12 months ago I spoke at #Recruitfest 2 at Trinity College in Toronto. it was a hot day and noisy in the room. I took my track and we sat outside under a tree and talked about the whole candidate experience. I ran the same track 4 times throughout the day.
It was a pure unconference, chaos and collaboration at the same time. You will read often the events are life-changing, very rarely is that reality. In my case this was real. Inspired by #recruitfest, I brought the unconference format back with me, and have run 5 #tru events since (with 4 more planned between now and feb) This video shows last years #recruitfest thanks to a video shot by Jessica Miller-Merrill:
Jump forward 12 months and the #Recruitfest in Boston that I have been watching most of the day. How things have changed.
As probably only Jason Davis (Slouch), can do, this was more of a media fest. (In a good way.) The streamed production was as slick as I’ve seen anywhere. There were 8 live cameras with a sound team that are doing a great job. 2000+ people tuned in to watch. A question function on the web site that enables viewers to pass questions on to the speakers post presentation, and even a phone number to dial in and ask a question direct to the speaker.
I had a few problems with the dial in as the company handling the calls (ATT) did not have a record of the conference. I sent a tweet to @monsterworks and they fixed it, after 30 minutes I was speaking live to Gerry Crispin and asking my question. Not without hiccups, but impressive none the less. Hats off to the team for enabling the on-line audience to really interact. This is a whole new level of conference production.
What has #Recruitfest lost?
It was a long way from the free-flowing conversation that you get from an unconference. Production means you need presentations, speakers and a stage. There is also a certain feel of rehearsed and delivered, with crisp, polished performances that came across fantastically well on camera, without the feel of unconference spontaneous discussion. (I think the sacrafice of one was worth it for the result.)
It was less Recruit – fest and more HRFest, as was clear from the speaker line up and topics. No problem with this because the worlds of HR, Technology, Branding and Recruiting have really merged through social media.
I’m sure the massive on-line audience made attendees less free with their views and comments than they would have been at a more informal unconference.
It was an A-List conference speaker line up. More presenter than track leader, with some Q & A thrown in. The last event had me, Jerry Albright, Jenny De’Vaughn and a number of other relative unknowns outside of the twitter verse. (John Sumser and Gerry Crispin the only real exceptions.) Only Gerry has reapeared on this years line up.
Seeing these thought leaders and hearing their views was largely educational. A stage and all the setting certainly created a “them” and “us” feel rather than “we.” (Certainly from a distance. The hall may have been different.) Given the quality of speakers this wasn’t an issue.
Everybody looked more “brand” conscious with all the cameras. Displayed by the smarter dress, jackets, hair and make-up than I remember last year.
What has #Recruitfest gained?
With the broadcasting, so many more people can share. This is HR/Recruiter TV for many people who would never get to see these speakers due to geography or budget, it’s a great thing!
The talking-head conference model is both tired and expensive to attend. The interactive question sessions involve the attendees much more, and the phone/site question link direct with the conference really brings the on-line audience in to the dialogue. This format is closer to live TV with callers, questions from twitter and a roving Mic. It worked well and is better than any conference I have seen for some time.
It was great to see the mix of S.E.O (learnt a lot from this session from Tim Dinnen), mixed with plenty of branding talk and talent attraction. A good mix of speakers and content. The quality of the production meant that I found myself watching continuously rather than dipping in and out, as i have done on feeds in the past. The talk was also not all social media, which is good progress.
Eric Winegardner was a fantastic host, and asked some probing questions of the speakers. The feel was definitely TV and studio audience rather than conference. I felt the focus was on the on-line audience, rather than those in attendance. given that there was 75 in the room, and 2000+ tuning in, this balance was definitely right. In terms of sponsors, eyes are far more important than attendee goodwill and this sets the benchmark for conferences to come. The breaks also allowed plenty of time to play Monster ads and put up the sponsors names. Good sponsor return ensures repeat investment, and it is sponsors investment that keeps ticket prices low while delivering world-class presentation.
It was great to hear the candidate care message as the key theme of the conference, the down side of this is that the message was much the same at the last #Recruitfest, and many conferences that have followed, including our unconferences. That is not the fault of the organisers by any means, they are reflecting feelings and feedback in the market. Would be good to see some of the attendees and viewers starting to do the small things, like acknowledging and updating candidates throughout the process. It would be great to see actions that back up the talk.
Jason Davis set out a vision of what he wanted #Recruitfest to become, with a global audience involved in what was going on, and a whole new format. He may have ditched his desire to see laptops and mobiles left at the door, but in every respect he more than exceeded his vision.
Without doubt, the gains were greater than the losses, and perhaps my view is nostalgic and more than a little biased to the unconference model I love. 2500+ on-line viewers would doubtless give it a big thumbs up.
Thank-you to Monster for enabling us the viewers, to really feel a part of what was going on. this was unique in conference broadcasting, and to RecruitingBlogs.Com for making it happen.
The future for conferences and unconferences moving forward may well be a continuing expansion of grass-roots unconferences (like #tru) that are local and concentrate on open conversation, accesable to all, and more #Recruitfest type mega-events that bring together a huge, global viewing audience. That will change the way things are done, reduce ticket prices and keep the conversation.
Well done Jason, Eric and Miles. The real heroes of the day though were Matt and all of the production team who created their own studio and broadcast to the world. You brought us all to Boston.
Great Job, real ambassadors!
PS: If you missed any of the sessions you can get the video files of the show from the good guys at RBC HERE
And thanks again to the sponsors who made the production possible: