Sourcing the crowd at SMB Ottawa


Well the weather sure can put in a wrench in things (so can transit strikes but that’s a whole other story.) Bryan Person, planned guest speaker for today’s Social Media Breakfast (SMB) Ottawa event got stranded in Boston. After three flight cancellations he had to admit defeat. He wasn’t going to make it.

Disappointing as that is, today’s event was still great. Organizers rallied and brought together Joe Thornely of Thornley Fallis and and moderator James Lewis (Executive Director of the Canadian Interactive Alliance) to lead a discussion on social media happenings in 2008.

What I and many other attendees enjoyed is how they actively sourced the crowd for input during the conversation. We talked about all kinds of social media faux pas and successes – from the Sarah Lacey incident at SXSW earlier this year to the successful use of social media on Obama’s political campaign.

The conversation took a turn at this point when we as a group started talking about social media etiquette. Is it polite to microblog while speaking or moderating at a conference? (Joe’s own experience is cited here.) Is it polite for the audience to microblog when the panelist or speaker doesn’t get a chance to respond in real-time?

Bob LeDrew said you have two options in that latter situation: ignore the Twitter conversation or adjust and accept this new form of communication. Most conferences project the Twitter stream on a screen. Speakers have every option to respond to the conversations taking place on Twitter and involve the conversation as part of their speaking stint.

It was also pointed out that people who attend conferences but aren’t on Twitter feel isolated and antagonized from what is essentially a water cooler conversation happening around them of which they can’t participate. I understand to an extent but if the Twitter stream is projected on a screen for all attendees to see, what’s to stop you from turning to the person beside you and voicing your opinion in face-to-face dialogue?

That person beside you may just be on Twitter and can tweet what you just said for you. There. You’ve joined the conversation. But that’s beside the point. Nothing replaces face-to-face communication. What Twitter does is make the water cooler conversations happen in real time. There is no need to wait until the speaker finishes. It’s not disruptive to what the speaker is saying, or at least, it doesn’t have to be.

So when you do get a chance to ask the speaker a question, or chat about the conference track over lunch, you’ve had the opportunity to process a myriad of opinions and that can extend your face-to-face conversations into deeper and more provoking (and dare I say interesting) discussions.

We then turned to how some organizations ban social media sites like Facebook and Twitter from the workplace, which is a real shame. The powers-that-be think these sites are a time-waster so they ban access. Um…if someone is going to waste time at work, they’ll do it anyway whether they have access to their Facebook profile or not. It’s a shame too because sites like Twitter (and even Facebook) can be great tools for expanding your knowledge and building business relationships.

And what about those Gen-Yers entering the workforce. They and their younger counterparts grew up with these technologies. It is so ingrained in their lives that they will expect to be able to use these tools in the workplace. And if they can’t, they’ll go work somewhere else. As Jeff Parks contributed, there is already a reverse mentoring taking place where the young are teaching the old about using these technologies (and the value therein.)

Rob from Bloggeries voiced his opinion that 2008 is the year of the social media hangover. We are now in the real time web and we have accounts on all different kinds of sites: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, SocialMedia, FriendFeeed, etc. It can be a bit daunting.

Another point mentioned this morning was that interpersonal skills in the workplace are becoming more important than technical skills. This ability to play well with others is also important in the online world. In a timely way, this point relates to something that Sue Murphy blogged about today: “Why Being a Good Friend Makes You Good at Social Media.”

Whether you use one social media tool or multiple, no matter how far you stretch yourself across the social web, it’s important to be authentic. To be kind and honest, to help others and to be a good listener.

It will be interesting to see where 2009 brings us. What are your thoughts?

15 Responses to “Sourcing the crowd at SMB Ottawa”

  1. Claudine Wilson

    Nice report. Now I’m even sorrier that I missed what seems like a very interesting breakfast. Thanks for this.

  2. melgallant

    Hey Claudine, thanks! It was a smaller crowd this morning than what we usually see. I think the weather and transit strike kept many people away. See you at the next one! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Crozon

    Great review of smbottawa – I don’t think I got a chance to meet you there, but I did enjoy my time. BTW I’ve shared your post at

  4. melgallant

    Hey Crozon, I’m sorry we didn’t meet today. Perhaps at the January event? Thanks for sharing my post at

  5. Amy Yee


    Very thoughtful post. Thanks for writing this up. I like your point about being an effective listener in order join the conversation and add value. Regarding interpersonal skills and technology, I wonder if people naturally carry over their personalities to their social media presence, or is it a mindset that you have to adopt? Am I using my interpersonal skills, or am I trying to act in a way that’s expected of me? While it is about authenticity, does it sometimes take time to find one’s authentic voice in an unfamiliar medium? Every person has their own style of communication, and every medium has its limitation. I love the point about interpersonal skills being more important than technical skills, and I think it’s something to be aware of. I also think it’s important to balance our perceptions of authenticity against the medium in question. Would love to hear any thoughts on this. Is this cut and dry? Is it just “not about the technology, stupid” or is it “somewhat about the technology”?

    Thanks again,

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  7. melgallant

    Hey Amy, you raise some great questions.

    I think b/c much of the social web is self-policing, there is an expectation to act a certain way (ie. contribute value, be authentic, etc.) You certainly don’t have to but I think it helps build your credibility.

    It actually took me a while to find “my voice” on Twitter. When I joined a year ago, I didn’t really know the etiquette for site or how to contribute value. So I followed others (literally and figuratively) to sort it out for myself. Communicating online doesn’t have to be that much different from communicating in person, but it’s how you do it (maybe this is the technology learning curve that is required.)

    For example, there is a way to do and say things on Twitter. It took me forever how to figure out what hashtags are all about. Now that I understand how to use them, I can follow and join in on deeper conversations, etc. So yes, I think it is “somewhat about the technology.”

    But it still comes down to your ability to connect with others in meaningful ways. It’s those interpersonal skills that help the most. My two cents. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Gilbane and SMBOttawa — by Amanda Shiga

    […] This morning’s Social Media Breakfast was well-attended, despite the OC Transpo bus strike, bad weather, and the fact that the speaker (Bryan Person) was stranded in Boston. The organizers rallied and pulled together an excellent session with Joseph Thornley recapping social media in 2008 and some great audience discussion. As always, lots of friendly schmoozing with the Ottawa community. Mel Gallant’s recap is here. […]

  9. David Leonhardt

    Thanks to the bus strike, the city was nearly blockaded. But I caught the tail end of the discussions. It was quite invigorating.

  10. Bloggeries

    Great recap Mel!

    I really liked the style of today’s breakfast. I also don’t think it’s rude to tweet while at a conference. It helps give info to people who can’t make the event for any number of reasons. (Cost, family, health, weather, bus strike etc…)

    If I was a speaker and people were tweeting it I’d be happy since it’s expanding the reach of my words which ultimately I’m interested in or I wouldn’t be speaking in the first place.

    I’d rather someone tweeting in the audience then straight day dreaming or doodling a “things to do list” on the pads.

    I also think in today’s world whatever you do will offend someone. So as long as you live by your values you’re good to go.

    See you in January if not sooner,

  11. Reflections on SMBOttawa 5 : 42 Points on a Double Word Score

    […] than recap the most recent Social Media Breakfast Ottawa from memory, I will just point you to Mel Gallantโ€™s great post and stick instead with my take-away thoughts based on what was […]

  12. Mike Spear

    “Most conferences project the Twitter stream on a screen. ”
    Bob where the heck do you all go to conferences? I have never been to one where it is projected onto the screen and I’ve been putting on a lot of miles lately.
    I’ve also been following many of these discussion, blogs and tweets, and was at the conf in Toronto that got Joseph into the ‘Twitterequette mode.
    Could it be that the Twitter ’till you drop practice at conferences is more of a social media conference thing ?
    At a meeting of scientists and journalists in Washington D.C. – no Twitter. At a subsequent genetics seminar in the D.C. Press Club – no Twitter. At the recent annual meeting of Beef Producers in Calgary – no Twitter. At the Social Media conference in Toronto – lots of Twitter , none on the screen. Ditto for the one in Calgary. The Genomics conference in Vancouver – no Twitter. Last MESH in Toronto – lots of Twitter, none on the screen.
    Problem is that the social media hookah pipe we often share together kinda clouds what the rest of the world is doing.
    If we believe that a roomful of separate ‘conversations’ is better than a single focused and ongoing interplay of ideas then Twitter away.
    But I think it would be a treat if authentic conversation turned out to be among a group of people making eye contact, watching body language, giving people the floor when needed, and exchanging ideas while laughing and maybe even crying together.

  13. melgallant

    Hi Mike – thanks for your comment. You point out something that is also echoed in Joe Boughner’s post following SMB (he links to his post just above your comment.)

    Thing is. We in this space do get a little myopic and forget there are conferences where Twitter is not displayed on a screen for all to ooh and awe over.

    I see social media as a way to augment face-to-face communication. Not replace it. But if we do act exclusionary and ignore the frustration of those not a part of our online conversations, then we deserve the criticism we (and the tools) receive from the so-called “non-converted.”

    Thanks to you and Joe for pointing out what we need to be reminded of. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Mike Spear

    I just came ot of our Board meeting where I was asked to present on our social media investments. We are a non-profit with a Facebook application ( give a gene all of you ! ), blog, and twitter regularly. No one on our Board uses any of those tools yet they are well educated and technology savvy scientists, researchers and politicians.
    Bu they get where it fits in the scheme of things. They certainly want to make sure that we don’t fall into an either/or category of our outreach and awareness activites and that one compliments the other but overall they ‘get it’.
    I couldn’t aks for a more supportive Board who even ask if I’m still having fun.
    And yes …. I twittered some comments during the Board meeting !

  15. Scott Lansing

    I often wonder about Twitter etiquette during live conferences and events. Granted I don’t have the means to Tweet from my phone (too expensive for the time being and don’t have my iPhone yet), it’s a great way to monitor live commentary. Hopefully people are mature and respectful enough to remain civil with their Tweets, especially if the feed is projected for all to see, as I would think great spontaneous discussions could stem from this live commentary.

    If microblogging during an event at which you’re attending is becoming more of a norm, is text messaging allowed as well? I personally think it’s rude for people to text during meetings, presentations or classes, as it detracts their attention from the subject at hand, but I don’t feel this way about Tweeting during the same events, even though it’s difficult to tell the two apart from across the room.


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