Last week I had the privilege of being invited to a thought leadership roundtable event in Leeds. Held at Aspire, Think Yorkshire, which is organised and supported by the Yorkshire Mafia and in this instance sponsored by Salesforce, was a roundtable event with a twist.
As a Director of Open Communications I was asked to attend as a representative for the marketing roundtable. The subject and question that we would be discussing was ‘Who owns social media?’
Great topic and a subject that was likely to generate a great deal of debate. I arrived at the venue, which is a former penny bank – and for those who haven’t had the chance to visit yet it’s beautiful and very ornate – and took my seat.
The table I was directed to was chaired by Rob Wilmot, the former CTO of Freeserve and internet entrepreneur. I have met with Rob before but have never had the chance to really discuss social media with him. Knowing his background and credibility as an advisor for all things social to some of the largest companies in the UK, I was keen to listen to what he had to say.
Along with others from a range of differing sectors, we gathered around and started the debate. Interestingly we ‘fell’ at the first hurdle. Almost all of us had interpreted the question differently. I had presumed that the question was asking whether social media is a digital or PR driven discipline, whereas others were looking at department responsibility and ownership based on brand or employee.
As a result of the question (and I still don’t know if it was simply luck or great judgement) and our differing interpretations the debate quickly gathered momentum and built over the course of the next hour and a half with comments and opinion exchanged and advice offered for those seeking the answers to ‘real life’ concerns or problems. It was great!
Having worked with the team from Buy Yorkshire and The Yorkshire Mafia for some years, I was aware that events that they host are always well worth attending however I have to say that this was really something else.
I have been invited to round table discussions before; you sit, you talk, you drink coffee and you leave. At these sessions you may get some feedback and learn a trick or two but it’s more a sharing of common themes and beliefs than knowledge and strong opinion. Also, with many of these events you are a mere observer, rather than a participant.
This was completely different and what made it even more impressive was the wider format of the event. You see, I was just one representative of two marketing roundtables that were taking place simultaneously – along with a further series of tables that were discussing other topics.
So, rather than hosting a roundtable event about a given topic, Think Yorkshire chose to bring together best in class professionals to discuss and debate subjects that they specialise in before the event culminated with a three course dinner. The finale of the dinner was a stroke of genius, as people were allocated to tables that would give everyone the chance to meet someone new and to share the outcomes of the discussions they had – therefore never being short of conversation.
What a fantastic idea.
I’m sure that lots of organisations will now follow this format and so they should but it will take some work to get the balance of business with relaxed discussion absolutely right. This is the first event I have been to in a long time where I genuinely felt that everyone was there to share their knowledge and get to know each other – not a single person asked for my card and better still I wasn’t told that ‘our businesses have synergy’ or the dreaded phrase ‘I notice you work with…’
A truly excellent event and something that I hope will be repeated very soon.
Well done to the Yorkshire Mafia, once again, job done.