This weekend I’ve attended a couple of local gov digital communications events. Of course I haven’t done so in person but I have been able to virtually attend thanks to people there sharing their experiences via blogs, Twitter, Flickr, video etc etc etc

On Friday I was able to dip in and out of LG Comms Roadshow on Maximising the Powers of Social Media(of course social media doesn’t have it’s own powers, the people using it do 😉 ) which was taking place a couple of miles down the road from me in Nottingham.

There was a good line up of speakers and my Grit Girl persona has been looking forward to getting my eyes around the resources for the talk on Crisis Communications from Kirklees in particular.

You can find this and presentations by Alison Hook from Coventry City Council and Michele Ide-Smith from Cambridgeshire County Council on the LG Comms website now.

There wasn’t a huge flurry of activity on the hashtag (#lgcommsroadshow) but there was enough that I could just about follow what the presentations were about.

In terms of activity it couldn’t be more different from where I was, virtually, on Saturday – UK GovCamp 2011. I logged onto Twitter at 5.30am as I fed my baby and already there were a slew of tweets from those making their way to London. I was filled with great pride that these people would give up their weekend (and in many cases part with their own cash too) to do this and some sadness I couldn’t join them.

The stream (#ukgc11) became a cascade as the day got underway and at times it was hard to follow due to the sheer volume of stuff coming through and the insane number of sessions and conversations being shared on the back channel.

Having been there in person last year this was a good representation of how it feels to be there and a little of the giddy passion rubbed off on me. However, it’s also frustrating in some ways…you can’t concentrate on any one session & it’s hard to ask questions or know that your info has fed through. (Find all the stuff tagged with ukgc11 from the dashboard).

So what’s true of both these events is that by attending virtually it’s been a much longer process as I’ve found the most value, not in the real time coverage, but in the reflections that trickle through as people blog and post resources over the following days.

I’ve got lots out of both events without leaving my settee and I’m hugely glad there are so many people sharing what they learn.

One conference hashtag that appeared in my timeline last week was very quiet and later tweets appeared saying the wifi had been banned in order to encourage delegates to concentrate on what was happening in the physical not virtual space. All well and good, it is insanely difficult to do both at once, but I can’t help worry that this adds to exclusion.

There will be many more events that are of use to those in local gov which lack of budget mean attending in person presents a problem (although, disclaimer, my issue this weekend is that I’m on maternity leave not that I wasn’t allowed to go!) and this sharing and opening up the virtual space addresses that.

The method might not be perfect yet but the opportunity is there – perhaps more social reporters there purely as reporters and conduits for voicing questions and additions from virtual delegates?

Anyway, I’m enormously grateful for everyone who shared their experience of either (or both) events so that I could at least get a feel and pick up some threads to carry on later. While virtual attendance does present some frustrations it also presents a massive opportunity when you can’t get there in person.