Despite the sporadic pickup of the stock market, technology conferences can expect little reprieve from the buffeting they've suffered over the last 24 months. One tech conference that has managed to survive the upheavals of the marketplace is digitalNow.
The third annual digitalNow conference, which drew 150 registrants in February to Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort in Orlando, is proof that in order to remain relevant, tech conferences may have to reinvent their raison d'être.
The conference is produced by Webster, N.Y.-based Fusion Productions and is sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives and the Disney Institute. Its focus is on strategic technology-related issues, and it is aimed at top-level executives. It was launched in response to the rapid rise of online companies like VerticalNet, which provided industry-specific “communities of interest and commerce” that threatened to infringe on the domain of many associations. Programming at the first two digitalNow conferences focused on how associations could learn from these dotcom companies. Well, the dotcom era has come and gone (taking VerticalNet with it), and digitalNow's programming has shifted to match the changing marketplace.
The main thrust at the February conference continued to be: What can associations learn from the corporate world? It had a laser-like focus on topics like understanding Web metrics and building customer loyalty through, among other things, a great Web presence. These topics aren't as sexy as warding off the dotcom threat, but they do speak to the heart of the tech issues facing many organizations today.
Fusion Production's Hugh Lee assembled a stellar cast of experts on corporate management topics, including Thomas A. Stewart, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review, Patricia Seybold of the business consulting company The Patricia Seybold Group, and Fred Reichheld, author of bestseller Loyalty Effect: The Hidden Force Behind Growth, Profits, and Lasting Value.
Another reason digitalNow succeeds is its excellent use of technology to create various feedback loops. One example: A bank of computers at the event allowed attendees to instantly provide feedback after each session so that the producers could alter the program, if needed, to be more in tune with attendee needs. After the conference, the digitalNow Web page allows the “conversation” to continue among participants and speakers so that the attendee gets a post-meeting benefit as well.