Review: SME Puerto Rico Internet Forum

Web 2.0 MapAs I mentioned, yesterday we launched the new website design for Dó We chose yesterday as the launch date to coincide with our sponsorship of the 8th Sales and Marketing Executive Association Puerto Rico Internet Forum. Now that I've got a little bit of sleep, I wanted to share with everyone how the event went.

Well, first, working at a booth during a conference always gives you a little different experience than sitting in the audience, but one thing which is a little different than many other conferences, the Internet Forum is organized so that the booths are in the same room as the speakers, so at least we got to hear the presentations, even if it was far off to one side.

As far as local technology conferences, I'd have to say that the Internet Forum is one of the more popular ones. Yesterday was no exception. This was my second forum and I'd have to say that this year the ballroom was more packed than the year before. Of course, this might have been because of the expansion of the WebAd Awards. With more awards that meant that more nominees were in the audience. So one wonders how many in the audience would not have been there had they not been nominated.

The event kicked off with an overview presentation of the the most recent study Puerto Rico Internet Pulse 2008. While the presentation contained very valuable insight and statistics, most experts agree that after about the third or fourth slide of statistics, audience attention levels tend to drop drastically. For my taste, I would prefer someone, well as long as they are qualified (which really limits the field of possibilities), to summarize the results into talking points. They should explain why some conclusion from the results is important, provide the backup statistics and move on to the next conclusion. Also providing hard copies of the press release can be a very successful strategy for making a presentation more enjoyable. However, since the SME sells copies of the Puerto Rico Internet Pulse, I guess that's not an option. They could generate a press release like many other leading research firms. Anyway, if you'd like to purchase a copy, contact the SME at (787) 764-8595 or by visiting their web site.

The next speaker was
Rafael Matos, a Professor of Multimedia Technology from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. I guess Professor Matos was giving the Luddite version of his speech, because he went with the no PowerPoint slide show approach. I guess after he described the Internet as a library that had been hit by a hurricane, I sort of tuned out. He droned on for a while longer and my thoughts drifted to what still needed to be be tweaked on the website. Meanwhile Jose continued to listen and shared with me that he felt that the presentation Professor Matos was giving was for the wrong audience. Don't get me wrong, I've seen some incredible speeches made with out a slide presentation, but there are very few speakers that can pull it off.

After a short break, where we gave away quite a few brochures and did a few demonstrations, the show resumed with the WebAd Awards. I won't go into the who won what, for that you can hit the SME Internet Committee web site for a complete list of the winners. I will share two comments. First for some strange reason very few of the winners were willing to go up on stage to receive their awards. It made the whole award presentation seem even more awkward than when we had to give demonstrations to attendees associated with competing web sites. A newcomer to the Puerto Rico Internet community who was attending the Internet Forum for the first time commented to me that they couldn't believe which web sites had won. This newcomer thought the web sites looked like interactive magazine advertisements; like they were from some historical archive from the web, like from the year 2000. I'm gratified to hear a complete outsider confirm everything I've been saying for years, but I'm saddened anyway.

The highlight of the event, by far, was the presentation by Alfonso Luna, Director of Marketing for Latin American Division of Google. Resembling a presentation I gave last year to the Asociación de Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas (ASOPYMES), Luna told the audience how marketing has changed, and that there were new forces at work changing consumer behaviors. For me the highlight of the presentation was a slide that I'm sure sent cold chills down the spine of everyone in attendance from El Nuevo Dia. To summarize, essentially, the slide first showed the average number of hours being spent with various mediums (television, Internet, radio, newspaper, etc.). Leading this list was television with 19 hours, second was Internet (but not for long...) with 17 hours, third was I believe radio, and near the bottom of the list was newspaper with 2 hours. Then he showed the division of advertising dollars to those various mediums. Television was first with something like 36%, Internet had less than 1%, and I believe newspaper had 24%. Bottom line, as I've said before, I'll agree with Professor Matos, a hurricane is coming. But it's going to be a shit storm and it's going to be hitting everyone's fans who do not awaken to the reality of the Internet and the explosion of advertising that is about to happen. Of course Luna went on to tell everyone how important Google Adwords are to address this coming storm. I would have preferred if Luna would have pushed Google products less and the more generalized search engine marketing.

Will his presentation have any impact on the collection of marketing executives in the audience? Well I'll be honest, I'm skeptical. I guess the first indicator will be if we start to see more ads appearing in the Google AdSense program. But I think more telling is if we see any changes in the WebAd Awards next year. None of the websites nominated for either of the integrated campaign WebAd Awards even mentioned search engine marketing as part of their campaigns. So if Google Ads are listed as part of next year's nominations, I'll know that Luna made an impact.

Another interesting moment was when Luna asked the crowd how many people in the audience had read the "The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson. Only one person raised their hand. Chilling... While I haven't finished the book, I did read the original Wired article. By the way, Luna also mentioned "The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki and "Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything" by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams as the books to read this year.

Finally, I'd like to mention how impressed I am with the Puerto Rico Convention Center. It is truly a magnificent facility that will only grow in value and importance. When the hotel and shopping facilities are finished, the construction will make the Puerto Rico Convention Center the crown jewel in the Puerto Rico Tourism industry. I'm also really pleased with the maintenance of the facility by the SMG Team. They keep it looking fresh and new.

In summary, I believe that the event is good, but could stand for a lot of improvements. First, as a sponsor there isn't enough time to network and tell participants about your product. Second, I think the event should be longer, which would provide more time for the audience to visit exhibitors. I'd also like to see some additional high caliber speakers. It would also be interesting to offer some tutorials or hands-on workshops to drive home some of the key concepts to participants. One session which is always popular at the Web 2.0 conference is a panel discussion with teens. If marketers were able to hear first hand how important the Internet was to this demographic, they might begin to see the light. Well, you know what I always say about monkeys....

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