I have never been a great conference attendee, either as a delegate or a journalist covering the event.

But the invite to attend a one-day conference on “Using Digital Media in Marketing & Communications” seemed timely and worth a go, not just because it was being staged at Alton Towers.

Organised as part of the launch of ideasforlife.tv, a new online video channel “showcasing innovative science-based business and research taking place across the Birmingham Science City region”, it was aimed at small and medium-sized businesses in the Midlands.

ideaforlife.tv is a collaboration run by the University of Warwick and Maverick Television, funded by Advantage West Midlands as part of the Birmingham Science City initiative.

So was the conference worth it?

Generally, yes. It helped confirm some thoughts and ideas and provided a few useful tips and some sage advice I can try and incorporate into my own efforts. There were also some entertaining and insightful talks from self-confessed geek Dr Adam Rutherford, a glimpse into the future from Dr John Salkeld and a lot of common sense and confirmation about the way forward from half luvvie-half geek Anthony Lilley.

From attempting to maximise web traffic to viral marketing, the main message I took from the day was try, try and try again and most of all have fun trying.

Equally, while some may complain of infobesity there really is no such thing as information overload when you are capable of cutting through the mass of material that is out there with one or two clicks of a mouse. If you have something others want they will find you, just make sure you put the right signposts in the right places.

But it was also clear that many businesses still have a certain amount of fear and loathing when it comes to technology and particularly Web 2.0 – mainly it appears to be a fear of failure, which is understandable given the potential risk to small business and yet it masks the bigger threat of being left behind.

It also became clear from some of the comments, suggestions and advice from those leading the conference that larger businesses and organisations can be guilty of trying to run before they can walk when it comes to making use of the opportunities provided.

They hit on a good idea and instead of making sure it is working properly they move quickly on to the next big idea. Quick to jump on a bandwagon or publicise their efforts, they soon get found out when people realise there is very little substance to go with the style.

The result is often confusion – internally and externally – and lots of grand plans left floating around aimlessly without taking any kind of advantage from the opportunities the technology actually provides.

No names at this point mainly because it is very early stages and I may be proved wrong, but I’m currently keeping a close watch from a distance on one business that is ploughing headlong into the brave new world and doesn’t seem as if it has any kind of route map to make sure it gets to the right place.

Small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the resources or often the luxury of time to experiment so willfully. Even small mistakes can prove very costly.

Yet trial and error remains the key to success in respect of digital media because it can be relatively inexpensive and not necessarily a time-consuming (wasting?) exercise to have a bit of fun trying. Plus, there doesn’t necessarily need to be too much trial and error.

Even if you are largely clueless, there are a growing number of people and organisations out there ready, willing and able to point you in the right direction.

A good day, even if I didn’t get the chance to sample the delights of Rita – Queen of Speed.

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