I spent the morning and part of the afternoon at an interesting gathering in Washington DC of folks who are trying to learn about digital media and the evolution of interaction online. Unlike other events where they separate content into tracks to allow people to optimize their time, everything is in one big session. As a result, half the after lunch crowd looks suitably confused by listening to a presentation about SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) – and the other half looked extremely confused this morning by the earlier presentations about design. I’m not sure if an audience is ready for such a broadly focused event – but here are a few big ideas I noted

Ted Leonis (Clearspring) – Why CEOs Should Blog
The keynote speaker for the day was Ted Leonis, something of a local DC celebrity for his early moves in digital media and success in founding companies. At one point, he shared his motivation behind starting his blog. He was already successful, yet when he Googled his name, the first thing that came up was a relatively negative story from the Washington Post. His main first motivation to start his blog was to push that negative result down off the top ten results pages.

John Bell (Ogilvy 360 DI) – The 7 Big Barriers To Social Media
In his leading session, John talked about the 7 key barriers to social media and using it, and then went through some solutions that we have uncovered for how to do this. Some of the barriers are likely ones that you will recognize if you have tried to sell social media within the enterprise – such as understanding where social media fits within your org chart and how it requires building relationships instead of just running campaigns.

Joe Crump (Avenue A / Razorfish) – Interbrand Brand Rankings Don’t Matter
One of the main points that Joe raised which was interesting is just how much weight we put on rankings such as the Interbrand report to tell us what brands are the most popular in the world. Instead of looking at just those rankings, Joe suggested looking at a combination of 7 factors that brands which stand out today all have. A few brands that he mentioned that would top that list would be Ikea, Apple, and Netflix. The seven factors he talked about was authenticity, adaptive, relevance, transformation, fresh, immersive and social.

Joanna Champagne (National Gallery of Art) – Map Your Goals To Your Company Mission
In an institution like the National Gallery of Art, things have been done the same way for a long time. Joanna talked about how she got support internally to redesign and relaunch an ambitious new site for the National Gallery of Art by mapping what she was doing to their existing mission. For example, part of their mission was to preserve the world’s artwork for future generations. Explaining the power of a new site in those terms allowed her to get more support for more places.

Marisa Mayer (Google) – Speed Is The Most Important Criteria For Success
Most of us have heard the stories about Google’s work environment that inspire envy across the world. That staffers get up to 20% of their time to explore their own projects (true) and that all "offices" have bean bags (also true). One of the things that Marisa shares which I had not heard about before was just how important speed is to Google’s success in products. She talked about some tests that they did on spacing, how many search results get displayed on the first page, and changing the backend algorithm for Google Maps to improve speed. In each case, doing things faster demonstrated a measureable increase in users.

I’m speaking tomorrow on a panel titled "Growing Your Business Through Social Media" and is the closing panel for the event.  I’ll be on stage with several good friends from the DC area as well as one of my favourite smart clients from Intel, Ken Kaplan. Jesse Thomas will be moderating and others on the panel are Brian Solis, Nick O’Neill, and Frank Gruber.