The 1st Arab Social Media Forum: More Social, Less Forum Please!

 On December 11th, I had the pleasure of attending the 1st Arab Social Media Forum in Amman, Jordan. The forum was the 1st of its kind in the region to target only Social Media topics and share both clients' & agencies' experience dealing with Social Media platforms & different social engagement approaches / show cases (according to their website). 

The event, held in Regency Palace Hotel (which, on a side note I must say, has AWESOME beds XD), was under the patronage of His Excellency Mr. Marwan Juma, the Minister of ICT in Jordan, who was introduced by Mr. Malik Shishtawi , the man behind it all, a social media expert in the Middle East... A rarity indeed.


Now honestly, knowing the agenda beforehand, I wasn't looking forward to the introductory speeches (and I know that not many of you do either so don't give me the stink eye >_>) because I figured they're just going to be boring, bureaucratic and seem too lengthy. Fortunately, to my surprise, they were very casual and interesting. Mr. Marwan, as shockingly as it is for a politician, was actually a pretty cool and laid-back man. He started his speech off by talking about the significance of such an event to the Arab region and to the future of Jordan, specifically. He admitted to being a geek and reminisced about the days "Email" was the new big thing.


Next up was Rashid Al Balla from National Net Ventures; he shared a lot of interesting, if not shocking, insights on social media in the Arab world. Apparently, only 2% of Arabs online are comfortable using English. That makes you wonder of the amount Arabic social forums out there in the world wide web that are only in Arabic. Speaking of which, there was a huge debate throughout the event on whether forums are considered a part of social media or not. I would rather think they're not, but one can not deny the significance of forums in the Arab world, and how they are still the number one Arabic source of information.


Brightening up the forum with his sense of humor, Mark Comerford  spoke of Social Media in a Changing Media Landscape. What perhaps most caught the audience attention was Mr. Mark's habit of... swearing. Oh, he swore a lot. Although, kids, that's not a good thing to do :P, but it lighten up the professional business world that tend to get over-serious. You can find Mr. Mark's presentation from the forum on Slideshare. You'll love it!


The following speaker was Mr. Sameer Issa speaking on "Practical Strategic Approaches to Social Media" (found here); his presentation, although very useful, lacked one thing... enthusiasm! Let aside the fact that as a public speaker, you should engage your audience with your tone of voice and body language, but when you're talking about Social Media (and it's part of your job and who you are as a professional), then you should do it with so much passion that the entire audience can be motivated to listen. At the end, this isn't a boring academic lecture... THIS IS SOCIAL MEDIAAAA! < Mimicking the This Is Sparta meme, if you don't know what I mean then, know your meme.  "Listening & Monitoring: The New Way to Market" (found here) was up next with Mr. Patrick Atallah. Unfortunately, you will not find many tweets on Mr. Patrick's presentation because by then, there was panic and frustration in the room, by the social media addicts & bloggers, due to internet difficulties that left us all unfocused. Not to make this very long, I'll urge you to look at the forum's agenda here search for the rest of the amazing speakers who shared lots of wisdom on that day, of which, Silvia Cambie is most worthy of mention, being the only female speaker at the forum and spoke highly of women's role in Social Media for Social Change. Yes, I'm a feminist. 


What I'd like to share with you most was how great it felt to be among the "ambassadors" who were there specifically to share the event happenings on Twitter. I went to the event as a regular attendee, and being the twitter addict that I am, I was surely tweeting like mad about the event. By the end of the event, that earned me -to my surprise and delight- a place among the ambassadors on stage with a special thanks from Mr. Malik. Darine Sabbagh, who was one of the only two people I knew on Twitter before the event (the other being the amazing Noor Al Hajri to whom I'm very thankful for helping me), spoke of her journey with the other Lebanese bloggers who came specifically for the forum.


At the end, I'd love to thank Noor, (most sociable!), Darine (most adorable!), Ali AlHasani (a real sweetheart), Ata AlQadiMuoffaq QabbaniMohammed AzzamMahmoud AlDwairy (who's apparently a big shot and I didn't know :P and was part of the panel discussion as a representative of Jordan Open Source Association, Assaad Thebian (who introduced us to Jafra of the Palestinian culture and is quite an interesting person), Zamil Safwan, Kamel Al Asmar, Eleena KorbanBernard Sadaka, just to name a few of the many many people I met in Jordan who made me feel to be among a big cool family!