About once a year I get to speak at somewhere slightly out of the ordinary. Last year it was Reykjavik, in Iceland: this year it is Vilnius, Lithuania. There are a number of reasons why this is special over and above the location. The most relevant for most readers will be that it was an entirely "2.0" experience. (Yes - I KNOW I shouldn't talk about 2.0). The enquiry initially came via LinkedIn, a business to business social networking site. A friend of mine from university, Jeff Hurst tracked me down. We had not met for 20 years, but when he found me he saw my profile. On a separate track, a friend of HIS was putting on an Internet Marketing conference in Vilnius and asked my old firiend whether he knew of any speakers that might be interested. Expenses were to be paid, so - inspite of the talk being just one day before AdTech London - I took the chance to say yes.
The web 2.0 experience didn't stop there, however. Between the confirmation and the event date, we talked - of course. Our natural tool of choice was Skype and Skype instant messenger. From there I was able to ascertain enough about Lithuanians to modify my presentation to suit the audience. I found out, for example, that more Lithuanians use a site called "Frype.lt" than Facebook and so I joined Frype (after getting an invitation from the conference organiser) and managed to read the entire site quite well in English and set up a profile - albeit with only one friend! This was to all to create one specific slide in my presentation showing the immediacy of information that social networking offers and the real advantages they have over traditional search engines.
The web 2.0 experience followed into the talk. Because I was going to be speaking to an audience at least partly using translation headphones, too much text on the slides struck me as one leap too many for the poor translators, so I decided to illustrate much of my talk by taking the audience around the world using Google earth. The presentation eventually got to Eva - a model on a massive canvass of the front cover of Maxim magazine, sitting in the Nevada dessert - and then jumped to Flickr, where a guy (I assume a guy!) called Methodshop had captured the image and started taking Maxim's viral message to a wider audience.
Before the presentation I let my friends know what I was doing through Facebook and updated the "places I've been" application to include Vilnius and Lithuania. All through the presentation, I had my video camera on a tripod, with a view to possibly cutting up the 50 minute slot into smaller videos for popping up onto YouTube.
It really is incredible how the new world is coming at us, which was - not unsurprisingly - the central theme of my presentation and I was delighted to have been given the chance to talk in the Balkans.
So what's Lithuania like? Well I only got to spend a day there, but if you think they are a little "behind" then you had better wake up and smell the coffee! I saw proportionally more Saabs and BMWs than I would on a UK street and everyone was extremely "chic" - as were the shops and the whole culture. My fellow speakers (one Brit, one German) were also surprised at the incredible speed with which the country had replaced their old communist trappings with the new. The Lithuanians aren't just coming - they are well and truly on board. To the north, Estonia is so far advanced and internet-connected that they even run their elections online. Now why are WE so behind? Can you imagine the UK or the USA going that far into the new world in the near future?
If you think web 2.0 can't help you in business, think of this next time you say that thought aloud! Here's the various ways Receptional is currently using 2.0 ideas (other than the Lithuanian presentation). If you'd like to find me on http://linkedin.com or http://facebook.com , track me down and feel free to hook up (but PLEASE - add a note saying who you are and that you were reading this article or I'll ignore it). If you want to stay in touch using RSS our newsfeed is at www.receptional.com/newsroom where you will also find the chance to sign up to the good old fashioned newsletter.