EmTech 2012

Posted on November 2, 2012

We spent two very busy days at EmTech MIT 2012 last week – EmTech is produced by MIT Technology Review and showcases the most innovative thinkers tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges.  MSI represents Technology Review and had an interesting perspective on the conference – and the way media works today – while manning the press room, coordinating with speakers’ PR teams and managing the flow of information out of the show.

Observation: In a world where news breaks first on Twitter, soundbites are as important as they have ever been

The reporters in attendance – from outlets like TechCrunch, Revisions3, ReadWrite, GigaOM, Popular Science, Fast Company, Forbes, The Atlantic, and many others – all wrote articles about the many interesting things they saw and heard, but even more than that, they tweeted all day.  Now, we know that this isn’t news, but what was interesting was what they tweeted the most.  Interesting factoids drove tons of tweets:

  • 47 Americans have donated 42 percent of SuperPAC money this election season
  • $300B spent on clean tech
  • Shooting sulfuric acid into the atmosphere might be a viable way to reverse global warming
  • More people on earth have a smartphone than running water
  • A cellular base station now costs the same as a tattoo
These items were tweeted and re-tweeted countless times.  A great illustration for clients when we talk to them about the importance of sound bites and interesting data.

Observation: The tech industry still loves academia


How often do any of us go to conferences where you just get to listen to smart people talk about new ideas?  We’re usually running from product launch to product launch, or sitting at a keynote, our fingers poised over a keyboard just in case one of the speakers makes news.  At events like EmTech, everyone — reporters, attendees, PR people — gets to sit and actually listen and watch.  Sure, we all tweeted about it right away when a speaker held up the world’s smallest solar cell, or told us that energy consumption will increase 5X over the coming years, but the slower pace of an innovation conference makes for more thoughtful feature reporting, and more time to connect with each other and the material. And as much as folks kept saying this show was so “academic” compared to others, you could tell that that was actually  a good thing.