As I write this I’m sat on a Cross Country train service to Brighton for the CASE Europe Annual Conference. To take the blurb from the back of the conference flier:
CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) is an international network of professionals leading the advancement of education. Founded in 1974, it has grown to include over 3,400 member institutions (almost 23,000 individuals) in over 60 countries.
Advancement of education?! That means marketing, alumni relations, fundraising and communications. Their annual European conference will this year be attended by over 900 people from across the UK and beyond. There’s eight of us from Edge Hill attending – seven from Corporate Marketing and myself. And why should I be interested in attending a marketing conference? Well more than ever before, online is a key part of the delivery of messages to the full range of stakeholders.
With so many conference delegates, it would be impossible to cater for everyone in one group so it’s split into four tracks – alumni, communications, fundraising and marketing. Our very own Mister Roy Bayfield is co-chairing the marketing track.
[Just arrived at Birmingham New Street and the train is now FULL!]
Most of the sessions are delivered within these four tracks so there is a massive amount of choice. Details of the sessions were sent out in advance to gauge estimated numbers and a few caught my eye. After missing her at IWMW, Helen Aspell from the University of Southampton will be talking about developing a brand-focused digital strategy and will be joined by the chaps from Precedent, no doubt to explain their diagrams! Roy Bayfield will be taking the stage with Amanda Gregory (Heist) and Emma Leech (MMU) for a session titled creating and delivering award winning projects and campaigns.
The programme seems to be packed from early until late, Wednesday and Thursday kicking off with Breakfast Roundtables:
This is a great opportunity to interact with like-minded colleagues in a small and informal setting. Many colleagues at past conferences have confirmed that a moderator, a topic, a table of ten and a special breakfast create one of the most special moments of the conference.
All sounds very intriguing! At the other end of the day, right at the end of the conference, Edge Hill will be presented with the CASE Circle of Excellence Gold Award, won for the Hi applicant community.
It’s becoming common now for conferences to have some online presence and CEAC is no exception. They are trialling the use of a service called Viadeo to provide an online community. Delegates were invited in advance to sign up and join a group CEAC. They invited feedback about the system so here goes! My initial impressions aren’t positive. Viadeo appears like it’s trying to be like LinkedIn but it’s not particularly easy to use (and that’s saying something – LinkedIn isn’t vey good either!). The community aspects are interesting but provide little in the way of identifying people – members of the CASE group are presented in one long list, making finding people difficult. I’ve not given up on Viadeo yet though – I’ll keep checking up on it and report back further.
Of more interest to me has been how Twitter is being used. While I might have expected to be following a number of people attending techie conferences, it surprised me a little to find early adopters amongst CEAC delegates. I’m not sure why this is, and it’s probably a little judgemental of me, but it’ll be interesting to meet in person a number of people who I’ve only ever talked to online (and mostly in 140 characters or less!). The dropping of SMS delivery of messages is disappointing, but you can follow discussions using the hashtag #ceac08 (as decided by a Twitter conversation a couple of months ago between myself, Mister Roy and Ellie Lovell).
On the subject of internet access, I’m disappointed to find that there is no conference-provided wireless access. While there will be an “internet cafe” available on Wednesday and Thursday, the only wifi in the venue is provided by the Hilton and costs £15 per day! I have a 3G card for my main laptop so I’ll be able to get online but it probably means I’ll be one of the few people attempting to live blog the conference, and if I get given the evils for tying to type while people are speaking then I might not bother!
So if you don’t hear from me for the next few days, fear not, there will be a full report after the conference and you can always follow my tweets.
Update: I was clearly bored on the train journey and have written two more blog posts which I’ve scheduled for the next couple of days!