Josh Hallet runs the Hyku social media practice and Hyku blog. An internationally recognized thought leader in the convergence of social media and corporate public relations & marketing, Josh provides social media consulting and development work to Fortune 500 firms. He’s also the creator and organizer of BlogOrlando (Sept. 27-29). We asked Josh some questions about the unconference and a little about what it’s like to be Josh Hallett.
BB: What made you create BlogOrlando?
JH: The idea started last year (2006). I was on the conference circuit on the West Coast and thought, “Why am I always traveling to California or the Northeast for events? Why can’t everybody come to Florida?”
Originally though it was going to be a private event. I was going to invite 15 or 20 close friends within the industry to Florida for a few days. We’d hang-out and talk shop for a day, then spend the rest of the weekend at Disney. I started planning things and figured I’d just open up the event to everybody. BlogOrlando was born.
Last year was the first event and we had just under a 100 people attend. The audience was a mixture of local bloggers/pr/media and friends from outside of Florida.
BB: What can attendees expect at BlogOrlando?
JH: It’s a hybrid event, mixing the session style of an un-conference, with a bit of the structure of a traditional conference. There is a set schedule that will be known ahead of time, but the sessions themselves are open ended. There are discussion leaders for each session. The session leaders are there to set the topic and then facilitate the conversation. There are no long powerpoints or talks or panels. For those not familiar with the format it can be a bit of an adjustment, but in the end I think many folks prefer it.
This year we have four distinct tracks to match up with the diversity of the audience. The tracks are: PR/Marketing, Media, Technology and then Life/Local/.
BB: Tell us about the unconference format and why it’s useful.
JH: Like I said previously, BlogOrlando is a bit of a modified un-con format. Typically at events like BarCamps there is a true open-grid format where session leaders sign-up the morning of the event, or shortly beforehand via a wiki.
With the audience in our market I needed to have most of the sessions mapped out in advance. BlogOrlando has session leaders that are all experts in their fields, so there is a great opportunity to learn from them in an interactive session. Rather than the standard present for 90% of the time and 10% for Q&A, we do the opposite. The majority of the time is Q&A. That format allows participants to get what they want out of each session, but they have to participate.
BB: How geeky will the trip to Epcot be?
JH: Not that geeky. Last year we went to the Magic Kingdom and had a blast. Of course this year there is Twitter, so there might be some activity as we walk around the park :-)
BB: You’ve have an impressive track record in the social media world? What?s been your greatest experience?
JH: It’s hard to say. The ability to travel around the country has been an exciting part of it all. However, the travel does become draining, especially when you might be spending the night in Reagan National because of canceled flights.
From a work standpoint it’s been great to work with a number of newspapers as they adapt to the world of social media.
BB: What do you think of the participation is marketing meme?
JH: I think it’s right-on. Last year at a WOMMA event Jake McKee presented on some of his LEGO experiences, specifically their hands-on events. Jake’s mantra was ‘Control via participation and not directive.’ Corporations are always looking for control, but they don’t really have it. However, by being part of the community they have a say in what goes on. The human element goes a long way :-)
BB: What’s next for Josh Hallett and Hyku?
JH: More of the same I hope. As soon as BlogOrlando was over last year people were asking, “How about next year?” I’d love to plan a BlogOrlando 08, but I need to think about where it goes.