Derry’s Playhouse Theatre played host to the opening day of a four day festival celebrating digital creativity today (Wednesday 29 August). With visitors arriving from America, England, Scotland and even Belfast expectations for the first ever CultureTECH Festival were running high and the many attendees were not disappointed.
I was lucky enough to be on the guest list and delighted to be whisked through registration by the friendly and efficient duo above. Shoo and Lynn, who I used to work with at Learning Pool, greeted me with geek glasses and bear hugs apiece.
Derry, like the rest of Northern Ireland, come to that, is a small place where most people know each other so I wasn’t the only one being welcomed in this way. And that friendliness was very evident throughout the day as people said hello to each other and previously digital only relationships were cemented in person.
The light, airy space of the award winning theatre helped to get the creative juices flowing as eight speakers lined up to talk to the assembled crowd about digital marketing.
Presenters from corporate giants Tourism Ireland and BT Ireland rubbed shoulders with local marketing gurus to share best practice, case studies and top tips as well as answer tough questions from a savvy audience.
First up on stage were workshops delivered by Donegal companies Inis Communications and Finn Media. Trish Hegarty’s online PR session introduced delegates to practical tools for creating quality news content while Denis Finnegan talked about what simple and free things companies can do to get their company websites to produce high quality sales leads.
Making money from your investment in digital activities was the subject of Ambition Digital’s Jill Robb’s session on the basics of ecommerce and how to get the most out of the accompanying tools. Meanwhile, with an impressive 880,000 fans and as the world’s third most popular tourist board page, Tourism Ireland’s Ciaran Doherty was well qualified to deliver an in depth masterclass on Facebook marketing.
Next up the seemingly complex world of online advertising was brought to life by Naomh McElhatton from Digital Advertising NI. Delegates explored the terminology and how they can get a clear return on investment for their online spend.
Niall McKeown from iON delivered a rousing presentation illustrating the difference between a faux digital strategy that is ‘mere keyboard banging that achieves nothing’ in favour of a high performance digital strategy. It’s not about the tools, he says, but about understanding the problem, creating guiding policies and then delivering coherent action.
BT Ireland’s Dr Larry Taylor told delegates how he influences stakeholders and peers about the power of social media at the technology giant and why LinkedIn will be the next big thing in social media next year.
Finally, to close up the digital marketing day, Newry native Nichola Bates grabbed the attention of the audience and delivered a no nonsense challenge with her take on digital marketing for new start up companies. The big issue in Northern Ireland, says Bates, is not necessarily the lack of knowledge or an inability to sell ourselves but that companies have definite room for improvement in areas like customer service. “You are probably not as good as you think you are so get out there, start making mistakes, learn from them and move on. Just do it,” she says.
CultureTECH puts Derry on the digital map with the help of support from Invest NI, BT Ireland, Seagate, Digital Derry, Ilex, University of Ulster, Arts & Business NI, Dept of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Derry City Council and Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.
The festival runs from Wednesday 29 August to Saturday 1 September at venues throughout the city. Visit the CultureTECH festival site for details.