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A perfect storm: Hurricane Jova, Twitter and The Lobby 2011 conference in Punta Mita

October 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Blog | No comment

 

A fascinating thing happened last week that involved technology, Twitter and tourism that marakáme was pretty excited to be a part of. The wind that propelled this perfect storm was a pretty fierce one–hurricane Jova, and its impending visit to our area.

By Monday, it seemed that everyone in the region was alert to the news that there were not one, but two hurricanes headed right towards the Puerto Vallarta/Punta Mita area. People were boarding or taping windows, clearing off terraces and balconies and stocking up on bottled water and canned foods, flashlights. The exchange of information on Facebook was impressive. As one friend, Maria O’Conner remarked, “How did we ever have a hurricane before Facebook?!”

One of marakáme’s projects is our own popular website, LivePuntaMita.com, a lively destination portal of news, events and fun photos to promote our home community. Social media – Facebook & Twitter especially– are an important part of the package, and regularly drive 40% of the website’s traffic.

On Tuesday, I was monitoring the various Twitter feeds of our clients (I use hootsuite – excellent for keeping an eye on multiple accounts or topics of interest). There were some very interesting references to the LivePuntaMita site…and when I started checking the bios of the tweeps mentioning it, what I found were some of the tech industry’s brightest stars. Starting with Michael Arrington, the famed tech blogger who started Tech Crunch, and on to a host of others, all were either in Punta Mita or on their way – due to arrive in the coming days to attend a conference called The Lobby 2011. The attendees included tech titans, luminaries of startups, social and venture capital. I follow this space regularly, devotedly, passionately — and I’d never heard of this event.

After doing a bit of research, it turns out the annual Lobby Conference is an underground tradition, generally held each year in Hawaii. The premise is that the best stuff that comes out of conferences are the conversations and connections that occur in the Lobby, as well as the pool or the bar, so why not create a networking event that dispenses with the talks and other formalities, and simply provides the venue and people to do just that. It’s invitation only, and attendees are prohibited from writing or discussing much about it.

Here’s a Tech Crunch blog post written by Arrington in 2007, that illuminates the premise a bit more…

Last year, Brian Solis published an official conference description:

Why do you attend conferences? Is it to learn about industry trends or hear keynote speakers or watch powerpoint presentations? Or do you attend conferences to spend time in the lobby? In a great conference, the conversation in the lobby is the content. The Lobby aims to turn the traditional conference on its head. There will be no panels, no keynotes, no distractions from the real task at hand – engaging in meaningful conversation and building deeper relationships with other thought-leaders in the new media universe. For two and a half days, the individuals driving innovation and strategic development throughout the online media world will gather for an extended conversation.

It turns out that Lobby 2011 was taking place at Four Season Resort Punta Mita, October 12-14, and hurricane Jova was threatening to disrupt (to use a favored tech term) the whole deal.

On Monday, we had started a running commentary on LivePuntaMita to track the storm – and were providing continual updates. On the site, and our Facebook page, we posted photos to show the reality of the weather (no rain, calm skies), to keep out of town residents and travelers apprised of the actual situation, as opposed to CNN-style dramatized version.

Originally, we were all pretty anxious about what looked to be a hurricane heading directly toward us. But little by little the storm slowed, shifted and looked to track both south and east. It seemed we could avoid any major impact.

 

Back to the Twitter stream. Seems the tech travelers to #lobby11 had discovered the LivePuntaMita website and were following it -and sharing it. We started communicating back, and posting all updates on Twitter with the conference hashtag, so they could easily track the news. We were told by the attendees (and family) that the level of comfort we provided through our honest, accurate and detailed reporting of the storm position and tracking helped many make the decision to continue with their travel plans. We were even in direct communication with a few of the carrying airlines, such as Alaska, to confirm scheduled departures on Wednesday, the day the storm was due to hit.

In the end, most attendees arrived as planned, or maybe a day late. Those who did make it in early confirmed what was on the LPM site and took to posting pictures of the glorious Punta Mita sunset on Tuesday evening.

In the end the storm was a non-event – some rain, some wind, no storm surge. We were blessed. And the technorati continued on with Lobby 2011. I enjoyed reading the names on the guest list and the companies they represented. I enjoyed their tweets, which seemed to reflect a successful meet up, and good time. A number of lovely photos were posted, many taken from a setting I easily recognized — the Lobby of the Punta Mita Four Seasons. Fitting.

I like to think that marakáme had a hand in ensuring Lobby 2011 carried on as planned. It was a great, influential group to have visit Punta Mita. And who knows what deals, innovations or inspirations will result from the conversations had here?

One never knows what being social can lead to. In this case, it was a perfect storm.

 

 

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