Scoble and Israel join up the dots #AoCUK #CIPR

[L to R] Neville Hobson-Shel Israel-Robert Scoble

About 100 people gathered in Google’s London campus last night to hear Robert Scoble and Shel Israel talk about concepts, ideas, experiences, trends and realities surrounding some of the themes and topics in their new book, Age of Context, published in September.

The widely-anticipated event was organized by the CIPR and sponsored by Precise.

Age of Context is the embracing term to anchor five converging forces the two authors see as profoundly changing almost every aspect of work and life in the next decade: mobile, social media, data, sensors and location.

Copies of the book were to be given to every event attendee. But, as Shel explained as the discussion got underway, the packages being delivered by DHL never made it in time for last night’s event, inevitably linking DHL to the hashtag #DHLfail.

Once the books do turn up, the CIPR will arrange for copies to get to everyone who bought a ticket to last night’s event.

My role as discussion facilitator was to keep the conversation going, moving it across the spectrum of topics the book addresses. If I’d had any concerns about continuity and flow, they were unwarranted as both Shel and Robert are articulate conversationalists on topics that both have clear, strong and passionate views about.

The conversation was wide ranging and did what I see as the book’s crowning achievement – helped join up the dots of disparate-looking and seemingly-individual technologies and human behaviours that enable you the reader to see and better understand how and why convergence of the five forces the book addresses is already happening, what it will mean to each of us as individuals and to society at large.

In the book’s foreword, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tells us to “be prepared to see the future in these pages.” Both authors helped everyone in the room see more than just simple glimpses of that future.

Which led to a good discussion on a topic that rears its head ever more these days – privacy, discussed at length in the book itself.

As you’d expect at any event worth its salt, a great deal of commentary and opinion about what people thought and were experiencing was shared on Twitter linked to the hashtag #AoCUK. Gabrielle Laine-Peters has done a great job capturing much of those conversation contributions – tweets and photos – in a terrific Storify curation.

The full one-hour discussion was video- and audio-recorded. The video will be published by the CIPR; the audio will be published as an FIR Speakers & Speeches podcast. Both should be available sometime next week – keep an eye on the #AoCUK hashtag for news.

In all, a terrific event, well organized and managed by the CIPR. Thanks to Shel Israel and Robert Scoble for sharing their insights and giving us opportunities for seeing more clearly what’s happening, what’s coming and what we can do about it as communicators.

And thanks to everyone in the audience last night who asked questions, tweeted their opinions and became integral parts of the conversation.

Talk about converging forces!

(Montage of photos at the top of this page courtesy of Thomas Power.)

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Should PowerPoint be banned from meetings?

"PowerPoint Poisoning"

If you’ve suffered through meetings where colleagues use PowerPoint decks as their autocues for droning ‘presentations,’ you’ll love this development at two leading companies that could be a model for others to emulate.

Author and communicator Eric Bergman reports that two CEOs – Jeff Bezos at Amazon and Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn – have eliminated slide-driven presentations from their meetings.

In the case of Amazon, the ban on PowerPoint presentations includes a ban on printed decks as well, as Bezos said in an interview with Charlie Rose, a US talk show host and journalist.

[…] “All of our meetings are structured around six-page memos,” Bezos says, pointing out that this also eliminates bullet points. “When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.”

Bezos believes that PowerPoint is easy for the presenter but difficult for the audience. Meetings may start with up to 30 minutes of silence while everyone reads the documents.

The result of separating the written word from the spoken word? “It saves a lot of time,” he points out.

Bergman quotes from a blog post by LinkedIn CEO Weiner, who says that information about a meeting is sent 24 hours in advance to give the participants an opportunity to review that content before the meeting.

[…] However, not everyone can find the time, so five to 10 minutes is set aside at the start of the meeting to give everyone time to review the written document.

“Once folks have completed the reading, it’s time to open it up for discussion,” Weiner writes. “There is no presentation.”

The benefit? “You may be pleasantly surprised to see a meeting that had been scheduled for an hour is actually over after 20-30 minutes.”

Are these behaviours workable in other organizations? Are they effective ways to conduct meetings?

Eric Bergman thinks so:

[…] Cognitive science tells us that humans cannot read and listen at the same time. In fact, trying to do both is absolutely the least effective option and a virtual waste of time – terrible news for the “average” PowerPoint presentation delivered in boardrooms, meeting rooms, training rooms and conference halls.

While I agree with Eric about the ineffective way in which the “average” PowerPoint deck is used by people in so many meetings, I’m not sure that outright banning the presentation software as Amazon and LinkedIn have done is right as a general rule.

When a PowerPoint presentation is used well – in my view, primarily as a visual aid to what the speaker is saying, not the script for each slide to read out verbatim – it is a powerful tool that can aid effective communication.

Indeed, that’s a general point Eric highlights in his book 5 Steps to Conquer Death By PowerPoint, published last year (and which we discussed in an FIR Interview in London in July 2012).

It’s not so much about not using PowerPoint at all – it’s more about how to use it effectively.

So before you jump with glee at the very idea of “no more PowerPoint!” think first about how a visual tool like that can help you connect and engage with the people you’re trying to persuade to a point of view or whatever is the topic of your story-telling, if you use it well.

Think of events you’ve been in, either as a speaker or presenter or as an audience participant, where someone used a PowerPoint deck in such a way that he or she wowed you with their memorable story-telling that concentrated on the telling.

During the past twelve months, I can think of one person who did just that for me – Microsoft’s Dave Coplin speaking at The B2B Huddle in September 2012. With a PowerPoint deck.

As for LinkedIn’s rule – information about a meeting is sent 24 hours in advance to give the participants an opportunity to review that content before the meeting – I think this is great whether there are decks or not, although my podcasting partner Shel Holtz wasn’t so positive about it when we discussed this in FIR 715 last week.

Still, there’s something here for everyone, depending on the particular circumstances in your organisation or situation.

On a final note, the Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams that I included at the top of this page is the strip first published on August 16, 2000. That’s thirteen years ago.

The PowerPoint dilemma isn’t new!

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Immersive LeWeb London

LeWeb London 2013

Today, June 5, is the first day of LeWeb London 2013, the two-day biz-tech fest that nearly 900 people have signed up to be part of, along with speakers, sponsors, journos and official bloggers. In that latter group, I’m one.

The programme is terrific, and I’m really looking forward to being part of it all over the next two days. Thanks to the magic of WordPress scheduled posts, you’ll read this post at about the time on Wednesday morning I should be coming out of Westminster tube station for the short walk to Central Hall Westminster, the venue, and joining the queue for badges.

I won’t be doing much blogging, if any, while I’m at LeWeb. For live blogging of the event, I recommend you follow Adam Tinworth  – who’s also an official blogger – who will be doing a lot of that on his blog.

Keep an eye on the speakers’ Google+ Hangouts schedule – you’ll be able to see live video of some of the sessions.

I will be listening a lot, though, and tweeting, instagramming, G+ing, maybe even a Vine or two; plus recording audio, and capturing a great deal of input for a review I plan to write next week, including a commentary for the business podcast I co-host with Shel Holtz. Some interviews with interesting people are possible, too.

Also, this Friday June 7, I’ll be speaking on Marc Wright’s live Simply TV show with some impressions of LeWeb that are relevant for internal communicators.

If you’ll be one of the 900 or so LeWebers and would like to connect, well, lets’ do that. Mind you, I have a feeling direct SMS or Twitter will be more effective communication channels. Or, if you’re using the neat Bizzabo event app, try that.

In any case, I’m looking forward to a terrific event.

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Good reasons to be at LeWeb London in June

LeWeb London 2013In ten days time, LeWeb London takes place. The overall theme is the sharing economy; the speaker line-up is fabulous, the agenda is compelling and, so, far, over 850 people have booked to be there on June 5 and 6.

This third LeWeb conference in London – to complement the winter LeWeb Paris that’s been happening every year since the mid 00s – looks set to be as good as every LeWeb in recent years, and will once again feature live video events including Google Hangouts On Air that I participated in for previous LeWebs.

This time, I’ll be physically at the event, as one of the official bloggers. I’m looking forward to the overall experience and meeting and  connecting with some interesting people, friends and new encounters.

If you’re thinking about going to LeWeb London, but have yet to finally decide and book your ticket, here are nine good reasons that will help you make up your mind.

9 reasons

Compelling headline reasons:

  1. Explore the revolutionary sharing economy
  2. Hear from and connect with leading speakers
  3. Meet people from around the world
  4. Meet and talk to press and bloggers
  5. Find and secure key investors
  6. Connect with leading companies
  7. Find the next wave of great startups
  8. Explore and experience an amazing city
  9. And find opportunities

See you there?

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Here’s what I do

Every now and again, I meet someone who knows a bit about me from reading my blog or following me on Twitter – but still asks “So what is it you do?”

Even though I’ve been writing this particular blog since 2006 and have wording on it that talks about what I do, it’s really not very clear. Even I have trouble finding information sometimes. An encounter a few days ago and the inevitable question prompted me to do something about that asap.

The result is detailed new content to answer that question, published on a new website under a domain I’ve had for some years but never used in a meaningful way.

Neville Hobson business website

Although the new website at runs WordPress, it’s not set up as a blog – the place for that continues to be at The new site comprises just five content titles that should give very clear signals as to what topics each content page addresses:

About | Consulting |Speaking | Writing | Podcasting

If you arrive on the site’s home page, you’ll find a kaleidoscope of content from my social stream, courtesy of Rebelmouse. It’s a service I’m experimenting with – and have had a version running on this blog for some months – that takes what you tweet about and automatically creates a visual display of the content that’s compelling and attractive to look at and interact with.

I think it also gives anyone a little insight into the types of content someone finds interesting and sharable from a range of their places across the social web including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, RSS feeds from blogs and more. See if you agree.

Putting Rebelmouse on the home page, incidentally, came after I saw what Paul Chaney did with his business website. Like it!

So, in the interests of clarity, I’ve finally explained a few things, hopefully better than I had before. I don’t expect anyone to ask me “So what is it you do?” once they’ve taken a peek at anything on the new website.

Feedback and opinion welcome, thanks.

Blogging ten years ago


Ten years ago today, on December 13, 2002, I wrote and published my first blog post.

Nothing especially inspiring, earth-moving or even awesome in what I said, just a brief note to announce my entry into the embryonic blogosphere:

Dec 13, 2002 — Finally joing [sic] the thousands who already publish blogs. This blog will include random and occasional musings and comment on anything that grabs my attention.

The post even has a spelling mistake. How’s that for posterity?

I now can’t remember exactly how I’d heard about blogs – or ‘weblogs,’ as I recall the formal name – although I suspect it was in a magazine or newspaper feature talking about “the technorati” and a service called Technorati which was founded by Dave Sifry in November 2002 (a month before my first blog post), essentially a search engine and ranking system for blogs; plus the rise of a company called Pyra Labs, its free personal web publishing platform called Blogger and its business-focused pay-for service, Blogspot.

(The screenshot, btw, shows that first post published on a TypePad blog, the service I migrated to in mid 2004 from Blogspot. That blog is still online as my 2002-2006 content archive.)

It was also a time when I started questioning many things in my own world after I read The Cluetrain Manifesto, the core concept of which that ‘markets are conversations‘ just blew me away even if I was skeptical about some of the other ideas. But I kept thinking about the book’s strapline, “The end of business as usual.” All of it opened my eyes, no question about that.

Ten years ago, blogs essentially were social media. There was little else, perhaps apart from LiveJournal, an online social network and diary platform, now based in Russia;  Friendster, originally a social networking site that lives on today in Southeast Asia as a popular social gaming site; and Napster, the now defunct peer-to-peer file sharing service for MP3 music files. Not even MySpace or Skype were around – they didn’t start until the second half of 2003 – nor the photo-sharing site Flickr that didn’t start until early 2004.

And don’t even think of LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook … it was some years before their time came.

Ten years ago was a time for discovery and experimentation on small, less connected scales where the focus was on the liberated simplicity of writing and self-publishing content to the web that was a personal expression – a mega-shift away from the complexity, control and hierarchies of traditional web publishing with tools like FrontPage – far more than connecting that expression to many other voices, services and connected places the way it has evolved today, partly because the broad infrastructure and ecosystems didn’t exist yet.

Ten years ago, there were probably around one million blogs worldwide, of which 90 percent or more were surely in the US. Compare that to a reported 172 million today – which doesn’t include other forms of personal expression and publishing like microblogs (Twitter, for example) or Facebook posts. It was the time of the iPod and the iPAQ – long before the iPhone – and ISDN lines.

Heck, the internet itself was relatively tiny in 2002 compared to today as this chart from Pingdom showing growth in the decade 2000-2010 suggests.


Pingdom says:

[…] There were only 361 million Internet users in 2000, in the entire world. For perspective, that’s barely two-thirds of the size of Facebook [in 2010]. […] There are more than five times as many Internet users now as there were in 2000.

So the landscape today paints a hugely different picture than the one of ten years ago. Not only the tools and channels but also the sheer connectivity of everything plus a seismic shift in people’s attitudes, understanding, willingness and ability to get online and talk.

Ten years ago, though, I discovered something that has had a massive influence on my own behaviour, thinking, openness and willingness to say what I think and engage in conversation with others, whether they’re like minds or not.

Technorati played a big role for me in finding other voices. (Here’s what Technorati looked like in December 2002 thanks to The Wayback Machine.)

Ten years ago, I made a foray into a new world. Like many, I wasn’t sure at all that this was something I really wanted to do. Who cares what I mused about? Who’d read this stuff? I didn’t see what it was worth from a business perspective (who did then, really?). So I was an infrequent blogger and didn’t properly get into gear with things until mid 2004 when I suddenly realized that thinking about blogging primarily as kind of online-diary-writing missed the point entirely.

That’s when everything got really interesting. But, that’s a tale for another day.

Ten years ago, blogging opened doors to experimentation, discoveries and the start of making valuable connections with other connected people. In that specific regard, not much has changed in that time.

Isn’t it great?

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