The DC area was looking a little more like Silicon Valley this week, welcoming a number of prominent bloggers, social media consultants, tech company product managers, startups, VC's, and more - well, with the exception of all the dark suits in the audience which made it a great Silicon Valley/DC mashup scene. Such was The New New Internet Conference - Web 2.0 for Business, presented by Potomac Executive Biz at the Reston Hyatt on Thursday, November 1st.
Local Internet luminary Ted Leonsis kicked off a day jam-packed with speakers, panelists and presenters. Other highlights included Tim Ferriss, author or The 4 Hour Work Week, offering an entertaining and informative lunchtime keynote full of tips for gaining back control of your time, and journalist Om Malik, founder of GigaOmniMedia, Inc providing his insights into future game-changing opportunities for businesses. James Surowiecki, author of Wisdom of the Crowds provided a fascinating mid-morning keynote as well.
But the most lively discussions seemed to be around some of the panels. Ryan Carson of Carsonified led an interesting conversation about the future of Web 2.0 in business with serial entrepreneur Brad Feld, Alex Iskold CEO of startup Adaptive Blue and Hans Hwang of Cisco, discussing whether large companies would be able to embrace Web 2.0 tools and the "culture of openness", the changing voice of corporate communications and the challenge of authenticity. Later in the day the audience had a real treat, engaging with a social media panel full of surprises. Moderator Rohit Bhargava guided panelists Geoff Livingston, Gary Vaynerchuk and Frank Gruber (editor of this blog) through what was easily the most energetic session of the day. All four shared personal anecdotes clearly illustrating the same points - if your company doesn't get over the fear of losing control and embrace social media, you'll be left behind. Social media is really a return to customer oriented marketing - it's just the location of the customers that has changed, and there are new tools for finding and reaching them. Tools can range from Facebook widgets like Vaynerchuck's daily videocasts or WineTV widgets, company blog, or even a corporate video-cast, as a (somewhat) Frank Gruber illustrated by stepping on stage with a video camera strapped to his head.
As an east-coast-techie who's often on the West coast, it was nice to see such a great gathering in Reston's own "tech corridor". The hallways were buzzing with discussion and unlike most of the conferences I've been to in the Valley where everyone seems to be in the know, it felt like there was a very real audience of people eager to learn about new tools and resources they haven't worked with yet.
Editor's Note: Special thank you to Jen Consalvo for covering the conference for me as I was tied up most of the day with conference related activities.