Guest contributor Blake Landau brings us a summary of the past few days at the BlogWorld 2010 Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Engagement is the word, but as is usually the case, the vision is exceeding the realities.

Some people come to Las Vegas for extravagant buffets with all of the edible arrangements you could ever imagine. And then there are the people who come to Las Vegas every year to indulge in Blog World, the largest social media event of the world -- a buffet of content, networking and more than 320 speakers.

This year’s theme moved beyond definitions.

Many speakers this year reinforced the notion that we've established some definitions around customer engagement strategy and collaboration. It's time to act with purpose and intention with "social." Let's step out on this journey with key objectives and execute carefully.

Executing well on a customer engagement strategy is survival of the fittest. And "storytelling" is a key critical aspect of any good customer engagement strategy.

This year's Blog World conference which featured a keynote with television show "Survivor" executive producer of Mark Burnett. Burnett was interviewed by Brian Solis on the topic of storytelling. Here is a behind the scenes clip with Burnett discussing why he's at Blog World this year.

Burnett debuted his new reality show "Sarah Pallin's Alaska" through YouTube at Blog World, a first ever occurrence.

Burnett is famous for building compelling stories with "real" people as the stars of the show. Burnett reminds us that content should be a story woven with customers, employees, partners, vendors and the crowd -- this should be quality content -- not cheap tricks to turn big audiences fast.

A Brand Pours Stories

Some brands are already weaving stories with customers.

One is Macallan scotch, the only liquor company sponsoring this year's BlogWorld event. Macallan's PR rep from M Booth, Rob Longert, manned the speaker lounge and told me that the scotch brand has a "heritage and history that easily accommodated storytelling."

He said, "if you know anything about scotch drinkers, they celebrate the story and the history behind a brand."

And alcohol companies like Macallan spend a lot of resources on "brand aura." Longert told me, "we are about finding influencers and brand advocates -- we want to let them tell the story. It's about the intricacies of why people like the brand -- personalizing it, and putting a face with the brand."

More companies are here at Blog World to learn how to improve the connection and communication with their customers, partners, suppliers, vendors and prospects. The truth is most companies just aren't there yet, but a few are starting to clue in on this.

In the bustling exhibit hall featuring more than 50 companies I ran into an old friend Brian Lusk of Southwest Airlines who was managing a very dynamic Southwest Airlines booth.

Southwest was one of the first companies to set up a corporate blog (Nuts About Southwest). It's no surprise four years later Southwest Airlines are leap years ahead of most brands. We remember the Kevin Smith too fat to fly situation and the company's readiness to proactively manage the situation.

Community Managers Speak Out

Earlier this year the Godfather of CRM, Paul Greenberg, pointed out in his ZDNet blog article "Social CRMish Thoughts-A Look Back at the First half of 2010," that community managers from vendors are leading the social business conversations. This was validated on particular panel at BlogWorld.

One of the stand-out sessions was "Community Management Basics" moderated by Bryan Pearson featuring Lauren Vargas of Radian6, Suzanne Marlatt of Edelman Digital, Bill Johnston of Dell. From a tactical perspective this panel provided some counter-intuitive and surprising ideas on how to better engage your crowd via online channels.

The panel was quick to point out that in a customer engagement strategy the intention, to build a network of relationships over time, never changes. The context can change, but the intention doesn't. According to these community managers the golden equation of community strategy is to understand the business' goals.

Cirque Du Soleil: The Ultimate Story

While at Blog World I had the opportunity to go see two Cirque Du Soleil shows "Ka" and "Mystere." Cirque Du Soleil became re-known for pioneering a new kind of show, one that focused acrobatics, modern dance and powerful storylines. The scope of the shows are breath-taking to say the least. Both shows involve the audience. The actors are playful -- delighting and surprising attendees by engaging them throughout the narrative of the show. This varies according to the show, but the focus on an immersive audience experience is still there.

Jess Berlin Cirque Du Soleil's community manager was present at Blog World representing the brand -- another example of a great company putting a face behind the corporate brand. A human that customers and the crowd can engage with.

Blog World Does Social Business

One very significant BlogWorld session that had a strong "business focus" was the panel "Moving From Social Media to Customer Relationship Management" with social CRM thought leaders Brent Leary and Jacob Morgan.

Leary and Morgan spent time on their panel introducing social media-minded practitioners to "customer strategy", also called "social CRM" by some.

We are more seeing sessions like this that further a different kind of conversation into social media events. While this year's Blog World was missing any kind of "social business track," Rick Calvert, President of Blog World, said he would consider it for next year if there was interest from the vendors.

So keep your eyes peeled for a bigger footprint from the vendors who offer customer engagement strategy software and consulting. While some of us might still be arguing over the relevance or definition of a phrase like "Social CRM," the business challenges are varied and big.

It's exciting to see more organization-wide business conversations happening at an event like Blog World, but it is still evident that brands are hesitant to share. To quote the executive producer of Survivor, "You just gotta do it -- even if you are scared shitless."