Monday, August 30, 2010

Tantalising Twitter

Yes, I am going to talk about Twitter. No, don’t run away! I know that you are scared of it but I promise that I’ll make this as painless as possible.

I had those exact thoughts that are currently going through your mind. Who is interested in what Paris Hilton or Justin whateverhisnameis had for breakfast? Do I really care if some bloke in Greenpoint is craving a MacDonald’s Cheese Burger right now? Of course not, but that is not what Twitter is about, folks. Twitter is full of fascinating people all willing to share their interests, knowledge and opinions with others in 140 characters or less.

Yes, you have Facebook and that already takes up a lot of your time. (bucketloads of time of you are a Farmville addict) Your profile is a great way to connect with your tjommies, family and old school buddies from all over the world and share photos of your offspring, pets and recent holidays. With Twitter one can search for, find and follow people with similar interests to you, people who live in the same town as you, people who you admire etc and guess what – they can never bore you! How can anyone be boring in 140 characters?

What they can be though is flippin funny! There are some people that I follow that have me in stitches. Because one has to be concise on Twitter, there is no waffling or posturing. Everyone is very friendly and polite but if you don’t like what someone is tweeting about – just unfollow them. Simple.

Some examples:
I recently started following @tamiya_t who I swear was tweeting whilst she was giving birth! Her tweets about life with a new born baby is bringing the whole experience back to me like it was yesterday. @SamWilson1 describes herself in her Bio as a “Feminist, anarchist and functional alcoholic. Renegade parent.” Besides the fact that she is the Editor-in-Chief of Women24, Parent24 and Food24, wouldn’t that bio make you want to hear what she has to say?

Watching TV has taken on a whole new dynamic now that I can enjoy other people’s comments whilst watching a programme or a rugby match. The real-time interaction with Twitter via my BlackBerry does annoy my family a tad though. Chicken Man does not understand that I can listen to him tell me about his day, watch TV, cook dinner and be on Twitter at the same time and I still know what he is rabbiting on about. The Alien understands. She has to be surgically removed from MXit at bedtime.

The banter between some tweeters who have been friends for a long time makes me feel like an eavesdropper at time. @FionaSnyckers (loving her books), @brodiegal (who volunteered at a hospital during the strike and found humour in bedpans and floor mops)@alambchop whose children are referred to as thing one and thing two.

I like to follow journalists, bloggers and DJ’s because not only do you get the news quicker, but having a sense of humour must be a prerequisite for those jobs: @matthewsavides who is fasting over Ramadan to experience what Muslims go through annually; @KaraboKgoleng from SAFM; @shesthegeek who reviews gadgets; @lihle_z who recently moved to New York (read her column in the Sunday Times); @lesterkk from eNews. Personalities like @F1sasha (Sasha Martinengo)and @GarethCliff are really genuine and interactive on Twitter(yes, I am surprised...and impressed) @clivesimpkins is so quick off the mark with his replies and comments. He is like the big daddy watching over the twitter kids! @Anatinus, @AkiAnastasiou, @innov8ive...the list goes on...

Finding and following Tweeps in Durban has been rewarding. The first person I followed when I joined Twitter was @OliviaSymcox who shares photos of the sun rising over the Durban ocean most mornings. What a way to start your day! @becauseI has a novel initiative to get herself a new car. See Good luck with that, Briget!

Since being the 1000th person to follow @ECRBIGBreakfast I have discovered loads more people in Durban to follow (Durban is only the 5th most active province on Twitter in SA) Through ECR Big Breakfast I have learnt that: I need to reassess my garden and go for plastic plants instead; I am looking forward to following the progress of @juliekreusch’s vegetable garden; and that I am crap at riddles in the morning.

As I am following nearly 300 people I cannot mention them all but each person/company brings something to my life. Some I follow for their expertise and knowledge that they generously share on Twitter. Others keep me up to date with what is happening in the news and in my neighbourhood. Some are inspiring; some are just darn right funny.

So to all those Twitterphobes out there – go on and try it. Whether it be for business or pleasure, with a little bit of time and effort, I guarantee you that you will soon be hooked.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Confab on Conferences

I have always enjoyed attending conferences. The ones I have attended have always been interesting, a good excuse for doing no work and generally result in a huge “all fall down” party afterwards.

When I worked at Vital Health Foods the highlight of the year was the annual conference. It was always held at an amazing location and the evening activities were great fun. Sales reps are generally party animals even if they sell health products by day. By night, all thoughts of liver damage and depleted vitamin levels are expelled. Of course this meant that the conference room was filled with red eyed, incoherent zombies the next day. A small price to pay for excellent company camaraderie?

I recall a conference during my tenure with Fedics Food Services. After lunch most of the delegates seemed distracted and no-one was really paying attention. The poor speaker probably wished that they had allowed alcohol to be served with the lunch. Delegates then started to turn pink with spots and many excused themselves to hurriedly head for the loos. Well, as it turned out a whole bunch of us had food poisoning. Can you picture the scene? 3 Kombi loads of catering personnel arriving at the local hospital suffering from food poisoning! The hospital staff were highly amused. We all thankfully managed to regain our strength and the ability to hold down alcoholic beverages in time for the evening activities. Oh, just to clarify – Fedics were NOT doing the catering that resulted in its management team fighting over Kombi windows en route to hospital.

My latest conference experience was very different as it was a public conference and I was one of the speakers. Sure, there are people who do training and speaking as a profession so may be exempt, but anyone else who has to talk to 350 people and say that they are not nervous is either lying or delusional! There were some really interesting and inspiring speakers prior to my slot but I found it quite difficult to concentrate. My clammy hands and thoughts of totally stuffing up my presentation made paying attention difficult. I survived the ordeal unscathed and must admit to actually enjoying the experience even if I felt like a “rabbit in the headlights” with the bright lights blinding my ability to see whether the audience had nodded off or not.

I do not envy conference organisors. A lot of PR students see this part of the profession as glamorous and exciting. I don’t think they realise the hard work that goes into a well run conference. So, well done and thank you to the organisers of the eThekwini Women Empowerment 2 day conference. Nelisa Kala, a DJ at East Coast Radio, did a fantastic job as programme director. The Durban ICC runs like a well oiled machine and the ThoughtFire team and eThekwini Business Support and Markets Unit management ensured that all the women who attended had an inspiring, enlightening and enjoyable experience.

The conference culminated with a gala banquet. I managed to persuade Chicken Man to accompany me. He is generally reluctant to don a tie and jacket but seen as he had some practise the week before thanks to the Durban July, he agreed to attend without too much arm twisting and bribery.

Yet again, the activities were well organised and varied. From dancers and singers to videos and guest speakers. I enjoyed listening to Devi Sankree-Govender talking about her journey to Carte Blanche. Her great sense of humour comes through in her Sunday Times column but it was pleasing to hear that her humour is genuine and her success and popularity is well deserved.

It is a shame that a lot of companies are cutting back on conferences. A conference does not have to be all glitz and glamour and big bucks. It just needs to be an opportunity for staff to catch up and to bond and be able to leave with a sense of pride and loyalty in their company.

The main requisite for a successful company conference is a huge booze budget and hangover cures washed down with Red Bulls with breakfast.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Durban July – not for the faint hearted.

I felt very privileged to be invited to attend the Durban July at Greyville this past weekend. To a box, nogal! Having never been to the races I had no idea what to expect so here is a virgin race goers account of a day at the races.....

The theme of the day was “A blooming day at the races” so that kinda meant that sticking a flower in your hair and wearing a florally dress qualified you as being dressed appropriately. Okay, that is what I thought. How wrong was I! Yes, there were some very elegantly dressed folk and there were some eye catching outfits that were a tad over the top but still tasteful. Then there were some scary apparitions! How any mother/husband/boyfriend/friend could allow some of those ladies out of the house, never mind into the unsuspecting public, I have no idea. I cringed with embarrassment for some of them....

Anyway – no one in our box was dressed like a freak so I will not allow that to dampen my overview of the experience.

On to the horses. I like horses. What is not to like about a horse? I prefer them at a distance though. Let me just explain that I was thrown off a horse when I was a youngster. The horse I was riding on was spooked by a foreboding looking wheelbarrow that emerged from a side road. The key problem was that one of my brothers was also riding the horse with me at the time. I suffered not only the pain and indignity of landing on my arse but also having my youngest brother falling on top of me!

So, how did I relate to the horses at Greyville? Exceptionally well, thank you. I could view them from my perch high above the crowds and marvel as to their beauty and power (and the pretty colours worn by the jockeys).

I soon realised that, in order to get the most out of the day, I would have to go against every moral fibre I have and place a bet or two. Knowing nothing about horses or the dark world of gambling, I had to rely on everyone else’s opinions. The “race card” that I was handed looked more like a miniature Yellow Pages and was just as dull to read so I gave up on the idea of making any decisions based on that. I placed a few bob on a horse or two to “run a place” (I liked that idea – leaves the possibility of winning something wide open) but alas – all my expert advise led to naught and I lost all the boodle. No money flowing into my grubby paws from the helpful young tote dude.

What was flowing in abundance though was booze. When I left and had to pass through the marauding masses to walk the +-12 kilometres to where the car was parked, there was hardly a sober person in sight. Young and old, black and white, freaks and gentry – all totally trashed! I can understand though. The adrenaline rush when the horses pass the finishing line x 12 races + the amount of one’s life savings lost on donkeys ÷ by the number of frightening outfits = a darn good excuse to get wasted. Phew, I hope they all crawled home safely.

One downside was witnessing a huge brawl which I later learnt resulted in 2 people being stabbed. Hubby was delayed in picking up the Alien because he had to dodge the flying fists and cop vans in order to get out of the place. Yes, Chicken Man was there but he was not in the box with me. He had to slum it amongst the plebs as he was tasked with entertaining clients. Okay, so he was in the Sharks tent rubbing shoulders with rugby legends and being plied with food and Flasher girls. He too was a Durban July virgin and declared the whole experience an absolute pleasure even though there was not a Black Label in sight and he had to drink some other headache inducing beer.

So, thank you Lauren and Rob for facilitating my blooming great day at the races. I may have lost a few bucks but I have gained some wonderful memories spent with great friends. Now if I could just get some of those awful outfits out of my head.....