A peek inside the Shangri La of intranet conferences

21 September 2012 by

As delegates head home from an insightful and highly productive IBF member meeting in Toronto, our Community Manager Ephraim Freed explains what makes this such a unique event in an intranet manager’s calendar.

Let me begin by telling you about what I love about intranet conferences – connecting with other real-life intranet nerds. I love discussing the actual realities of intranet governance and company culture with real people who do the job, day in, day out, for real.

I think I’m actually addicted to watching live intranet tours from real intranet managers – not from some intranet vendor or consultant. I love hearing about how managing and improving their intranets is actually affecting their lives over drinks or dinner  – it turns out that intranet managers can find the time to  do other things in their lives like trail running, gardening, cooking, hockey, photography –  and these things have real impacts on the intranets they manage.

At most intranet conferences, this real stuff happens off to the side, during the informal moments, during the dull presentations, outside the presentation halls in the corridors. I’m doing what I love, making real connections with real intranet managers, talking about real intranets, and discussing real challenges, which they feel really passionate about.  At most intranet conferences I attend, I just wish things could be a little more…real.

But hang on a moment, there is an intranet conference that’s quite different, where none of this happens on the side in shady corridors, with a vendor listening in. This conference is an IBF Member Meeting.

The Shangri La of intranet conferences

I attended my first IBF Member Meeting in March 2011. Arriving home afterwards, I realized I had just stumbled upon the Shangri La of intranet conferences – “Intranet Nerdvana” if you like.

It never fails to impress me as I turn up for breakfast on the first day to find myself accompanied by real intranet managers from some of the biggest companies on the planet – some of these people actually do my dream job and here they are, sharing coffee and donuts while chatting about a content migration strategy that has kept them away from trail running for the last month. Wow.

Day one begins in earnest and we hear from IBF Members about real successes, real projects and challenges. We even laugh about the failures. These discussions are facilitated by my IBF colleagues. Hands-on problem-solving sessions get to the heart of a fellow IBF Member’s intranet performance issues. You can see everyone scribbling frantically, making notes and capturing and re-interpreting ideas as we take a deep-dive tour of yet another IBF Member’s intranet. At certain points you can almost see the thought processes. How could I make that work on my intranet?

Once the evening arrives, intranet challenges soon melt away and dissolve into conversations about hometowns, previous jobs and stories about how people met their partners – real people doing what they do best, relaxing over a drink, and making real connections.

It’s the second day, and everyone is little tired, but very inspired. At breakfast, now familiar faces are following up on yesterday’s presentations and making new contacts with their Intranet professional peers. Here I have to mention the surprising caliber of professionals who seem to be drawn to intranet work. At every IBF Member Meeting, I’m thrilled to engage with some many smart, helpful, kind, insightful and hard-working intranet professionals from our member organizations.

Everyone is eager to find out more about the intranet of the global company hosting day two.  When it comes to intranets, a new perspective can be like a bolt from the blue. Real insights give people real hope into how they can improve their intranet. I see that at least one of them is inspired to potentially show off their improvements at our next meeting. The day ends with a flurry of business card exchanges and a quiet acceptance that there is still so much more everyone needs to know about how to really run an intranet.

But, I don’t want you to just take my word for all of this…

Laura Esmet of ADP explained what she took away from a recent DWG member meeting:

“It was an amazing experience to bring our intranet wireframes to the NY meeting; we really relished the opportunity to share this with a group of intranet people. We got a lot of really great feedback. It helped us see we were on the right track. We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this otherwise.”

Mark Mazza of Lloyds Banking Group:

“The most valuable thing about IBF is being able to meet your peers. If you work in intranets, it’s normally a closed community – people don’t like to share their ideas, and the tricks of the trade. But in this forum, you know you’re going to get honest answers and honest opinions. That’s something you really can’t get anywhere else.”

These member meetings were thought up by IBF CEO and Founder Paul Miller back in 2002. These meetings take place four times per year in North America and four times per year in Europe. The locations regularly change, meaning that one could end up just a morning’s drive from your house or office.

Attendance at these meetings is included in the annual cost of DWG membership. If you’re not already familiar with what DWG membership entails, you can learn more on our membership options page.

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Ephraim Freed

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