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.
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.
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!
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!