Once again, another conference that didn’t fully leverage technology tools to help people connect, make new friends, and collaborate instantly and on the fly….I am speaking of this week’s Online News Asscociation Conference in Toronto. Here’s how it might have been different:

• Conference attendees provide some basic profile information and tag key interests using one of many web based tools like Confabb.com or intronetworks.com.

• Rather than having to go around the room and make introductions or describe projects, those introductions/project descriptions could have been available on the Web or on your mobile device as a session was in progress, allowing for instant access and instantaneous connecting. Instead of trying to figure out who was in the room, you could have known who was there that you wanted to talk to and find them among ALL participants at that time.

• You could have learned about EVERYONE else (not just the presenters) at a given session by name, profile information, or shared interests using your mobile phone or on the Web, and connect with them on the spot or save their information for later access and follow up

• Once you idenfied potential collaborators you could organize and begin collaborating on the fly using Thinkature, etc.

• Using tools mentioned above, presentation materials, contact information, links etc. could have been made available on the web or on mobile devices at the sessions were in progress, with the ability to make notes in the (digital) documents themslves – thus negating the need to get the materials later or review notes only to find you didn’t copy the right stuff down.

• Conference sessions could have easily been broadcast simultaneously in Second Life, allowing people in other physical locations around the globe to “attend” and participate

If you think all of the above is too geeky, anti-social, and distracting, you are right. But then again, think about how many contacts you could have made that you didn’t or how many collaboration and learning opportunities were lost because we are unable to move beyond the same old conference patterns.

At the end of 3 days of conferencing, what do you have to show for it???