What does the best web / geek / tech event look like?

I’ve been doing various events work this year, for some interesing and leading names in the web space.

As some of you may know, I helped found Chinwag as a commercial venture, which then went on to launch Chinwag Live series. We also did Big Summer 07 last year, which was a free party for over 2,000 people. Just 5 of us organised the whole thing, in 6 weeks. And I still have some hair left! πŸ˜‰

Then, earlier this year I was working with Mike Butcher at TechCrunchUK to help him kickstart some events in the UK and Europe. He’s now jetting off all over the place meeting people and creating meet ups off the back of other events, as well as organising some really exciting ones of his own, such as the recent (very successful) Pitch! event.

Now I’m working at the Guardian, and looking into events as part of my research for my current role. Guardian events in the past have been on large scale, with a full events team organising events such as the Guardian brand at Glastonbury.

All these different types of event has got me thinking, what would be the best event you would want to go to? If you could combine all the aspects of events you’ve been to over the last few years, and come up with some almighty geek/tech/online/networking fest, what would it be like?

Mine would be something along the lines of, in priority order: Incredible speakers discussing their visions (not pimping their warez!), affordable pricing (I guess sub Β£100), good accessible venue in an interesting city, an exciting delegate list – perhaps one that’s been thought out with tickets tactically released to ensure a wide range and spread of people, cool freebies/swag from sponsors, and great networking – be that at the venue or the pub down the road.

So come on, spill, what would your ideal conference/event look like? And while you’re at it – I’d love to know what was your favourite event or conference you’ve been to this year, from a geek meet up in a pub right through to something like Le Web. It’s whichever one left you with a “that was so cool I want to do it again next week!” feeling. The very first FOWA was mine.

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About Thayer Prime

Tall. Eats a lot. Talks too much. I tweet over @thayer
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26 Responses to What does the best web / geek / tech event look like?

  1. whatleydude says:

    A Geek Ball
    Hey Thayer,
    I had the idea back in April for putting together a ‘Geek Ball’.
    We have geek coffee mornings, geek-ups, tweet-ups, geek dinners, geek breakfasts, geek drinks… )the list goes on) …so why not a Geek Ball?
    Proper sitty-downy affair with DJs for the boys and ballgowns gor the girls. Dinner and dance etc…
    A really good excuse for everyone to get dressed up to the nines, y’know?
    I spoke to Josie Fraser way back when about trying to get something off the ground and I think, at the time, there was just too much other stuff going on.
    There may even be a wiki somewhere…. Give me a shout if you want more info or something and I’ll dig out the emails etc.
    Cheers,
    James.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: A Geek Ball
      Hey James,
      That’s such a cool idea! I love getting tarted up, and the noo meedja awards ceremonies are just so full of shit, us geeks could obviously do something much better. I’d love to hear of any other intel on this you’ve had – although warning, I may be tempted to act on it at some point! πŸ™‚
      Thayer

      • whatleydude says:

        Re: A Geek Ball
        Cool – drop me an email to whatleydude at yahoo dot co dot uk and I’ll forward you the stuff I have.
        Probably cc Josie in as well.
        πŸ™‚

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: A Geek Ball
        The town I grew up in- Duluth, MN – has had a Geek Prom for several years now. I’ve never been, but it sounds like it’s loads of fun!
        -g

  2. jamieriddell says:

    Le Web 3
    By far the best was leweb3 for the multi channels, the ‘coolness’ and the sheer vast amount of knowledge being shared on stag and aroudn the event – mindblowing!
    Jamie

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mind dump
    Looking at what I wrote below I might have conference fatigue, and might be in a bad mood right now. sorry & please prove my rant wrong πŸ™‚

    Basically I think 95% of events suck, large and small. The size is actually irrelevant, it’s not a case of it was too big I didn’t “get around” everyone… some of the best events I’ve been to have had 30-40 people and you still don’t “get around” because those 30-40 are some of the most interesting you’ll ever meet and could talk for hours.
    Very few speakers are worth listening to, it’s not that they aren’t smart & interesting people just that often they’re disconnect from their audience, usually for the 35min of their 30min presentation. Shorten, shorten, shorten. Conversations, blah blah blah, etc. Sponsored session = fuck you.
    Networking doesn’t need to have set “times” or “parts” of events if the event is organized properly it’ll just happen.. i.e. don’t rush people. If people are being forced to network I probably don’t want to speak to them, isn’t networking just part of day to day life?
    Freebies, swap.. meh, useless shit to carry. Make it 100% recyclable/renewable etc if you must, and provide a big recycling bin for me to put mine in.
    IMHO:
    Best: TechTalk, Interesting, dConstruct
    Ok: OpenCoffee, momo, etc
    Worst: @media, FO*, InternetWorld

  4. mel_kirk says:

    Event Tips
    Hey Thayer,
    Cool post btw – so many people forget that you’re never going to produce an event that people want to attend if you don’t know what it is that they actually want in the first place.
    Having organised FOWA for a couple of years along with a FOWD thrown in for good measure, I’m well and truly seasoned to the event space.
    From my experience, people really appreciate being brought together and having some way of having networking opened up to them. Most people are there to hear interesting talks, but it’s unlikely that it’s going to be groundbreaking stuff. Instead, it’s an amazing opportunity to meet up with people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet.
    I know that I’ve spoken to dozens of people before who have said that they wanted to network but just didn’t know how to go about it, so anything that you can do to help encourage that is great.
    I was actually discussing this with someone a few weeks back – the speakers you want often have to be recognised to sell seats in the first place, but to the same extent, people want to hear about new stuff rather than the same old same old. Having said that, I think in a way, people like the comfort of knowing that there’s a speaker on the lineup that they always know is going to be be entertaining and a good speaker – in a way it’s reassuring.
    Price point is critical – there are so many free meetups now and it’s a really competitive space, so anything that you can do to keep the price down is always going to go down well along with working out how sponsorship is going to work (if it’s going to be sponsored at all). Sponsors CAN have the potential to add to the event, it’s just making sure that it’s done well and carefully.
    I hope that helps a bit – but you always know where I am if you want to drop me a line.
    Mel πŸ™‚

  5. Anonymous says:

    thoughts re: events
    I wrote a big negative moan, and have no realised that it can be boiled down to 2 positive reflections instead.
    1) Conferences / Events are happy to be providers of “schwag” but that the free tat must all be 100% recyclable (not simply biodegradable) or it won’t be allowed to be distributed.
    2) All conference / event organisers should as standard hire an extra room to make available to parents, should put “self-organising childcare provision available” on the ticket, put a small price on for snacks, and use an online calendar & sub-email list for all parents to self organise coverage of all sessions. If there is not enough coverage for all sessions, childcare provision will not exist. That way the event is not taking personal liability for childcare, but most importantly, there is at least the possibility of childcare!!! Lack of childcare provision is what stops me going to lots and lots of events. If it was genuinely thought of as a hygeine factor – something of a no-brainer that, uh, of course we all do, then the audiences at these events would be – I think – genuinely more varied.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: thoughts re: events
      I think the childcare point is a really interesting challenge that so far, I haven’t seen anyone pick up. I whole heartedly agree with you on it, and as the next year passes I’m sure I’ll agree even more πŸ˜‰ The liability thing is always the biggest issue, but there’s no reason that can’t be gotten around, with innovative ideas as you suggest.
      I do have a question on this that you would be perfect to answer though: why wouldn’t people who have children have day care solutions already, for when they are normally at work? And if it’s an evening thing, can they not arrange babysitters at home? Honest question – not trying to stir. Would love to know your response.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Geek Events have to include current content and cool names
    It’s strange because the best events appear to be the more intimate events that attract the geekiest of geeks.
    I’ve been to several of these events and missed others. The ones I’ve enjoyed the most have actually been the London barcamps. The standard of people that goes (if you are lucky enough to get a ticket) is very high and it does appear to be pretty cutting edge. It’s free and forces you to interact, which is great.
    Free or cheap is great (under Β£100 is a good start, but I’d say under Β£50 makes more sense) but as geeks understand community more than anything, it’s got to have an underlying “I want my say” bit.
    The worst events are those that are re-hashed trade shows. Let’s face it, techies aren’t into buying and selling generally (not in the same way as normal businesses anyway), especially as the events tend to attract Open Source geekery at it’s finest aka “I can do that 10x better using Open Source!”
    I try to follow my virtual friends around to meetup at these events. If some that I want to see aren’t going, then I won’t bother unless the speaker’s are fantastic.
    Let’s face it, geeks are cutting edge in terms of knowledge and geek news, and if the conference isn’t cutting edge (e.g. speaker’s are putting talks together that morning) then it’s generally not worth our time.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Geek ball & best events
    I’ve been working with Damien Mulley to get the Geek Ball delivered – we’re at pitch stage & would love to hear from people who want to get involved in bringing the beast in – & of course, especially organizations who can see what a fantastic sponsorship opportunity it is πŸ˜‰ It will be a cross-sector event (basically for everyone involved in telecoms, internet, & games, in all capacities), aimed at celebrating the UK’s thriving tech-creative-related industries & individuals, and of course demonstrating our world class party skills.
    For those people who don’t know us – Mulley runs the Irish web & blog awards (http://awards.ie/blogawards) & I’ve been managing the International Edublog Awards (http://edublogawards.com/) for the last few years.
    Oh! And my vote for best geek event goes to Interesting08 – amazing day

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Geek ball & best events
      s/comment/plug; heh
      It’d great if this could be kept to personal views and comments, and not advertising please.
      Many thanks for your understanding!

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Geek ball & best events
        Ah my appols Thyler – was trying to follow up on James’s comments. Sorry for over stepping & feel free to delete.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My thoughts on this.
    Sorry to link but didn’t want to re-write. Not focused on “geeks” but still, this is how I like conferences/events to be.
    http://babblingvc.typepad.com/pjozefak/2008/06/doing-a-corporate-event-right.html

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: My thoughts on this.
      Here’s a repost if like me, you are a lazy lump:
      “Doing a Corporate Event Right
      I was asked by someone (a corporate VC) for feedback on an event they are planning. I wrote an email back with my thoughts and immediately after finishing it, thought I should blog this. So, via the magic of cut & paste (the lazy man’s greatest digital asset), here’s what I wrote back.
      Make sure that to truly make the event worthwhile, you keep it small. We ran an event for SAP Ventures (all kudos for the ideas go to my former partner, Jeff Nolan when it came to location and agenda) where we limited total attendance to 100 people including everyone from SAP as well as our customer guests. SAP paid for people’s hotel rooms to make sure everyone we wanted came (it was at the Bacara Resort). If you pay the hotel, anyone you invite will come unless they truly have a conflict. Make sure the agenda has tons of free time and do something fun….we did a sailing regatta with Team New Zealand which used to be sponsored by SAP. No one cares about sitting in presentations. They want to interact and network with one another in a comfortable, fun environment. Don’t invite people somewhere boring. Either do it in a cool destination or find an awesome hotel near you (everything obviously depends on your budget and SAP is probably a bad comparable). Sun and beach always attract the most people but skiing in the winter is also cool. Finally, don’t let your senior executives use it as a platform to advertise their interests. No one gives a shit. Allow them access to your network and vice-verse and do everything possible to facilitate this. Finally, make sure to invite me!
      The part about inviting me was a bit individually beneficial! :-)”

  9. Great, Chilled Location
    Hi Thayer,
    I heartily agree with all the comments so far – esp. Dave’s and a blacktie event – but haven’t seen the location pop up. I love dConstruct because it is always book-ended by a night out in Brighton, which typically manages to merge informality, interesting places, fun and of course, good honest relationship building; because of all the small bars & clubs – and general atmosphere – Brighton has. Which brings another point – it’s nice at after parties to occassionally move venues as it lets you ‘shake up’ conversational cliques that may have formed over the night.
    I also think new locations put everyone in a ‘fish out of water’ situation, as well as attracting new blood, which helps people more readily connect.

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Re: Great, Chilled Location
      Thanks Andy, and good point about location, I guess there’s no specific “place” that is top trumps right now.
      I’ve never been to an event in Brighton yet, I’d love to go to dConstruct, it looks fantastic, but I’ll be a month off popping at that stage so possibly next year instead!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Talking of Guardian events – this might not be on your radar because I did it unofficially, but we did pretty well with GameCamp:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamecamp
    * great lineup of speakers
    * even better lineup of delegates
    * lots of ideas, no pitches
    * incredible venue (thanks Sony!)
    * free to attend
    * brilliant networking, both during and after
    I’m just starting to organise the second round, we’re aiming for October.
    Bobbie

    • Thayer Prime says:

      Is that you, mister Bobbie Johnson?
      All you people without OpenIds.. tsk! πŸ˜‰
      Thanks for the reply, it’s really interesting to see what you’ve been up to – I’ve pinged you and email off-blog for a meeting of minds on this, seems you’re perfectly placed to sccop out the contents of your brains!

  11. Anonymous says:

    women speakers and visitors at event
    An Internet event should also be attractive to women. Look at most events (microsoft dev days, thenextweb, barcamp etc) and make your own conclusion whether that is currently the case…
    There are many women interested in internet tech business, but not only from a twitter/ruby on rails java point of view.
    We have been writing about this at http://www.thenextwomen.com
    and now are organizing our own events..
    http://thenextwomen.com/2008/06/23/search-for-female-internet-heroes/

  12. Anonymous says:

    best events
    Hi Thayer,
    Mine would be:
    > the venue and social network of reboot
    > the food and logistics of Le Web
    > the corridor space of LIFT
    > the ambition of Emerging Technology
    There seems to be no perfect balance. I find UK hotel-based events a bit boring. US events like E2.0 in Boston recently are good but a bit soulless. Food, coffee and space are really important issues, plus the ability to run BOF or side sessions. If it is in the UK then the venue is really tricky – yet to find one I really like.
    Panels always suck. Keynotes often disappoint. Reboot comes close to the best process for deciding which talks happen – a combo of the organiser really laying down a challenge to speakers to do something challenging + user suggestions and voting + tight overall curation by the organiser (that’s where reboot10 arguably fell don slightly, by being a touch too open and laissez faire in the final decisions).
    The pimping warez thing is interesting. I sense that recently, headshift have not been asked to talk sometimes on the assumption that we might pimp ware, but actually the reverse is often the case in that individual practitioners often pimp themselves and tediously rehash their old talks to a far greater extent – so I guess I am saying don’t judge a pimp by their ride πŸ˜‰
    Oh yes, and please people – if you go for the strict openspace methodology, spare me the limp, English, passionless talk about voting with your feet – I don’t need your permission, thx.
    Lee B

  13. Anonymous says:

    Free Chat Rooms
    I found this blog on a google search and boy am I glad I did. I thought I heard someone mention it in a free chat room.
    Awesome read!

  14. jasontrost says:

    My 2 (american) cents
    Ian from http://songkick.com organises hacker meet-ups once a month at their offices. I think it’s really well put together. The purpose is to host an informal gathering of startup-minded technical people. Starts off with people BSing for about 20-30 min as everybody arrives. Then everybody goes around the room and gives a 20 second bio. That’s my favourite bit. It’s a great way to queue up people to chat to later, and you have something to speak about straight away. After the bios there are demos; then everybody goes out to a cheapish dinner. Usually 30 or so show up. It’s one of the most efficient, enjoyable meetups I’ve encountered. Great format for meeting a lot of people without too much fuss.

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