MassTLC’s Unconference: Innovators Make the Conference They Need

You can tell how much a conference respects its attendees by the degrees of freedom they are afforded. Do they have long breaks, available open meeting rooms, can they change the agenda, walk out of sessions? Is the environment commercial free? Can they meet 1:1 with organizers and the people most important to them in the room?

While there’s a structure – the agenda is learning and helping…not presenting.  You’ll find NO panels, NO keynotes, NO advertising pitches. This isn’t a place to practice being a social media windbag, a guru, or a hand waving advocate. Its where this year over 1,000 CEO’s, PR hacks, investors, law firms, start-up managers and students asked and answered each others questions, and networked as friendly smart people do.

Thanks to you – our session on experience design was the top ranked idea proposed online before the conference! Thanks for that. ;>

The day started with a moderated cattle call for anyone who wants to propose a session. Ideas get refined, combined, and occasionally booted. The result was around 100 sessions all run by those who cared to walk in an participate, here’s a sample:

  • Incubators: Are they worth it for entrepreneurs?
  • How to Build a Two Sided Market w/o Breaking the Bank
  • Customer Experience as Brand Disruptor
  • How to Build a Two Sided Market w/o Breaking the Bank
  • The Future of Social TV
  • Defining big data and drawing a market map

Dave McLaughlin, the CEO of Vsnap and I teamed up to talk about the disruptive potential of using digital tools to gain customer preference. His firm makes a tool that helps brands become more customer intimate by using personal short video messages instead of text to communicate, well, more personally.

Jamie Wallace from Suddenly Marketing live blogged a lot of the points that came up in our discussion. You can read her awesome roll-up of the ideas we discussed.

The enthusiasm people brought for creating products and staff interactions that earn “customer who give a damn was really impressive. They knew that having customers who will tell you how to improve, who come back for more, tell a friend, at some level become important investors, or true believers, in your business. What they think of your firm may say more than any brand manager, and in the end, this preference earned is huge firewall against commoditization.

And that brings us back to Unconference. The agenda is 100% made by its attendees. The organizers and expert volunteers are available for 1:1 meetings, at the attendees request. Everyone gets and gives what they want. The conference organizes, promotes, serves good snacks and drinks at the end. And its lets people who are passionate about innovation become a tribe.

That’s a great example of how customers determine a product, and how having customers who care and are involved makes the product sizzle.

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