Corporate customers aren't the only ones that can benefit from learning more about the Internet. That's why InterMedia Partners aimed its "Everything Internet" seminar-held in Nashville, Tenn., last month-directly at the consumer crowd.
Since the operator launched its InterMedia@Home high-speed service about two-and-a-half years ago, "We've had a million questions from customers," InterMedia of Middle Tennessee new-product development manager Sameera Lowe said. "The faster technology changes, the more we need to get great answers from experts out to our customers."
The experts included talent from cable networks ZDTV and Oxygen, as well as help from Cable in the Classroom, local Nashville media celebrities and music-industry insiders.
ZDTV Fresh Gear host Jim Louderback drew crowds to his two hour-long sessions, "Internet 101" and "Planning for the Digital Home of 2005." After his presentations, when Louderback opened the floor for questions and answers, he was flooded with queries.
"I could have easily gone on for another hour," he said. Attendees had basic tech-support questions such as, "Why is my hard drive making a funny noise?" and, "Should I upgrade to Windows 98 or 2000?" he added.
In addition, consumers expressed concerns over online privacy issues, as well as the fate of Internet stocks following the recent NASDAQ hits.
The April 15 event drew about 750 people to a local Nashville hotel, chosen for its central location and large ballrooms. Next year, InterMedia plans to look for an even larger venue to accommodate the crowds, Lowe said.
Since InterMedia added ZDTV to its analog-channel lineup, Louderback has become something of a celebrity. His name drew in all sorts of fans, including senior citizens, Lowe said.
Topics for other panels included small businesses and the Internet, how the Internet is affecting the music industry (of special appeal to the Nashville audience), @Home 2000 upgrades, finding news and information on the Web and doing homework online.
InterMedia found support for the seminar on many fronts. Retailer CompUSA Inc. sponsored a computer-gaming tournament that attracted gamers of all ages, including an 85-year-old man, Lowe said. The contest was displayed on a large projection-television screen so that the rest of the crowd could follow along.
The three local media sponsors included television, radio and print, and all three helped to promote the event. Inter-Media also sent direct mail to people likely to be online. The operator polled attendees on how they heard about the event when they signed up for a product giveaway.
While the operator did display and demonstrate its cable-modem service at the event, that wasn't the primary focus, Lowe said. InterMedia viewed the event more as a public service to educate current and prospective customers.
Louderback has appeared at other events for ZDTV affiliates, but they were mostly product demos at local retailers, he said. The recent InterMedia seminar drew a great deal of interest, and Louderback gave interviews with several radio and television stations to help promote the event.
Lowe said she would encourage other operators to hold similar consumer-education events in their markets. "It will definitely be an annual event here," she added.
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