I realized I was in the driver’s seat (all events can be revisited – and the entire conference is open for a see-again for months thereafter), I relaxed, coffee cup at hand and coffee pot not far away, and settled into the program.
Inasmuch there are usually several thousand registrants and hundreds in attendance at any given time, curiosity as to who is sharing the experience is easily satisfied by clicking the “who is here” button, and any attendee can be reached by in-show e-mail while the event is going on. For networking purposes, connection is easily made – and in each of these years I have re-connected with associates and friends I didn’t know in advance would be there – and vice versa.
If you arrive a few minutes earlier, you can use the time to get the lay of the land. First place to go, if for some reason you haven’t opened to it, is the Plaza. A large high-ceiling lobby appears with entry ways to the main centers of activity that are open simultaneously throughout the event: the Auditorium, the Exhibit Hall, the Resource Center, the Networking Lounge and the Information Center. For immediate access to tools and information no matter what is on your screen at the event, a series of buttons at the bottom of the frame provide drop downs that click through to locations, chat centers, search, prizes, help, sharing and other places you might want to consult.
The Exhibit Hall is my favorite browsing place. The interface is designed as a spacious promenade with a background of high windows opening to a city skyline and blue sky beyond. Clicking the directional left or right arrows move you past the various exhibitor booths. When you click on the booth you enter the Exhibitor’s own lounge and chat room with access to information, resources, and live chat with exhibitor reps. The networking lounge supports general chat, and you are also able to set up private chats,
On arrival at the conference, in the center and upward in the Plaza is a welcoming screen on which this year’s host, Lynn Rosen, Book Business Content Director, welcomed participants and provided an overview of the program to come. You then switch to the auditorium and access the program as it unfolds. As the opening keynote and various presentations proceed, those which have already taken place can be revisited later.
Of course, the conference is more than atmospherics, and your reason for attending is to step out of your box and explore the wider challenges and opportunities affecting your own career, your company or network and the industry at large. Being able to do this at your desk provides the opportunity that attending a conference in New York prohibits if you happen to be in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta or Tucson. And if you are in New York, you can bring the event to your office when your presence may be needed.
This year’s opening keynote laid down the gauntlet with the question “Can Publishing Really Be Replaced by a Button? Not that simple was the word from Rory O’Connor, co-founder and president of the international media firm Globalvision and author of several books, including the recent "Friends, Followers and the Future." Yes, he said, anything a machine can do that a human could do is best done by the machine. But publishers should embrace change and do those things only publishers are able to do – the development of content and marketing of good books.
The changes being embraced are the various forms of social marketing, new reading platforms, and reader-sourcing of content choices. With this framework, sitting at my computer, I selected the sessions that most closely addressed ways in which this strategy can be executed through initiatives such as transforming data into revenue, cross-platform production, custom publishing and social media marketing
No question but that walking the floors and networking at a real live expo is without peer. But for a more focused and relaxed experience that provides immediacy and ease of access the Virtual Conference should be on your preferred list.
Meanwhile, don’t overlook the new Book Business Publishing Conference and Expo that will premier Sept 23-25, 2013 at the New York Marriott with a powerhouse lineup of featured speakers, For more info go to www.publishingbusiness.com.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.