Blame it on Brussels

One of the things I love about conferences is meeting new and interesting people. One of the other things is connecting with people I know (as I mentioned the other day).

On both counts, being in Brussels over the past couple of days has been just great.

Today was the second and final day of the European Communication Summit at the rather grand Résidence Palace, otherwise known as the International Press Centre.

This was a big conference, big in terms of speakers – over 60 speakers in total comprising some pretty influential communicators at senior levels in organizations throughout Europe.

The day started with a thought-provoking keynote speech by Pat Cox, former President of the European Parliament, who planted some thoughts in my mind about why the European Union doesn’t seem to work. Or rather, how people perceive the EU and come to that conclusion.

It would be so easy to say it’s a communication issue. To a greater or lesser extent, I think there is some truth there. Few of the 493 million citizens of the 27-member state EU really understand how it all works, and its relevance to them. As Cox pointed out, there’s a common mindset out there that says “blame it on Brussels.” He also pointed out that an entity with such institutional complexity, that lives and breathes acronyms and Eurospeak, and has 22 working languages has some major challenges, to put it mildly. And not just communication.

So for me as a concerned citizen of an EU member state, plenty to dwell on when I read about the next pronouncement out of Brussels.

It was great to meet up with Philippe Borremans of IBM again. Philippe was part of a panel discussion on ”Web 2.0 and the internet revolution.” I couldn’t make that session, but I heard it was a sell out, one of the most popular in the whole conference.

The final event of the conference – closely related in many ways to the one Philippe was on – was a panel in which I participated and which discussed the broad topic of “how new media changes the rules of the game.”

I already knew one panel member – Gabe McIntyre of The others I met for the first time. A terrific group – Dirk Delmartino, EU communications director at Microsoft; Pawel Wujec of Agora in Poland; and Corina Cretu, a member of the European Parliament and a senator of the foreign policy committee in the Parliament of Romania (one of the newest EU members, joining last January).

In the hot seat as moderator was Michael Williams, editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe, who did a great job in keeping the discussion focused and on topic.

Our discussion ranged from the role of bloggers and their influence in the media mix and in the news, to how filtered (or not) should blogs and vlogs be by companies, politicians and government agencies. We even made some predictions on what things might look like in 5 years time (basically, lots more change – the tools we use as well as our roles as communicators).

There was at least one blogger in the audience of about 80 people, as I asked the audience if anyone was blogging the panel, and one hand went up. Can’t yet see any reference on Technorati but I’ll be keeping my eye out for a post to see what he has to say about things.

And so the event concluded and I left Brussels to come to The Hague where I’ll be for the next 24 hours. Gabe accompanied me on the drive here and we had a simply terrific and geeky few hours talking about things of common interest. Gabe took a photo of us with his cool Nokia N95 (I want one!) which I see he’s already posted on his blog.

All in all, I’ve met some terrific people today, old friends and new connections.

I’m more than happy to blame that on Brussels.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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