Despite having been in Newcastle the the past two years during Thinking Digital, I’ve never actually had a chance to attend. My time in newcastle has instead been spent partying hard at the mal, running up Tara Hunt’s champagne bill (love ya!), and nursing mammoth hangovers on the train up to edinburgh. This year, however, I was fortunate enough to attend this conference I have head so many good things about, and I have to say, it lived up to expectations. And not just because Herb Kim knows how to throw a party…
This year the conference was split in two – The Main Hall, and the Livecast Lounge. Now, I loved the theory of the Livecast Lounge – a more relaxed space to listen to watch the talks from, on a giant screen, somewhere you could, eat and drink, talk to fellow attendees, blog, and so on. This appealed to me specifically because I often find it hard to sit in a seat and just listen, I need to do 100 things at once (I’m watching Being Erica whilst writing this, oh, and shopping for wedding presents).
Unfortunately, the Livecast Lounge didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, it was great being there, I was just hoping for something a little different. The somewhat stoical atmosphere was, at times, excruciating, and if I wasn’t as bold and crazy as I am, I would have felt quite uncomfortable clapping at the end of talks – almost everyone in the lounge just sat there. I think it went wrong on two counts: first that people bought Livecast Lounge tickets as overflow when the Main Hall was sold out, when from my perspective it wasn’t overflow, but a different way to experience a conference. And secondly that the physical layout of the room reinforced the overflow mentality. Instead of seats in rows I would have thrown in beanbags and couches around the outside, put screens on all the walls (so that you can sit facing people whilst still watching), and found a way to engage with the lounge participants more, perhaps a two-way video link during questions.
I think this was a great attempt at doing something new and innovative with conferences, and despite my thoughts, I had a great few days. Planning for Thinking Digital is already underway for next year, and I certainly plan to go back to the Livecast Lounge.