Category Archives: Innovative formats

LeWeb a.k.a. the playground for adults: a meeting design case study

A few months ago, I read an article at the Event Manager Blog that said that conferences are the perfect playgrounds for adults. Well, I think LeWeb couldn’t be a better example of that. This was my first time attending this conference (thanks to Conferize who gave away 1 ticket!) and it’s been a truly fascinating experience. I not only learned a lot about the latest technology innovations and met countless of serial entrepreneurs, but also came away with many meeting design ideas.

I believe that LeWeb does many things very well. For starters, it was an almost flawless meeting – despite being a 3,000+ conference, with hectic schedules (some presentations only lasted for 5 minutes!), there were almost no delays and no technical or logistical flaws (that I noticed). It felt more like being in a TV set instead of a conference! In terms of meeting design, I observed quite a few things:

1. Branding: you only need to look at pictures to see their logo all over the place. I’ve probably never seen a logo so many times in a conference. They’re very good at including LeWeb image and colours everywhere, especially close to the stage. So, the logo was inevitably in most of the pictures that were taken. I think that many times, especially for corporate events, we forget about that. But branding is so important if we want to create buzz around the event and build a community! I also loved the design of the stages: lots of mirrors, textiles, sofas and lamps – simple but very classy.

LeWeb logo all over the stage

LeWeb logo all over the stage

Elegant decor for the second stage

Elegant decor for the second stage

2. Impactful beginning: when I do presentations about meeting design, I always say that setting the tone during the first 10 minutes of a conference is key. I’ve experienced it myself many times – if you want your audience to interact, start by asking them to do something. That will set their expectations. At LeWeb they got this right too – they started with a guided meditation for everyone (the auditorium was packed). It was followed by an interview of one of the keynote speakers over breakfast – Loic Le Meur and the speaker were literally having coffee and eating a croissant – simple but caught my attention.


3. Really dynamic presentation formats: I thought they did a great at combining speaker presentations (no longer than 20 minutes each), panels and interviews. Most of them were actually Q&A panels and interviews, which are very engaging but I don’t see them that often at conferences – and I don’t know why? Besides being engaging, it gives people the chance to ask questions, but also it’s the perfect solution to having a speaker that hasn’t got the best presentation skills. However, I did miss not having time for reflection nor roundtable discussions… but with thousands of delegates, would that work? (To LeWeb’s credit, there were a few small roundtable discussions and workshops running in parallel. I attended a couple of them and they were great). I should also point out that, even though there were over 3,000 attendees, most of the time there were only 2 main sessions going on at the same time. I’ve been to many conferences with far less people and many more sessions. I believe LeWeb’s approach is preferable: many psychological studies say that when we have too many choices, we are often less happy (because of the so-called FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out). Someone told me that at SXSW they have up to 56 sessions in parallel, which is outrageous, although they do have 50,000 delegates. In my opinion, having 2 or 3 choices is enough, so kudos to LeWeb!

4. I missed more facilitated networking – obviously networking is one of the main reasons why people go to LeWeb, but there weren’t any formally structured activities to help me meet who I wanted to meet. So I probably lost many opportunities. Yes, I know you can contact people over the event app but it’d have been nice to have recommendations based on similar interests, for example. Also, most of the sessions had a theatre style seating, which made it difficult to meet people as well.

Main room

Main room

5. The moderators were just GREAT. They used many moderators throughout the 3 days, but the one I saw more often was Loic Le Meur, LeWeb’s founder. He did such a good job at keeping our attention, controlling the time, asking interesting questions and striking a good balance between his questions and the audience’s. I also noticed Loic’s ability for really listening to the speaker and reflect on the content. Unfortunately, that’s not something so common between moderators and facilitators. Perhaps it’s because of his mindfulness daily practice?

6. Well-curated content. I’m not an expert in the topics (mostly technological innovations and start-ups), but I understand the conference is really well thought-after (let’s not forget, though, that the conference fee is 2.500€! I wish I’d had that budget when I was curating conferences!). Nevertheless, hats off to LeWeb for designing a programme that had a perfect flow and mindblowing content. The speaker presentations were also quite consistent in terms of quality, dynamism, attention to slide design, conciseness.

7. As I said before, the logistics were flawless, even the wifi was excellent! I also liked the VIP seats that they had on the stage for press, bloggers, sponsors and speakers. If creating buzz around your event is one of your goals, why not offer to media and bloggers a table, a comfortable chair, a socket and a privileged spot? Another highlight was the exhibition and networking area: it was designed in a way that there were almost no “dead areas” and in between sessions the space was packed. A special mention as well to the food: the catering was excellent, and I could even taste Iberian ham and my favourite French meal, parmentier de canard!

Exhibition and networking area

Exhibition and networking area

Iberian ham at the Spain booth

Iberian ham at the Spanish booth

Parmentier de canard

Parmentier de canard

Finally, here’s a few cool predictions I learned about:

1. Healthcare apps will be the big hit in 2015, as well as crowdsourced /peer-to-peer services like Blablacar, airbnb or drivy. More and more of these startups will go public, and their funding and execution will dictate which start ups win.

2. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web (who was my favourite speaker) had mixed feelings about whether internet will remain neutral or not (the other scenario is that a few corporations and governments will control the information we access). He argued that “the robots are already here“, they are the corporations and in some of them, humans can’t apply for jobs.

3. Wearables will become ubiquitous and will make lots of data available. Some of the fun wearables or so-called “enchanted objects” that we saw are an umbrella that lights up when the weather forecast says it’s going to rain or a wallet that’s connected to your bank account, and it becomes harder to open as you’re running out of money.

4. Driveless cars are coming much more quickly than anyone realizes, perhaps in 5 years they will be mainstream, as well as electric cars. We’ll have different lanes for humans and robots.

5. The rise of the crowd economy: healthcare, corporate, transportation, utilities, cities, trucks, hospitals, police, university lectures – peer-to-peer sharing is now really everywhere.

6. In the future we’ll be able to use technology to “rewrite” the brain and to read someone else’s brain, and know if they’re saying the truth or not.

Truly astonishing stuff for a sublime conference.

As a closing thought: they say that Millenialls spend more money on experiences than on consuming products – so I predict that conferences will be even more on the rise in the near future, as others have also argued. They are the ultimate playground for those who are curious about the world and love meeting like-minded people.

Have you got inspiration from other conferences that you’ve attended? Would love to hear your meeting design ideas!



EIS 2012: changing the meetings industry one event at a time

Impressive stage with coolux and mapping projection

Stage with coolux and mapping projection

If I had to pick one of the most disruptive conferences from 2012 in Spain, it would be the Event Innovation Summit . And not because I was the meeting designer…. 🙂  but because it was an event that placed the participant at the center, that created an effective learning environment using neuroscience principles. The main goal was to make an impact on the delegates: not just to surprise them with a spectacular setting or delicious food (which we also did) but to add value to their professional lives by providing them with relevant education, delivered in a way that would stick with them. I think that today too many events still focus too much on the logistics, forgetting that content is what really adds value.

This conference was organised by Grupo Eventoplus , who are on a quest to advance the meetings & events industry in Spain. Thanks to a very open-minded CEO, we were able to push the boundaries and innovate on many levels.

Here are my personal highlights:

1. Brain food: following the guidelines from Andrea Sullivan, brain researcher, the only food on the menu was healthy, organic and contributing to learning. For example, during the coffee breaks there wasn’t a single croissant, instead, lots of  power foods such as nuts, yogurts or eggs, which give you physical and mental energy. Same for lunch. Bear in mind that in Spain we usually have a 3-course meal and alcohol… This time alcohol, sweet desserts and red meats were banned! And guess what? People loved it!

2. Starting the day with visualization exercises and doing a Qi Gong session after lunch. Want people to be ‘present’ and forget about their daily stresses at work or at home? Then using some visualization techniques helps delegates focus on the conference. Feeling drowsy after lunch? Some physical exercise (like Qi Gong, which is very smooth) will surely help!

3. Short sessions to optimize learning. There’s many empirical evidence that people have really short attention spans (even just 30 seconds, as this study found!). So why program sessions that go on and on for 1 hour? At EIS, most of the sessions lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. In this way, speakers go to the point and attendees don’t fall asleep.

2012-10-23 14.23.384. An Innovation Lounge to encourage networking, including the Lego challenge. Because networking is one of the top reasons why people attend events, we made sure to introduce ample of opportunities for people to connect. We prepared both structured and unstructured networking, including plenty of games and ice-breakers such as this one in the picture. We included a Lego block at each delegate bag and a set of instructions: the NASA was looking for a new aircraft prototype and wanted them to design a new one. That gave delegates a fun way to interact and work together.

5. Highly interactive sessions, aided by tech (such as IML Connector) and  non-tech tools (eg. coloured paper cards to vote). Interactivity helps getting attention, however, we just didn’t include it for the sake of it. Everything had a purpose and helped to enhance learning in one way or another.

6. ROI Point and Social Media Point: at the Innovation Lounge there were two ‘Genius Bars’ where participants were able to get free advice on social media and ROI during the entire day.

By the way, this conference was sold out in just 3 weeks, which shows how hungry people are for this kind of events!

If you want to know more about it, watch the making of video or this cool review by William Thomson from Gallus Events.

And stay tuned because this year we’re putting together another Event Innovation Summit and its younger brother, the Meeting & Incentive Summit!

What are you doing to transform the industry? Would love to hear your examples of other cool events!

Book review: Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice

Book cover – Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice

I recently organised an Advisory Board meeting attended by some of the most prestigious event professionals in Spain. We discussed what are their main headaches, what keeps them awake at night… and they all agreed that a big challenge right now is to increase the learning of the participants. In a time of austerity, event owners have to make sure their message is getting across.

Does that ring a bell? If so, I urge you to get a copy of Steen Elsborg and Ib Ravn‘s book, Learning Meetings and Conferences in Practice. A short and sweet book, based on research, that explains several different formats that you can use to boost learning and networking. Not all formats will work for every audience and purpose, but it is worth a read. A hint: in learning meetings, a facilitator is key, but you should definitely book less speakers, so you will even save up money!

What I learned from my first Pecha Kucha Night

Almost a month ago I went to my first Pecha Kucha event, in Barcelona. For those of you not familiarized with it, PK is an innovative presentation format that started in Tokyo in 2003 by a group of young designers and since then it has been expanding around the globe (over 300 cities!!).

PK’s concept is a 20×20 presentation, 20 slides and 20 seconds per each. Therefore, is aimed at keeping up the level of concentration during the whole session, increasing the learning experience. Besides, slides tend to be very visual and speakers much more engaging than in a ‘traditional’ presentation.

So I had high expectations about what would happen in PK Night. It was the 9th Edition in Barcelona, which is always a good sign because it means they might have improved over time. However, it was a bit of a disappointment and I left at the first break (although I must say that the fact that it was freezing was another motivation to leave!).

In my humble opinion, the PK format is just OK. I like the idea of visual presentations and speed, although perhaps this 20×20 format it’s a bit too structured, unless you’ve got the right speakers.

In this case, I noticed that some of the presenters had slides that didn’t have anything to do with what they were actually talking about, just beautiful pictures. So yes the slides kept changing every 20 seconds, but not their topics!

But, what PK (and any other format) can’t change is the importance of having an engaging speaker and some substance in the content. While a few of the speakers were really good and had something interesting to say, others were dull and irrelevant. This reminds me to this old saying: ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’.

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