If you have great ideas, stories or case studies to share, there are two speaking proposal deadlines coming up this week….
** SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive) digital/tech creatives conference in Austin, Texas in March 2013. It’s only the biggest technology-related annual conference on the planet….20,000 of the most interesting geeks you’ll ever meet.
The unique PanelPicker process peer voting means that you need a really punchy title and great description for your presentation, in addition to – DUH! – knowing what the heck you’re talking about.
Thanks to a diverse social network that includes interesting people in small towns and rural areas, I’ve learned so much over the last few years about the hopes, dreams, troubles and blissful moments of people who live in what I used to call “out in the middle of nowhere.”
You know that ongoing discussion about getting broadband internet access out into rural areas? It sure seems similar to efforts in the 1930′s to get electricity and telephone service out to less-populated places, and the same objections are being raised; it’s too expensive, there aren’t enough people to justify it, it’s a “luxury” they don’t really need, etc. I never really thought about this problem until I got to know some small town geeks.
At last fall’s 140 Characters/State of NOW Small Town communications conference in Hutchinson, Kansas, I was honored to be chosen as one of the speakers, and I talked about this personal awakening.
There were some video problems at first, so all I have for you is the audio recording, but it’s only about 10 minutes and I talk fast.
For those who are not surrounded by like-minded people (whether you’re into chess, growing roses or technology) the world can feel like a lonely place.
“Am I the only one who understands chess problems like Allumwandlung and Maximummer and Zepler doubling?”
“Am I some sort of nutball because I really like deciding between spotted-bloom roses like Cramoisi Picoté and striped ones like Patriot Kordana?”
“No one else in my small town seems to ‘get’ why I care about broadband Internet access, why I blog and what in the world I’m doing on Twitter.”
Fortunately, social web tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the still-relevant forum/BBS make it so much easier than it used to be to find people who share your enthusiasms and interests. I’m not up to speed on where chess or rose people hang out online, but I can tell you where a bunch of rural and small town technology and social media enthusiasts will be on September 20, 2011.
Right; so if you’re a city kid like me, you’re probably thinking….geesh, look at all that empty space, and those absolutely straight roads going through nothingness, it’s probably flat as a pancake, and I think I recognize the name Wichita for that nearby city….look, did I hear correctly….this is a technology event in the middle of Kansas?
It is, and I give it my City Kid Stamp of Approval.
Not that rural folks need any approval from anyone, and that’s partly the point of this particular event – rural and small town people are geeks and communicators just like urbanites, but it’s a bit harder for them to find one another, learn and socialize when they’re all spread out in less populated areas. This is the first technology-based conference that brings them all together, on their terms but with a global audience, in a cool small town like “Hutch,” with speakers that include farmers, ranchers and small town economic development experts who don’t think a one-stoplight community is a bad idea at all.
After attending the first version of 140 Small Town in 2010, I knew I’d return this year, and I’m honored to be one of many speakers from 17 states on the schedule. My topic is “City Kid Among the Cattle - How Twitter Connects Me to Another World,” wherein I’ll talk about my newfound appreciation, thanks to Twitter, of wide-open spaces, cattle management and farm equipment with mysterious prongy things.
Each speaker only gets one 10-15 minute time slot (better make it snappy!) and no PowerPoint is allowed. WIN.
For a quick 90 second overview of the conference, here’s my Tourism Currents business partner Becky McCray (who organizes Small Town along with its original founder Jeff Pulver) on an Oklahoma Horizon TV episode (direct link to video here.)
Hope I meet you in Hutchinson!
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The result of my musings was an article I wrote for the January 2011 issue of PCMA Convene (the magazine for the Professional Convention Management Association) and a guest post on the PCMA blog: “Small-Town, Not Small-Time.”
An excerpt from the post:
“Some tips on using a small town venue for digital gatherings:
1) Don’t make assumptions about which places can and can’t host. The 140 Characters conferences, for example, “are usually and most effectively held in theaters; in fact, the very first one in New York was based on the idea of [a Twitter-like] one hundred and forty characters gathering together in an off-Broadway theater,” said SmallTown’s lead organizer Becky McCray, who has also spoken at 140 Conferences in London and Detroit. “All we had to do was bring WiFi (wireless Internet) into Hutchinson’s Fox Theatre, and it was perfect.”
For the rest of the tips, see the full article about how an Art Deco theater hosted a bunch of modern geeks, in “Small-Town, Not Small-Time.”
So many small towns and rural areas fight the image of being backward, and they find it tough to draw and hold onto talent. The web and social media changes that, and consequently can have a big impact on economic development.
For more on that, keep an eye on the next 140 Conference Small Town, again in Hutchinson, on September 20, 2011.
I think this ties into all sorts of timely issues – how technology is making “flyover country” more visible and relevant in the modern world, creative approaches to economic and downtown development, the importance of rural broadband access in a connected world, the rise of the creative class outside of big cities and how Web connectivity lets you live anywhere you want to live.
I know the person in this short video below: it’s Cody Heitschmidt, the guy who makes things happen in Hutchinson.
He is much too modest and self-deprecating, but I’ll say it – he sees future possibilities for his town way before others do.
I very much look forward to joining him in Hutch on November 1, 2010 when the rest of the world gets to meet him, too.
There is an exciting new development for anyone who has ever wondered how to attract buzz and interest to their small town or rural area….and I’ll explain what a pump jack photo (to the left) has to do with it.
The popular 140 Characters Conference series – about Twitter and other communications in the “State of Now” – has added a location to their event lineup that previously included gatherings in Los Angeles, Boston, Tel Aviv, New York London, San Francisco and Detroit.
If you’ve ever wanted to see how small towns and their economic development can benefit from technology, join me in “Hutch,” because I will not miss this one.
How did this thing end up in small town Kansas? Because of social media connections over a photo, and a blogger familiarization tour/press trip.
My Tourism Currents business partner Becky McCray posted a pump jack photo of her own onto Twitter Update: Becky says it was the other way around - Hutchinson business guy Cody Heitschmidt put up a pump jack TwitPic photo and Becky saw and commented on it.
Becky and Cody then kept up a friendly chatter on Twitter for months. When Cody said that he’d like to work with his local CVB and the Cosmosphere space museum to bring some bloggers to see his hometown, Becky agreed to be one of them….and convinced me to go, too, despite my general skepticism about blogger fam (familiarization) tours.
So, guess which town was top of mind when Becky started organizing 140 Conference SmallTown?
It was solid social networking by some of the Hutch townsfolk, pure and simple. They’re going to bring WiFi into the gorgeous Art Deco Fox Theatre, fill it with a bunch of blogging/Facebooking/video-ing/Tweeting geeks, and connect that town to the whole planet.
“Flyover country,” my hind end.
This is truly groundbreaking; it speaks to how the Web is starting to allow us to live where we want and connect with people worldwide from wherever we want to, as long as we have an Internet connection.
Want to attend? There’s still time – use code 140disc when you register here, and save $40 off of the ticket price.
As soon as our gaggle settled in for the first meeting on the blogger’s tour in Hutchinson, Kansas, we started whipping out the laptops, cameras and other geek accoutrements.
That’s what those who are wired into the social web do – we start connecting immediately.
Bloggers are natural connectors, but we do it differently than some, and we use Web tools in ways that seem strange to the unplugged.
Sitting around the table, we introduced ourselves and ate box lunches while we yakked, tweeted and photographed everything.
At one point, I pulled this enormous cookie from my lunch and made some joke about it, and small business whiz Becky McCray pulled out her camera to take a photo.
You could sense that our Hutchinson hosts thought we were a bit silly, photographing everything, but I said, “Just you wait, this cookie can get around, and we’ll use it to talk about your town.”
The “Hutch cookie” lives on Becky McCray’s Facebook profile under Photos. More importantly, it’s in the Hutch Blogger Tour set. That set shows people some of the neat stuff we saw in Hutchinson (and every time she uploaded something to it, everyone in her Facebook network saw it.)
I tweeted about the cookie after the “Share your cookies with your imaginary Internet friends” was posted. Because the post was hashtagged with #Hutch (the Hutchinson-related hashtag) it also shows up in Twitter Search.
Yes, it’s only a cookie. It’s a seemingly pointless photo; but, it will live on forever, and so will our words about Hutchinson, Kansas.
THAT’S why the Web is powerful as hell.
(Disclosure: My visit to Hutchinson was a press trip sponsored by the Cosmosphere and Hutchinson CVB, who paid for my lodging and expenses while I was in town. They did not tell me what I could or could not write about. I paid my own airfare to/from Kansas.)