Thinking Big Data


"Maurice Keyworth is filling up! About to start!". 22nd of March 2017, 6.20 pm, the social media team is calling out for latecomers as the conference will begin shortly. "Thinking Big Data" came up as the completion of three months months of work from the organising team.

The "Thinking Big Data" adventure began in December, when the Corporate Communication Marketing and Public Relations (CCMPR) students have been invited to volunteer to carry on the alliance between Leeds University Business School and the IABC UK, and organise a networking event involving both parties for the second consecutive year. Nineteen students have been involved in the organisation, all split up into different poles to ensure every aspect of the event was covered. Nonetheless, even though each had a specific task to focus on, everybody have taken part in the discussions and decisions for each step of the organisation process.

The team has come across a fierce debate about the theme of the event. Many ideas were raised, such as crisis communication, or how to communicate CSR effectively. All of the members have passionately defended their favorite topic, and big data eventually emerged as the winner. Once the theme set up, Daniel Schraibman - Board Director of IABC UK - has kindly gone through his extensive IABC network to invite speakers who would be able to deliver compelling and complementary talks revolving around Big Data.

The event has been advertised on Facebook and Twitter as they seem to be privileged platforms used by the university to communicate with students - and also allow to share all sorts of content, from short reminders about the night to longer posts describing the programme for instance.

On the D-Day, the whole team was present and made a wonderful job ensuring the smooth progress of the event. The festivities kicked off at 6pm with a cup of tea and biscuits, as a welcome to all the guests, and an opportunity for the speakers to meet and have a friendly chat before the start of the conference.

Moving on to the speeches then, Matthew Nowell, Paul Brennan, Janet Morgan and Stuart McRae gave excellent talks, each of them considering big data under a different angle - based on their own experiences- giving the audience complementary insights about this vast topic. Attendees' feedback was very positive, all the guests that have been interviewed afterwards turned out being extremely satisfied with the content of the conference, and the speakers' obvious professionalism, knowledge, and pedagogy. Speakers who interestingly interacted during each other's talks, when their field of expertise overlapped, which made the discussion very lively and helped the guests to connect informations. If you wish to go through the presentations again, a link will be attached at the bottom of this page. Click on it and you will be able to access them.

One hour and a half of speeches triggered a lot of reactions and questions from the assembly. Unfortunately, due to a lack of time, all of them couldn't be answered in the conference. The discussion with the speakers has then continued during the "networking" part of the night around a fine buffet, giving some the opportunity to ask more questions, and some other to discuss and debate their impressions and thoughts about big data.

There was a discrepancy in numbers regarding the number of people who confirmed attendance through the Facebook page and those who confirmed through the Eventbrite invitations (68 versus an impressive 100 attendees). A welcome surprise for sure, as one of the challenges of planning an event is managing the numbers of people who will record their attendance without necessarily following up on that intent.

However, it is not hard to imagine how the conference might have attracted even more attention on this platform, as it is a popular way used by University of Leeds societies to get in touch with students. Future committees will perhaps need to take this into account and promote more aggressively on Facebook to make sure that enough people are made aware of upcoming events.

For the Twitter page, official accounts ran by the University of Leeds staff helped us share the news of the event. Additionally, we noticed one unofficial account ran by students join in the fun, alongside several members of the teaching staff.

The Twitter page's reach also extended past the student body and attracted a small number of figures in the wider Big Data arena, including several new aggregate pages and a couple of influencers in the field.

Screenshot depicting several of the accounts following the event Twitter page.

As a closing note, personal Instagram uploads by members of the event committee on the day of the event got some degree of attention without a specific promotional campaign.

The difference in engagement between the official Facebook event and a personal upload.

We had originally rejected this platform due to it being a highly visual medium, which we thought would be unsuited to the nature of the event. As this achieved proportionally more interactions than the Facebook updates with minimum amount of effort, we would suggest that Instagram can be made to take a more dominant role next year. Even when allowing for the fact that the people reacting to personal posts were not interested in the event and simply showing appreciation for a friend's work, it would still help in spreading the word about IABC's work around the globe and raising the organisation's profile.

"Thinking Big Data" has proved to be a great success to attendees, saying the event had clearly met their expectations and provided welcome food for thoughts.

Do you wish to go through the speakers' presentation one more time? Just click on the following links:

Stuart McRae

Janet Morgan

Matthew Nowell