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Published: April 4th 2013
Addressing Malaysia Social Media Week (MSMW) - Kuala Lumpur
Thanks to Windy for taking this photo during my presentation.
There are two experiences that compare to the excitement of travel. Researching, budgeting and planning itineraries can be just as exciting as the journey itself, whilst the other recently discovered experience is presenting speeches about travel to an international audience numbering in the hundreds.
Last year provided my introduction into the world of speaking at international fora Confessions of a Briefly Famous Travel Blogger
, where I was most impressed by the hospitality and professionalism on display at the Malaysia International Tourism Bloggers Conference & Awards
(MITBCA). Not only was I invited to return to MITBCA in 2013, but this invite extended to its sister event, Malaysia Social Media Week
I arrived a few days prior to MSMW in order to adjust to the time zone and prepare my presentation, “From Dangerous to Desired”
. I was the last speaker on the last session of the entire conference, so I had a much time to observe earlier proceedings. The conference was held in a massive ballroom filled ordered lines of chairs and table, with a video screen on one side of the large stage, with the other side showing a live Twitter feed on proceedings. A live stream of the event was viewable on the Internet.
The conference at Berjaya Times Square the was
During my presentation to the Malaysia International Tourism Bloggers Conference & Awards (MITBCA) - Kuala Lumpur
This photo caused a reaction when I stated that Iraqis are normally perceived as angry or sad, where here I only see warmth and pride. Thanks to Emila for taking this photo.
attended by those interested in social media either as a practitioner or using social media to promote a business or service. Speakers included the glamorous Malini Agarwal, founder of one of India’s biggest blogging sites, Miss Malini
who impressed everyone with her stage presence and information on social media. Malini presented one of the conference’s most important messages, that social media is about being social and not just promoting yourself or your product.
The delegates from the Philippines demonstrated their acumen and passion for social media. Jason Cruz
’s knowledge was outstanding, he could have commanded the stage the entire day, and ably demonstrated the complexity and richness of this resource.
I was both speaking and moderating at the final session of the conference, a slightly difficult combination of roles. For this Social Tourism session, I was joined by two speakers from the impressive Philippines’ contingent, Vincent Golangco, founder of the vibrant When In Manila
, and Blogie Robillo, the inspiration behind the Mindanao Bloggers Community
. Also on stage was the energetic Malaysian, Rebecca Saw, who blogs at The Nomad Gourmand
and a returnee from last year’s MITBCA, Indonesia’s astute Windy Ariestanty
I followed Blogie, who described the difficulties in promoting a destination perceived as dangerous by the
outside world – Mindanao. My speech expanded this premise by describing my recent travels through the Kurdish Region of Iraq. I posed whether explaining my experiences through Travelblog, Facebook and Twitter changed people’s perceptions about the country; could social media transform a destination from dangerous to desired?
Changing perceptions was problematic on Twitter; it is difficult to be persuasive within 140 characters. However, Facebook and Travelblog were effective, mostly because photographs are far more potent than words – showing is better than telling. Consideration must be given to images that present a different perspective than the usual preconceptions – thus pictures of beautiful cities, gorgeous mountains and friendly people proved significant. I also learnt that social media has credibility, personal stories of someone travelling in a destination were more persuasive than portrayals from the traditional media. Thus, my loyal readers were overwhelmingly more likely to believe my impressions of a country than statements from traditional media.
My presentation concluded with my thoughts on the power that one person can wield on the Internet: ” People sitting in cramped Internet cafes in Kurdistan, Kenya or Colombia can converse with the world. The Internet is a place where to
follow someone is to shake hands, to like is to smile, and to retweet is a nod of approval. But more importantly, the Internet, through social media, allows one person to influence the opinions of many. For an opinion is like a droplet of rain that gently falls into the ocean of global thought. If this persuades other raindrops to fall, the ocean will rise, the ocean will swell, and a wave will roll forth. A wave of change. Thanks to social media, it can take only one raindrop to awaken that wave of change, and that one raindrop can come from you.”
It is exhilarating to deliver a presentation under the gaze of expectant eyes and bright lights, especially on a subject you are passionate about. I strove to encapsulate the theme of MSMW, “Engage, Educate, Entertain”, and my attempt was very well received. During the presentation people would audibly gasp at my photographs or applaud a statement they loved, and afterwards some people even stated their desire to travel to the Kurdish Region of Iraq. Such is the power of a well-rehearsed presentation.
The following day, I participated in a workshop facilitated by
Jeremy Wallenberg, Director of External Affairs at the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation
. Jeremy was involved in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for the US Presidency. His calm demeanour when discussing the passionate topic of politics and social media won many admirers. He was invited to speak to at a Ministry of Information function later that day, which I also attended, and again his presentation was warmly received.
A few days later, I attended MITBCA at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre; not as grand as MMSW, but a more familiar atmosphere due to its audience of tourism and travel bloggers. My session was chaired by the dynamic Kirbua Shankar
(another participant from MITBCA 2012) and my fellow panellists were the talented photographer and oenophile, Aneesh Bhasin
, and the erudite South African digital media specialist David Duarte
. My presentation was first of the session, and though it did not possess the emotion of the previous week, it felt more powerful. Different audiences always provide different experiences. Being first allowed me to relax whilst admiring Aneesh’s incredible photography and listening to David’s sage words.
My final task at these conferences was to moderate a session entitled Citizen Tourism Blogging the following day. It was a pleasurable and easy
task to moderate three knowledgeable speakers, Murni Amalai Ridha
from Indonesia, Pham Hoang Mien
from Vietnam, and Vanessa Workman
from the USA (now living on Malaysia’s Langkawi Island). A message that resonated strongly was the responsibility that accompanies citizen blogging, insofar as not being unfairly critical of a city or country. When making negative criticism, it needs to be moderate, balanced and respectful.
That evening I attended an Awards dinner where ( like last year) saw me sit at the VVIP table with the leading officials from Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, and the Tourism Minister, Dato' Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen. The main difference being that I strode into the room with local dignitaries accompanied by thumping drums and a brilliance of camera flashes. The ceremony accompanying these events in Malaysia is overwhelming at first, but I now graciously accept such acclaim with a smile.
Attending MSWM and MITBCA was a rewarding and invigorating experience. Having now spent many weeks in Malaysia observing and participating in its extremely advanced social media network, I can confidently stay that its strength, vibrancy and friendliness mark it as a network without equal.
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