You can never be too rich, too thin, or too connected

Today, I will be delivering this talk at the International Association of Business Communicators- NSW Chapter in Sydney. Please visit their site if you are working in the  communication industry or profession- it’s a valuable network and a knowledge transfer agency- as per one of the messages in my talk.

The slide show below was not designed for presenting via overhead slides, I won’t be using any preferring to make a heart to heart connection with the audience instead, and will be elaborating with stories from the trenches. These are just some preparation notes shared here so others can also benefit from it ( Sharing the Whuffie in other words!)  

IABC talk on Thought Leadership 26 August, NSW Chapter, Sydney, Australia

Recommended reading list: 
The Cluetrian Manifesto-Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger  ( Still visionary 10 years after first published- most people STILL don’t get it!) 
The Power of Pull– John Hagel III, John Seely Brown 

Losing my virginity: Review of my first TED live at Oxford, England, 2010

Good morning at 200km/h on board the 7:30 am Oxford to London train. I am
meeting ( on a Saturday morning no less!) the lovely @annemcx  for a quick
champagne at the refurbished St Pancras station that I hadn’t seen since
its opening. Then its onwards to Heathrow and Bangalore, India.

This is a rare hour of fasting after a bloated week of
intellectual gluttony at the table of TED. But the city of Oxford with it’s
breathtaking natural beauty, magnificent architecture and centuries old
culture in pursuit of knowledge equally contributed to the Epicurean
overload. There is only so much a girl can absorb, so I have had to pace
myself carefully – I still have 12 days to go and India and China lie

To summarise, TED is FULL-ON!

I am nor sure they have perfected the formula yet, but given how profitable
TED is, it is clearly a highly successful recipe. Even so, they are open to
feedback, and here are some of my observations.

I had a stimulating experience, met interesting people outside of my usual
swimming stream ( everything is outside my usual swimming stream given
where I usually swim in the South Pacific) , expanded my perspectives and
insight into a few areas and picked up a few ideas to introduce for

Was I blown away? Afraid other than the live performance delivered up close
and personal by Annie Lennox, I didn’t get goosebumps or cried or laughed
till it hurt, but then again, I am quite hyper-connected and insatiably
curious already. As most innovators say, there’s nothing new under the
sun, just new combinations. On that score, a Dutch lady researching
products involving pigs was amusingly revelatory.

As far as conference logistics go, I found the sessions too long and my
attention wandered. Each session runs around 105 minutes or 1&3/4 hours and
includes 5 back-to-back slots with a LOT of slides( 1 is sometimes music).
There are 4 of those a day, sandwiched between good long conversation
breaks, too long lunches and just long enough nightly feasts groaning under
the bounty of plentiful so typical of wealthy societies.

So, in a day, you hear from around 20 different presenters, see about 200
slides and film clips, meet about 50 new people, and this carries on for 5
days in a row! If every speaker delivers 3 key messages, that’s 60 per day,
or 300 for the week….not counting the ideas sparked in the conversations
with the countless very bright people, or the 10 books you may buy to
supplement your reading. Can you see why I was not adding to this cerebral
load by trying to maintain a constant Twitter stream and blog beyond
session 1- my RAM was having a helluva time processing just what was coming
at it.

Sitting here now trying to recall the session highlights week, it’s become
a bit of a blur already, and in 3 weeks from now I know my recall will be
even less. But does that really matter as long as my subconscious mind has
absorbed and connected these messages into my neural pathways? Or perhaps
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, is right- my online habits have
shrunk my attention span? Or maybe Jonah Lehrer is right- maybe my parallel
processing capacity has expanded thanks to our increasing digital
ambidexterity. (I am not sure what it was prior to the Internet era, I
didn’t baseline it!) I reckon having those two speakers side by side at a
TED line-up would make for a provocative experience!

The theme of TED Global 2010 was “and now for the good news”. Maybe that’s why
newspapers don’t report it- it has low impact on us! I liked the first
session the best out of the whole day conference because it’s underlying
message about the pervasive narrative in our heads that drive our behaviour
is one that I totally subscribe to. A highlight from the week was a
continuation of a theme I picked up at the Aspen Ideas Festival from the
@gregmortenson talks, and that is: We need a new narrative for many things. What could
the world look like if we changed the narrative around power,
inter-cultural collaboration in living on a finite planet with finite
resources, and tolerance for difference and styles of engagement with
Islamic nations.

The ideas presented by the 5 Middle-eastern speakers had the biggest impact
on me. (See program guide here)  They were:

  • Naif Al-Mutawa, Creator of The 99. (Watch this when it goes live! )
  • Elif Shafak, a novelist ( she told a beautiful story about the stories that separate and connect us)
  • Jamil Abu-Wardeh, a TV producer with a wicked sense of humour
  • Maz Jobrani, Iranian American stand-up comedian and social commentator
  • Zainab Salbi, a woman survivor of war, activist and social entrepreneur

I also found Sugata Mitra, an Education Researcher delightful to watch and listen to. A man totally in his element and exuding passion for life and fun.

Its a bit unfair picking just 6 out of the line-up, but what use would a review be if it praised all equally? The standard at TED is high and getting ever higher due to the open sharing of events like these online, a point that curator Chris Andersen made in a talk he gave titled: “Who’s the teacher?”

The Oxford Playhouse is a challenging venue. A dark theatre and the lack of
air conditioning in a venue filled with 750 bodies, stage lighting and a
ton of digital equipment combine effectively with lingering jet-lag to
transport you to the Land of Nod with alarming regularity. Mercifully, free
coffee flowed all day and I found the simulcast lounges adjacent to the
Playhouse a welcome alternative. But you have to wonder about traveling
that far at great expense to watch these sessions on a screen…so I had to
fight feelings of guilt when I used them instead.

The evening events were very well designed and executed flawlessly though I
thought they could have benefitted from a bit more variation- it was the
same formula and even exactly the same wines every night (no champagne???). A few games, some
music or entertainment would have been good? I was a bit cocktailed out by
the end and didn’t go the farewell BBQ and river boating and opted for an
afternoon blitz around the historic Cotswolds instead.

Now to the people. A good international blend, probably 2/3 rd from the UK
and North America, with a sprinkling of the well-heeled from Asia-Pacific,
Oceania, Central & South America, Africa and the Middle East. Largely Gen X
and Boomers, not any Gen Y or millennials except for staff. It looked like
the sexes were reasonably evenly represented though I’d put men at 60% and
women 40%. The most significant common factor would be social status and
income brackets – these are the influencers and decision-makers and it seemed 
largely private sector.

An observation though…polls by show of hand and audience reaction to
ideas revealed an alarming degree of uniformity in opinion. Is it
self-selection whereby only people of a certain demographic are drawn to
these events? Is it because only speakers of enlightened and liberal views
participate? Or dare I say there is a touch of group-think in “the TEDster
culture” as the organizers proudly refer to their followers. Where are the
outliers, I wonder, and how do you bring different voices to this hugely
influential platform where more than 500 million pairs of eyes have
participated in live webcasts or downloaded video content?

Another observation is the fact that from the podium we preach sustainability, growth without impact, over-consumption, etc…but then we add to it by gift bags full of stuff we really don’t need. My challenge to TED organisers ( and all those who emulate them) is…re-think goodie-bags! We all have more than enough shit in our houses alreadty! This is hypocracy in its worst form. And another suggestion: Could the next TED be completely plastic free and use only glass containers and aqua fountains and porcelain cups please?

Will I rush back and do it again? Yes, but not before I have explored other
conferences that are a bit less mainstream and more edgy, like The Singularity Summit. 

I actually think that I enjoy the Facebook Sydney TED Salon  experience more.
This is not a TEDX, but a random group of 15-25 people who formed 4 years ago,
meet at someone’s home once a quarter to watch TED videos selected by the rotating
host, which ensures diversity of taste, and projected onto a sheet ( or a big TV) and then discussed over BYO
wine and finger food. We watch about 4-6 TED talks a night, muse over them, debate pros and cons and check in on who
is doing what, and thus link our respective work and interests in Sydney. It’s great!

So, in conclusion, if I rank the conferences I have attended in the past 3 years in terms of my favourite inspiration for the AMPLIFY Festival that I produce in Sydney, they are:

  1. Picnic in Amsterdam, who ties with
  2. PopTech, Maine USA
  3. TED Global who ties with
  4. Business Innovation Factory, Providence Rhode Island

OK, any contrarian views, questions or comments?

Plugged In – Connected Women

Interview with yours truly by Lorna Brett published on
Plugged In  
Missed opportunities: one woman’s appliance shopping misadventure
Posted on: Wednesday, 2 June 2010

By Lorna Brett

Shopping is meant to be an enjoyable, almost therapeutic experience – isn’t it? Yes, but the reality is it can also turn into an extremely frustrating exercise too. With the internet and its world of information and networks at our fingertips these days, it’s not unreasonable to expect to be able to find product details and reviews with minimal fuss. One connected woman found during her shopping adventures however, that independent appliance product information and reviews across all areas of the internet are almost a myth.

As a key innovation and social media expert for one of this country’s largest financial institutions, Annalie Killian knows her way around the internet, and so she immediately went online during her kitchen renovations to search out the appliances most highly rated by her peers. As an early adopter of all social media networks and tools, (dating back to the beginning of social media in 2002 with Annalie’s researching and networking skills are almost second to none – and the lack of independent product reviews on the internet disappointed her.

“I found it extremely difficult to find any reviews not written by the manufacturer. I went onto Choice and found even them to be far behind; they hadn’t even reviewed the latest models in most cases,” Annalie told

Specifically, Annalie was looking for information on a new Samsung Nanotech washer she had heard about that uses silver particles to clean clothes. Aware of nanotechnology as a new phenomenon and of the fact that ingesting silver into the body turns one blue, Annalie extensively searched the internet for independent reviews. Frustratingly, she was unable to find anything on blogs, discussion forums or anywhere on social media.

“It was a similar exercise with kettles and toasters. After shoes and handbags, women like nice looking appliances. And as many nice-looking appliances I could find in David Jones, I had no way of knowing if they functioned well. I even went on to Twitter to ask my community, and I got no response at all other than from Clodagh Higgins,” Annalie said.

Clodagh (friend of Connected Women) and Annalie sat down to discuss what they perceived as a serious missed opportunity by appliance manufacturers.
“We discussed the fact that appliance makers should be watching twitter. If they enabled a #hashtag search around keywords such as kettles, Sunbeam or Philips for example, the time poor of us would be able to go for a quick coffee break while we’re shopping and find out what we want to know in that short span of time,” Annalie told 

When Twitter is used well

Annalie experienced “astonishing and delightful” customer service via Twitter from a well-known telecommunications company who responded to her tweet for assistance. Following her Twitter alert for help, the company contacted Annalie directly, solved her problem and then followed up to ensure she was happy with the result – and Annalie doesn’t see why appliance manufacturers don’t behave the same way.

“Imagine if you could ask a question about an appliance or brand on Twitter and solicit a similar response – maybe in the form of an invitation to their showroom to see their range or an offer to be sent recommendations from other users,” Annalie said.

According to Annalie, the uptake of this kind of communication by businesses is astonishingly slow as they view it as yet another overhead, and appear to be scared people will use it solely as a complaint channel. Annalie believes they should view Twitter as the business growth tool that it is.

“Twitter is not a waste of time as some of these companies might think. If manufacturers had a twitter alert connected to a phrase appropriate to their products, or to their Twitter name then they would be able to respond quickly, have a conversation, get their brand name out there and create a relationship of trust. Remember you never know how many people are watching a conversation on Twitter!” Annalie said.

Twitter, a shopper’s best friend

Twitter is now available in the palm of one’s hand thanks to the advent of smartphones, giving it the opportunity to become a woman’s must-have shopping accessory should manufacturers and brands take the time to embrace the medium.

“If I were Philips for example, I would include my @twittername on my in-store display or on my product packaging as a means to direct people to a channel of information. People shopping for small appliances won’t necessarily be researching beforehand, as these are products you can fit in the car. So in many cases people want to be able to access the information quickly – and Twitter is the perfect way to do this,” Annalie told

“Companies that don’t embrace social media are just leaving money on the table,” she added.