Citing Increased In-Person Attendance, I.B.M. Puts More Conference Content Online

By Mitra Sorrells January 24, 2012, 11:21 AM EST

Photo: BizBash

I.B.M.'s Lotusphere Conference
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Sharing conference content online attracts new attendees in subsequent years. That’s what organizers of I.B.M.’s Lotusphere 2012 conference said they have learned in recent years and the reason they are making more content from this year’s event available online for free. The company is sharing all general sessions, strategy sessions, and interviews with key speakers from the conference that wrapped up Thursday at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.

“We found last year that by live streaming, we had a much further reach and we had people who came this year who hadn’t come in the past,” said Kathy Mandelstein, I.B.M. director of marketing. “It encourages people who may not be familiar with an event [to attend] once they see the content.” 

Mandelstein said it is important to “offer the right balance of content,” and also to consider the timing. In the case of Lotusphere, organizers chose not to share the hundreds of technical sessions offered to in-person attendees. They also delayed the release of some sessions on Livestream and plan to roll out more content in coming weeks, such as offering speaker presentations on SlideShare in mid-February.  

I.B.M. made minor tweaks to its social media aggregators, which it introduced at last year’s conference and which offer a single online landing page that provides a stream of blogs, Twitter comments, Flickr photos, and conference videos. Organizers added more seating to the four social media cafes, which also included large monitors displaying the aggregator page. And despite the fact that the majority of the more than 5,000 attendees are well-versed in the use of technology, organizers decided they needed a help desk and better signage near each monitor. 

“One thing we found last year is that we didn’t have them clearly marked that they were touch screens, so now there are wrappers around them that clearly say ‘touch me,’ and there are videos that play that explain how the aggregators work when it is sitting idle,” Mandelstein said. “We want to make it really clear that they are interactive.” Attendees could view and share conference content using the touch-screen interface.

The company added a new concurrent event this year, I.B.M. Connect, to focus on the business decisions related to using social technologies in the workplace (Lotusphere is focused on technical issues). That conference took place in the same location for two days, January 16 and 17, and Lotusphere attendees had full access to Connect sessions.

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