If you ever want a deep dive into information technology and telecommunications, InnoTech is a great place to start.

InnoTech 2013 marked the 10th year of the conference. Along with IT and telecom speakers, there’s also a bit of digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) as well. It’s a solid mix of topics from the tech and digital communication realms.

Penguins and Pandas, what?

Ben Lloyd of Amplify Interactive, Matthew Brown of SEOMoz, and Michael Cottam of Visual Iteneraries kicked off a session on demystifying Google’s Panda and Penguin updates.

Ben’s commentary felt very resonant to some current web content challenges of mine:

  • Build your links like a human being by providing valuable information to your user throughout their experience with your site.
  • Another reminder that the get-rich-quick stuff that we see in our email spam folders is useless. These snake-oil organizations are getting "Penguin Slapped." Don't fall for it. Trust in your user research, content strategy, and your willingness to build great content and experiences.
  • Invest in community-building and content strategy if you want a great foothold in the recent SEO game. Fuel, nurture, and trust these professionals.

Whurley demystifies innovation, shows off magical skateboard and shopping cart.

Lunch was hosted by EasyStreet and featured William “Whurley” Hurley of Chaotic Moon Studios. Whurley inspired the crowd, explaining how innovation is a cultural thing, not some kind of magical button that new talent can bring to an organization. Innovation is an initiative that begins at the core of an organization. Do you respect it, or not?

He emphasized that innovation is simpler than most believe it to be. It’s taking common, available parts and using them in new ways to solve problems and challenges. To prove it, he showed videos of a mind-controlled skateboard and a smart-shopping grocery cart. These products captured the attention of its audiences, and even scientific authority.

How’d they pull it off? Open minds, search engine knowledge, and commercially available parts. Raw innovation right there.

If you want to quantify innovation, Whurley suggests less looking at the bottom line and more observing the frequency and gravity in which we suspend the beliefs of audiences through the use of our products and services.

A look at competitive intelligence and its potential benefits.

After some meeting and greeting with all kinds of vendors in the information technology and telecommunications industries, I tuned in to Marshall Kirkpatrick’s (Founder, LittleBird) presentation on competitive intelligence. Marshall’s talk described applications of competitive intelligence and how these tools give professionals and easier path towards accessing insights from data.

Marshall focused on three tangible values of competitive intelligence:

  • Saving time: Competitive intelligence tools are available to organizations of any size who want to leverage big data. Using these tools to quickly identify and deliver data to organizations saves immense amounts of time. Professionals can instead use this newly available time to do other operations.
  • Facilitating new discoveries: Data visualization techniques and tools allow us to take overwhelming amounts of information and distill them into actionable insights. These new discoveries often fuel new initiatives that lead to new data. This process continues to derive immense amounts of value for the organization, if you have a staff that has the skill sets to manage and analyze data to an organization's benefit.
  • Accessing higher-order thinking: When organizations use competitive intelligence and data visualization tools to take "heavy lifting" off of their staff, these professionals spend less time understanding and remembering gobs of data and more time taking action with it. Marshall emphasizes that the goal is to get your staff into a mode of analysis, evaluation, and creation with data.

Overall, the event was a nice change of pace from the typical workweek. A quick hop onto the MAX to the convention center for some learning, beer, and solid conversation? No-brainer.

Big thanks to all of the speakers and vendors who made the event a great time. I’m looking forward to InnoTech 2014 for sure.