One of the more interesting ways I’ve experienced participating in a conference is being chairperson of the event.

When you’re the chair you not only have to pay close attention to everything going on, but also you are well placed to absorb everything the presenters say as well as get a good sense of the mood of the audience.

Are those sitting there paying attention? What’s the fidget level? Do they appear engaged with the content, asking questions? And what’s the buzz in the coffee breaks and during lunch?

Last week’s Don’t Panic Guide to Social Media held in London, which I chaired, kept me very focused indeed on what everyone had to say, presenters and participants alike.

About 80 people took part in this event organized by Nicky and Andy Wake of Don’t Panic Projects. I’ve know Nicky and Andy for some years and will say that they bring a refreshing and inspiring approach to event organization and management.

As they like to say, event management just got funky.

A roster of knowledgeable speakers – Marshall Manson, Edelman; Meg Pickard,; Kerry Bridge, Dell; Stephen Davies, webitpr; Graham Goodkind, Frank PR; Simon Wakeman, Medway Council; Sam Barrett, Oxfam; Robin Goad, Hitwise – combined with smart and to-the-point questions from many in the audience added up to a day’s valuable exchange of thinking and ideas and, inevitably, more questions to take away.

One thing I always do at an event with this type of topic and focus is ask the audience some questions about their knowledge of and experience with social media. Just to get a sense of where we’re at, before we get into the content.

We had a relatively knowledgeable audience – no need to explain what a blog is or what RSS does. Quite a few were twittering (it would have been good if we’d set up a hashtag beforehand to track everyone’s tweets) and we had live blogging for part of the day from Stuart Bruce.

The picture that emerged during the day was one I’ve seen at every event of this type I’ve been involved with during much of the past year, whether as a speaker or as participant – the burning desire to get answers to the big question: How?