Smart Technologies for Smart Conference Participants

I have finally set my mind on which technologies I will demonstrate at the 2010 Summer Faculty Institute (June 1, 2010, from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., EDT – Live stream). My goal is not to help you use technologies to enhance a presentation, but instead to help you gather and reflect on what you are learning  as an attendee, and share and connect with others to push the discussion beyond the conference setting.

Before presenting the tools, I have to explain another very important concept called “tagging“. Adding tags to your pictures, notes, or tweets helps you and other users to filter out and find the information more efficiently. During the Summer Faculty Institute, our conference tag –also called hashtag in the Twitter world– will be sfi2010 (or #sfi2010 on Twitter, using the pound sign before the tag).


Since I only have 30 minutes to present and have participants sign-up and start using them, my focus will be on the following tools:


Evernote is a note-taking application that runs on most major operating systems (Windows, Mac), including smartphones and devices (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, iPad). You can also install a web clipper add-on to your browser to keep copies of those important articles you have found.

Evernote supports text, images, screen captures, and audio notes. It also keeps the source URL of the things you capture, so you can find them again when it’s time to write and cite.

Notes are synchronized between devices, so you can start on your computer, switch to your iPad or smartphone, and access the web interface later. You can also share notes very easily, either by copying and pasting the information in an email, sending a note directly through email, or by sharing notes with other Evernote users.

Twitter LogoTwitter

Twitter is one of the fastest-growing social media platform. Millions of tweets are sent every day, but you can pretty easily filter them down to the ones you’re interested in using simple techniques.

Twitter is not reciprocal. You do not have to be friend with someone to listen in, and the other user doesn’t have to follow you back. So some users get a lot of attention but only follow a fraction of their followers, while others follow a lot more than they get attention.

There is one catch: Twitter limits you to messages of 140 characters or less, so you really have to be precise when you use Twitter. How much information can you share with 140 characters? A lot! Especially if you insert a URL that leads to the original resource, which is what a very large proportion of tweets are all about.

After creating your account, start following the UDATS account to get timely reminders of the SFI agenda and connect with other attendees.

Be sure to install a Twitter client on your computer to really enjoy using it! My favorite one is Twhirl, but a lot of people enjoy TweetDeck as well.

Flickr LogoFlickr

You might have not realized this, but we all have many ways to take pictures right in our side pocket or on our desk. Phones, digital cameras, webcams, and scanners are some of the devices we can now use to capture a moment, an architectural detail, a very interesting poster, contact information on a poster, a computer screen, etc.

Flickr is a photo sharing site, not unlike other similar services like Photobucket or Picassa. The free account is limited to 100 MB of upload per month, but you can upgrade to a pro account and get unlimited uploads, collections, and sets.

Flickr allows you to upload pictures in many different ways, including a small client-side uploader that works very well, and through smartphones as well. You can tweak your privacy, copyright, and geo-location settings on an account level or for every different picture if you want to.

See Flickr pictures tagged with “sfi2010”


Business cards are so last-century… The Bump iPhone and Android app allows you to share contact information and more by simply hitting two phones together. You control which kind of information you want to share (e.g., work email, picture, social media profiles, mailing address, presentation files, URLs).

Contacts acquired by bumping keep the date and location of the bump and are automatically synchronized in your contact list on your phone.

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5 thoughts on “Smart Technologies for Smart Conference Participants

  1. Nice list, Matt.

    Other apps useful for conferences are Yelp and/or AroundMe. These are great for either locating a place to eat locally, especially when a large disparate group of people are trying to meet up after the sessions.

    I also find the LinkedIn iPhone app to be useful, to quickly look up someone or to do a quick invite. (However, I haven’t yet used the InPerson feature since it requires Bluetooth to be on. I use Bump instead.)

  2. Hi Randy,
    Yelp seems very cool. I just installed it on my Moto Droid. I had a similar app called Places Directory, but it lacked the social aspect. And Foursquare/Gowalla are not very good at pinpointing where you are to offer the closest venues.
    There are a lot of tools I did not include in the list. I think the most useful ones I didn’t present are Diigo/Delicious (social bookmarking). When I bookmark something, it triggers a series of social media posts that keep my persona alive. I have been trying to get people to use them for years, but it seems like I hit the same wall as with RSS feeds. Nobody seems to care.

  3. I still think it borders on rude to tweet repeatedly from a conference talk. Shows I’m old school, I guess. Personally, I’d take notes during a talk and tweet at the end–with a link to a longer blog posting about the talk. I know. So 20th Century of me. . . .

  4. Hi Richard,

    I somewhat agree with your point here. The biggest issue I see with blogging afterward is that it is delayed, and timely tweets might bring in people to jump in the conversation while it’s occurring. It’s also a nice way to meet people face to face during the event to build connections you would have ever made otherwise, although turning your chair to your right and engaging the person next to you during a break might have the same impact.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have a critical mass of tweeters at the SFI, so it seems like a Mathieu live stream instead of a conversation. Thanks for the comment!

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