J. Boye conferenceAt our recent Aarhus 2009 conference, we had some great discussions on the web strategy track. Some of the expert recommendations were:  Expand your mandate. Don’t just manage web content, manage information. Get it right, and you could have a seat at the table. But is all this really achievable in real life?

The advice from the gurus was followed by some great case studies, including a refreshing presentation on “web strategy in real life” from Caroline Coetzee from Cambridge University Hospitals. Caroline reflected on how she has left numerous conferences feeling inspired, only to be hit hard by reality when returning home. Often, the great results that the gurus promise just can’t be achieved.

The fact is, the inspiration already fades in the break after a great keynote or successful case study. We are all impressed, but at the same time thinking things like: “My manager would never go for that”, “These people just don’t live in the real world”, “Everybody here is able to achieve things impossible in my organisation”.

However, instead of letting this happen, after our Aarhus 2007 conference, Caroline decided to act. And act quickly. The day after the conference she created a presentation for her manager. There were no new or revoluntionary ideas in the presentation, but they were things she had been nervous about putting on the table. Although far from the success story sometimes outlined by the experts, Caroline has been able to affect real change in her organisation:

  • Eighteen months of being noisy has raised awareness
  • The intranet has become indispensable
  • The public website and the extranet are on their way too

None of that would have happened, had Caroline not taken action. What made the difference, Caroline told us, was that she was feeling inspired and decided to act on that. That inspiration was what passed through to her manager.

As Caroline puts it, “the daily grind means we need inspiration. This is just as important as great knowledge, wisdom and authority. And it may be what makes conferences worthwhile.”

So when it comes to translating expert advice into a real strategy project, remember to:

  • Pick the bits that you can use. Not everything will apply, but there may be tactical tips here and there.
  • Don’t buy into the myths around strategy successes. In order to communicate clearly, conference presenters are often simplifying their advice. Strategy is not something you easily implement. It is a long process.
  • Act on the inspiration. Just this week, I heard from another 2009 conference delegate who told me that he was writing a “mission report” to senior management to summarize the findings from the conference as well as give recommendations for how to proceed in the coming year.

If you want to know more about what Caroline has to say about the Aarhus 2009 conference, check this video out:

How are you acting on what you learned at the conference?