I’m literally just back from the Like Minds conference in Exeter. I say I’m back, but between the ongoing conversations on Twitter and the comment exchanges on the flickr photos it does feel a little like I am still there. The event was an excellent opportunity to transfer the on-line conversations about business culture, technology trends and the social aspects of business to off-line, into face to face discussions.

Facebook and other social media are now the most visited web-destinations in the world. The way that employees and customers communicate has changed, it is now down to businesses to catch up. I caught (or maybe that should be cornered!) co-organiser Scott Gould on camera, at the end of an exhausting day, to explain some more about Like Minds:

I used my mobile phone to record the video, as I’d lost track of where I put down my HD video camera in all of the excitment, but it serves as a useful reminder that anyone in a business has the tools to be a content-creator. It doesn’t take expensive equipment, or huge amounts of time. We have the technology to enable anyone to communicate with everyone, and that changes how businesses should communicate. The pandora’s box is already open, and businesses and employees alike are riffling their way through its contents.

I’m very sure that Trey Pennington will have some excellent videos of his own, but I managed to catch him on the other side of the lens after his panel, and had him explain his perspective. The words at the end of this video are still echoing around my mind. As we emerge from the current economic challenges, however long it takes us, history suggests that there will be a shift in emphasis away from financial drivers towards the more ‘social’ people-centred aspects of business. From employee retention and engagement, to new styles of marketing to customers, businesses need to be ready:

I enjoyed the opportunity of speaking on the panel after Olivier Blanchard. (aka the Brand Builder). I’ll share the thoughts from that in another post. As I took to the stage to speak, I was actually very nervous – here’s the back stage experience:

It can feel like that for many employees when they are asked to ‘do’ social media, or edit a wiki or write a blog. Not everyone is a natural communicator, and building effective people-to-people communication systems requires keeping that in mind. Not everyone wants to be ‘on the stage’. That means it’s not just about training people to use the tools, it is also about training them to understand how to use them effectively and responsibly. Most training seems to fall at that first hurdle, and never attempts the second. Like Minds has challenged me to raise the bar on the training we do, both the in-house workshops, and the more regular courses. There are broader issues to tackle. As one member of the audience explained, with his struggles to reconcile being a company director during the week and a partying rugby player at the weekend, the age of tagging friends in photos has no respect for neat work-life social boundaries.

I travelled down to Exeter the night before, which enabled me to meet the other speakers, as well as the local Lord Mayor – I have to say, from this speaker’s perspective, it was the most well organised conference I have ever attended. Scott and Andrew Ellis’ attention to detail is unrivalled and I am deeply grateful to both them and their patient team of assistants.

But back to that train journey the night before, and something that would have been most unlikely in the days before Twitter. I’ll let fellow speaker, the amazingly high energy A. J. Pape of Future Considerations explain the story:

Business success is intimately linked to an effective communciation infrastrature that not only allows knowledge to be gathered, stored and distributed, but also supports the working relationships that people need to function inside and across businesses. Social Media is becoming the de-facto communications medium, and while many businesses still have their head in the sand, an enthusiastic band of likeminded professionals are hard at work putting this new technology to good business use.