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How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Non-Working WiFi

MozCon hit Seattle this July. The leading online marketing conference was a blast, 3 days packed with inspiring talks about the future of digital marketing and great discussions with peers. Not only did I bring back two notebooks full of insights & thoughts, but also two main take aways:

  1. As the online marketing industry is getting more and more complex, the need for a strong brand and holistic view on (online) marketing is gaining in importance, big time.
  2. Not having a working WiFi at a conference is a blessing.

Topic #1 is something the whole industry will need to take care of – many meetings will be held, many clients need to be convinced, many blog posts will be written. So let’s focus on #2 for a minute.

As you took your seat in the conference hall and began to get ready for the first session, one thing immediately became obvious: There is a WiFi, but there is no bandwidth. Which means: You’re offline. Being a big issue for quite a few people in the audience, there’s no surprise it quickly became quite a meme. I, too, was at the very frontline those people complaining about the absence of a working WiFi on day one of MozCon (sorry Jen, Keri and Erica of the MozTeam…!☺). Because of course, you travel far and invest time and money to attend this converence, so you want to weigh in on twitter, share the highlights with your folks at home, get your 15secs of retweet-fame for being the fastest to tweet that smart quote of Avinash, live-blog the sessions, fave great comments by other attendees, check your work-email…

Wait – you want to do what?

Things easily get out of control when you put 1200 internet addicts in a room and force-feed them with fantastic content. This Vine shows what my twitter-timeline for #mozcon looked like:

See what I see? What once was a useful tool that added a meta-layer of comments to events turned into a nasty beast, spitting out new tweets by the second, including a competition about who’s the fastest live-tweeter of speaker-statements. Tracking conversations, spotting wise thoughts? Really difficult if not impossible.

I only realized this on day two when I re-gained access to the internet and happily immersed myself into it. And I didn’t really like it. I was a better listener on day 1, selectively taking notes in my own words instead of being wired to TweetDeck and faving my way through the session.

So, maybe it’s the age: Gone are my days of multitasking :) But it’s way more probable that being forced to offline-mode made me re-discover my love of analog thinking. Analog thinking? I made that up, but maybe in the future there’s a Wikipedia article that defines it as following:

  1. Be an active listener: It’s not only about sponging up as much as possible, but actively listening also to the more subtle tones of the presentation, hidden facts on slides (eg i love checking out other people’s bookmark bars on screenshots) and spotting when somebody is really committed on stage. Be sure not to miss that part!
  2. Be a selective note-taker: Don’t just grab those tweet-sized statements, but summarize ideas that stuck with you in your own words.
  3. Put into context: What does it mean for you? How will you put that wisdom into action, who will you need to talk to, what will you want to change in the following weeks? Why do you think you’re better of with the way you tackle the issue? Write down all these implications as well, as you might have a hard time figuring out why exactly you jot down that idea some weeks later.

Those steps might sound simple, but in a world where more and more platforms and gadgets compete for our attention, I found them to be quite powerful.

Thank you Moz for putting up such a strong conference and thanks Team Washington State Convention Center for the poor WiFi – you helped focusing on sessions worth listening.

3 thoughts on “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Non-Working WiFi”

  1. Well stated, I had much the same reaction at the Conference – just relax, take it in, and take notes when I wanted to. I wonder if in the future, conference halls will run WiFi & cell jamming so people can be in a bubble without distractions. Sounds crazy, but it can be liberating.

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