Interaction #intranet conference review

Last week all four of us headed to Interaction Intranet Conference 2012, the UK’s only major intranet conference.

Having begun life as an event for Interact customers, last year the organisers took the bold step of spinning it off into a day-long event open to all, bringing together some of the best thinkers and speakers on intranets from across the globe.

They built on that success this year, with an excellent speaker line-up and over 200 intranet practitioners attending from across Europe.

The Talks

James Robertson says intranets should delight and amaze. Intranets are, increasingly, a place of work so above all, they do need to work.  Given that we have that functional foundation, there is great deal to gain in adding a fun and engaging design layer. Employees deserve more than intranets that delight and amaze simply by working. James delivered an engaging presentation on the value of aesthetic and functional beauty on intranets. We’ve talked about intranet beauty before and agree with James’ evolving thought on this topic.

Martin White talked about the challenges of working in virtual teams. This way of working is becoming common, but few employees or managers are given training on how to adapt to remote working. Depending on your organisation, virtual working throws up myriad complexities – language, timezone, cultural barriers, public holidays. We’ve blogged before on making a success of remote working, but if you’re keen to know more we would recommend reading Martin’s paper on the subject.

Interaction 2012

Sam Marshall from Clearbox Consulting

Sam Marshall‘s presentation, Loving the Intranet: rethinking intranet adoption, looked at what motivates people to adopt new tools. He showed an RSA video – a summary of Dan Pink’s  Drive – about research into what motivates us. This found cash only motivates people for simple tasks, not for more complex ones which require deeper thought or engagement. This segued neatly on to the value of gamification on intranets. Like us, he cautions against  ‘lameification’: “who wants a badge for booking a meeting room?”.

Lee Byrant made some fascinating points about social in enterprises. We’ve seen Lee present on a number of occasions and he always provides food for thought. Lee argued that purely social interaction on enterprise social networks (ESN) — that is to say, not work related — has value to an organisation and must be encouraged. There is genuine dollar value in such interactions as it builds rapport and human networks.

The other takeaway for us was that in traditional office environments, we were all acutely aware of what each other was doing simply by the noise of the office. Similarly, in social enterprises, the ambient awareness generated by activity feeds is critical noise that connects people and projects. Succintly, Lee summarised this by saying that ambient awareness led directly to networked productivity. These two points were our star conference takeaways.

Interaction 2012

Janus Boye: Sharing is caring

Janus Boye argues  “Sharing is caring”. He urged intranet managers to look at intranets not as a way to provide top-down information and comms, but as a platform to let people share information with one another. He advocated removing unnecessary content, in order to focus attention on making the things people are actually looking for easier to find. This approach – what some have called the lean intranet – provoked fierce debate on the Twitter backchannel. We’re largely champions of the lean intranet, but for an alternative view, see Oscar Berg’s thought-provoking blogpost on serving the long tail of information needs.

Janus also talked about intranet career paths, making a strong argument that this is something that needs to be talked about more widely. Can intranet managers also be intranet experts? Janus argues for a distinction between the two, and and for the industry as a whole to mature and have a more open discussion about next steps in an intranet manager’s career. This is something we touched on earlier in the year in our post ‘What next, intranet manager?’, but it’s an area we feel needs a good deal of further discussion across the industry.

Kiwi Michael Sampson is a collaboration evangelist, so it was especially refreshing to hear his talk on “the dangers of pushing collaboration too far”. In this Michael acknowledged a range of reasons why social collaboration isn’t necessarily the answer – in many cases collaboration on work can merely slow down processes and prevent decisions being made.

Michael’s presentation looked at the impact of culture on enthusiasm for (and willingness to adopt) collaboration tools. Technology is only part of the answer; if your company culture is not collaborative, introducing social tools is not going to make it so. Michael also touched on the way different personality types view collaboration, which impacts on their willingness to adopt it.

This was the first time all four of us have presented together, delivering four short presentations in quick succession based on our most popular posts from 2012. It didn’t all quite go to plan, but we’re big fans of the format and hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Our talks were over in a flash, but we’ve collated our presentations and the blog posts which inspired them here, so you can read them at your leisure.

The Conversation

While the quality of talks was high, the packed agenda meant breaktimes were short. This meant none of us got to speak to as many people as we’d have liked to in the breaks.  Perhaps in future years the organisers might shift that balance a little by including more opportunities to network.

One way they did get people talking was to invite delegates to submit a screenshot of their own homepage. These were posted up on a wall, with people voting for their favourite. This led to some great debates and disagreements; a great talking point and a reminder that visual design is a contentious business.

In 2011, the four of us seemed to be the only people tweeting about the event. We were incredibly pleased to see the conversation blossom this year, with many delegates adding to the conversation, and the addition of an on-screen Twitter feed to bring that discussion back into the room.

What struck all of us were how many insightful and interesting comments came from people we hadn’t heard from much before. Here at Intranetizen we firmly believe sharing knowledge helps us all to improve our professional practice (and in turn, our intranets), so we’d love for these newer voices to keep the conversation going.

We’d strongly encourage anyone who was at Interaction (and, indeed, anyone who reads this blog) to join the conversation on the #intranet hashtag on Twitter. The more of us who share our experiences and thoughts, the better the conversation will be.

And while it’s great to hear from the big names in the industry, we’d be keen to hear more about the experiences of other practitioners at these events too. We’d suggest quick-fire Ignite format we used in our own presentations – 20 slides each, 15 seconds per slide – could be used to bring more practitioners into the limelight. If you weren’t too daunted, we’d love to talk to intranet managers and conference organisers about bringing this format to future events.


Overall, we would recommend attending Interaction in future years, particularly if you are a UK-based practitioner working on a new intranet, an organisation who uses the Interact platform, or are dipping their toes into the global intranet community and looking to learn more. New to the industry, or seasoned practitioner, there is something for everyone at this event. We would suggest that those looking to develop their understanding further should look to attend the intra.NET event in Berlin, the JBoye events in Aarhus or Philadelphia or the Intra.Team events.

And at under £500, the conference is incredibly good value, especially considering the high calibre of speakers.

Were you at Interaction? What did you think of the event? Let us know in the comments below.

Other reviews and round-ups from IIC12:


There are 7 comments

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  1. Emma Burgess

    Hi guys, thank you for the write up and we’re really glad you enjoyed the conference. Your presentations went down really well!

    We’re already looking forward to Interaction 2013 – see you there!

    Marketing and Communications Manger, Interact

  2. Christy Punch

    I will go ahead and volunteer to shamelessly wear a sponsor’s t-shirt in return for a plane ticket and a pass to this conference next year. I’ll even sing the company’s jingle during one of the breaks.

    Will work for intranet knowledge. 🙂

  3. Ross

    It was my second conference and I enjoyed it as much if not more than the 2011 conference. The speakers were interesting and engaging, the Interact product was promoted (as expected) but not rammed down my throat – and lunch was much more civilised than in 2011 which was just a massive free-for-all.

    While the keynote speakers are always great, my only criticism was that I felt I had heard a lot of it before and many of the presentations were similar to last year’s.

    As for you Intranetizen guys – loved the presentations, fun, enjoyable and engaging – hope to see more like it in the future.

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