Cardiff’s Coal Exchange played host to Getting Welsh Business Online, the launch event for Google’s new initiative to encourage more businesses to get online.
Google estimates 40% of Welsh businesses have no web presence and it’s pleasing to see the web giant attempting to address this, even if in the long run they are doing it in the hope these same companies will choose to spend money on their ad-words service. The launch event will be followed by a series of workshops and ‘juice bars’, across the country. The ‘juice bars’ are 1 on 1 sessions with a Google expert to help small businesses get online or revamp their web presence.
Sian Lloyd, the host for the evening, was engaging, conversing bi-lingually wherever possible and using Twitter to guage the audience’s reaction to what they were hearing. It’s odd to hear one of your tweets read out to a hall full of people, and even odder when a respected BBC personality can’t pronounce your surname. This minor blemish aside, Lloyd carried the event ably, never distracting from the speakers or the focus.
Edwina Hart AM, Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science, kicked off the evening, focusing on the Welsh Government’s committment to ensuring every household and business in Wales has broadband access in 2015, with a further 50% having access to high speeds. (up to 100mb) Concrete details were noticeably absent as were her hopes for what Google could do for small businesses. Instead she praised Google’s ties with a range of Welsh businesses organisations as an example of what could be done to boost the economy when private and public sector organisations came together.
Dan Cobley, the Managing Director of Google UK and Ireland, took the audience on a whistlestop tour of what Google and the wider internet could offer businesses. Perhaps mindful of the varied nature of his audience, he was careful never to get bogged down in specifics.
Cobley then moved onto a conversation with Guy Christian the owner of the Guy Christian Hair Salon of on City Road. This section of the talk seemed to be of most use to the audience with the pair discussing practical ways to use the internet to boost your business. Christian was clearly a web evangelist, claiming 70% of all new customers came via his website and saying without the site his business would have failed in the first year. It’s a shame no similar business was offered as a comparison point, with a slight feeling that the figures existed purely in a vacuum.
What intrigued me most about the whole evening was an almost throw-away fact. Cobley explained how Google research had revealed that although 25% of all web searches are conducted from mobile devices, 75% of the sites people go onto visit are not optimised for mobile visits. With a different audience, this may well have formed the focal point of the evening’s discussion, but given the audience
The evening ended almost as quickly as it had began, with an invitation to enjoy the free food and drink Google had laid on. The relatively slow shuffle towards the free food was the only surprise of the night and perhaps indicative of the relative lack of journalists present.