What We Learned from Techweek Northland Roadshow 2021

Exploring this year's theme "Accelerating Business Growth Though Technology".

Techweek NZ is always an exciting time for us who are in the tech industry. Started in 2012, Techweek is a festival that celebrates everything technology and innovation. It's that time of the year when thought leaders and tech enthusiasts across New Zealand gather for a week to share their insights on both existing + emerging technologies, and it's the best time for me to learn more from those who are paving the way for innovation in the country.

While the main events are mostly hosted in Auckland, those of us here in Northland were still able to participate thanks to the Techweek Northland Roadshow (held at Bizspace, a coworking space in Kerikeri). It runs on several Northland hubs from Whangarei up to Kaitaia, and the theme this year revolved around 'Accelerating Business Growth Through Technology'.

It was the perfect opportunity for me to get a clearer picture of the landscape and gauge the business owners' appetite for learning and adopting new technologies. As a web design studio, we work hard to be in the forefront of all things digital, and at the same time we are keen to know more where Northlanders are on that scale. I thought I might give you a quick rundown of the event and explore some key insights and interesting takeaways I've heard from speakers.

Programme Rundown

There were five industry leaders who presented during the event and covered a broad range of topics — from digital tools and channels to the current state of tech:

Sarah Greener, Sarah Greener Coaching: Overcoming The Digital Divide and Moving Your Business Into the Present.** For some of us the digital landscape can be terrifying to navigate. It can get overwhelming at times — and understandably so, what with a new shiny software, app, or platform that's being shoved down our throats every single day. Sarah tackles an interesting exploration of the relationship between humans and technology, the way our brains are wired and responds to this 'digital divide', and how we can treat technology as an ally especially for our businesses.

Ann-Maree Kingi, PKF Bay of Islands: Xero Tips and Trick.** Ann spent some time talking us through the basics of Xero and some handy tips in using this accounting software — perfect for us business owners who tend to manage our business finances ourselves.

Kevin Etherington, Facebox: 50 Ways to Gain Authority and Dominate Your Competition.** Facebox is a Whangarei-based company that is changing the game of the marketing industry by using cinematic and creative videos. During Kevin's presentation he shared several ways on how we can leverage the use of videos in marketing our business brand, products, and services online. No better way to deliver it but through a well-crafted video presentation, of course.

Andrew Fergus, @Computer: Make the Most of Microsoft Teams.** For some of us who are trying to manage a team, organise company files, and deal with a barrage of emails on a daily basis, we need a reliable tool that will help streamline all these tasks. Enter Microsoft Teams: an online team collaboration platform that allows you to chat, call, and work together with other people in one channel. Andrew from @Computer (very patiently may I add) walked us through the features and nuances of this tool, as well as reasons why it works better than others in the market.

Brie Timings, Simple Life Social: How to Reach Paying International Visitors with a Virtual Tourism Experience**. Not every business can afford to pivot and thrive in the middle of a pandemic, but what Brie has done for her client The Rock Adventures Cruise is a noteworthy exception. Brie then introduced us to the concept of 'virtual tourism experience', a new way for international audience to experience a location from wherever they are via Zoom, and how she successfully adopted this business model for The Rock Adventure Cruise.

Key Takeaways

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

We are in the midst of a digital transformation. As a civilisation we are moving in such a fast pace that in the next decade or so an entirely new set of technologies would have dramatically changed the way we live. About 10 years ago we haven't even heard of Facebook yet today about 2.8 billion people all over the world can't go a day without checking it. In the next ten years it could become totally obsolete and replaced by something else. And it's not just what's out there on the internet: New technology is being developed to help target and destroy cancer cells in mice. Warehouse workers are now replaced by robots. A South African man is singlehandedly working his ass off to get us to Mars. With the way that it's going right now anything is truly possible.

However, not everyone responds to technology the same way. Some are late to adopt or even tend to avoid using any tech in their lives overall. There seems to be a digital divide, which is greatly influenced by the way we perceive technology and its effects.

Not-so-fun fact: Did you know that we have somewhere about 60,000-80,000 thoughts in a day? And that about 85% of those are negative, while 95% are repetitive? Sounds about right but if majority of your internal thoughts are non-productive, how do you make that work for you?

In her talk, Sarah from Sarah Greener Coaching walked us through crafting a 'technology story' guided by this principle: The thoughts and stories you tell yourself become your values, your values become your mindset, your mindset translate into habits, and your habits turn into your way of life. If we ask better questions, she proposes, we can filter our thoughts and tell better stories about everything that surround us — including the way we perceive and use technology. Bottom line is: technology can help empower you as an individual and run your business better, which all starts by crafting positive stories about technology to help us master it.

If you're not paying to use a product, YOU are the product.

Social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok introduced us to the age of internet where privacy can be a grey area. We all know that these online platforms provide a false sense of intimacy, making you feel more connected to your circle and the world around you. On the back of it however they are designed to capture your personal data, preferences, and even thoughts, and sell these information off to marketers. A good rule nowadays from Andrew from @Computer would be this: if you're not paying for a product or if it's not behind a paywall, YOU are the product. Which makes a lot of sense. Case in point: remember Cambridge Analytica?

The High-Beam Thinkers

To be able to truly master technology, Sarah recommends for business owners to be a 'high-beam thinker'. In other words, increase your visibility of what's in front of you, much like the high beams in your car but applied to using tech. Software tools and applications are a dime a dozen nowadays, so learn how to scope the market so you could predict and choose which ones will work the best for you in the near future.

The True Business Hack

Best way to innovate your business during a public health crisis? Hacking your customer journey experience by utilising proper technology (and some creative strategy). Leveraging the opportunities of the internet and services like Airbnb, Brie from Simple Life Social was able to launch 'virtual online experiences' for The Rock Adventure Cruises. On these experiences she takes her online audience on Zoom tours: Anyone with internet access can join her and others in experiencing the beauty of Northland without leaving the comfort (and safety from COVID) of their homes. It's a great demonstration of creating revenue in another way, mainly by tweaking your customer journey to better suit a digital-oriented audience.

While the rest of the world moves forward - and fast - we as a web design company have taken part in making sure that us here up north are not left behind. We at Softshell are committed to sharing with you our thoughts on what we think are interesting vs important in the world of digital, and how we think these will impact businesses in the long run via this blog.