In Melbourne, Australia this week 150 executives gathered for a two day conference on social media. This “hands-on” seminar allowed communications professionals to better understand the “what and how” of Web 2.0. Speakers included well known bloggers and government departments known for successfully integrating new communications into their outreach. For example, Police Victoria use on-line video for training – it’s called Blue Tube.

I was rostered at the end of the second day and spoke about the “why.” I presented The Authentic Enterprise from The Arthur W. Page Society. Like all of you I’d read the report and thankfully Tom provided slides. I “topped and tailed” the slide show and set out to help 150 newcomers understand the CEO survey and the white paper. (Do follow the link for the slides through to – a fantastic tool for PowerPoint addicts.)

Flash forward to the end. It was awfully disconcerting to have no hands shoot in the air after. Two heartbeats later one hand was raised – then another, and another. Pay dirt!

The report is a lot to digest and if you have to present it I recommend one addition. I drew from the week’s newspapers examples of companies and people abiding by the principles – and others who chose to act differently. Down under we have two airlines – the national carrier QANTAS (video) and upstart Virgin.

QANTAS led an unsuccessful privatisation bid, sent engineering roles offshore, lost its pristine safety record and lost touch with its historic affiliations. Virgin remains brash, aggressive, successful and loud. Of the two Virgin is the more authentic corporation by far.

The first questions were on dark or covert marketing in social media. I stressed the need for public relations pros to get involved in their firm’s marketing activities. We can’t allow fake blogs (All I Want for Christmas is an X-Box) or corporate additions to Wiki sites to happen. The damage to reputation and the entire product line is likely to exceed whatever a (bad) social media marketing campaign gains in product sales.

Next people inquired about educating the C-Suite. I provided a hot-link to the Society’s website and suggested they review the report then discuss the implications with their leadership.

The result was wonderful- great feedback in the tea break and the highest rating on evaluation forms. One blogger, Laurel Papworth, said the AWPS presentation was the most important of the two-day conference. It is a rich, well prepared paper that is rising in influence all the way down in Australia. At the Social Media Conference 2009 planned for Sydney early next year, I’ve been asked to present at a CEO-only luncheon the opening day. Sounds like a date!

Enjoy the conference in Cape Cod – and know I am there in spirit. My only solace is that we’re heading into summer and by November I’ll be back on the beach!