by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Industry Relations, MCI
Nasty attack of FOMO
At a certain point yesterday that dreaded FOMO syndrome took hold and I embarked on a mad dash around the various stages and pitching areas in a frenzy of fear. Maybe this is what looters feel like. There was simply too much good stuff on offer and, like Electric Picnic, much of it clashed schedule-wise. You didn’t know where to start. Too much choice. Too many good options.
I was at the Web Summit in Dublin and I was seriously suffering from Fear Of Missing Out.
The Web Summit, now “Ireland’s largest business event”, has grown in five years from a few hundred participants to ten thousand. From its early years it punched way above its weight. Its founder, Paddy Cosgrave, a politics graduate from Trinity, audaciously “reached for the stars” and successfully persuaded some key elite dotcom leadership to come and speak at his event. He also marched to his own tune in terms of “event management” opting to in-source logistics when it may have made more logical sense to focus exclusively on content and leave logistics to the Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs).
[Be assured we tried to persuade him to use us but he politely declined!]
Thus the Web Summit has been as disruptive within the conference and event management arena as the tech start-ups it showcases have been within the conventional business world. [Note: “Disruptive” was the most used word at the Summit] The Web Summit today is no more a mere business or tech event than Electric Picnic is a music festival. The reach of both events is way beyond the niche confines of technology or music and both tap into a defining energy source that is quintessentially Irish.
Here are 5 things that the Web Summit did for its host destination:
1. “When people come together, magic happens”
One of my more quoted phrases throughout this blog comes from MCI CEO, Sebastien Tondeur, himself a disruptive GenYer. Seb is referring to the fizzy sparks that ignite when real people meet in real time and in real places. This is the core reason why live meetings will always prevail – digital connectivity, no matter how efficient, can never fulfil that fundamental human need to be physically present to each other.
The Web Summit brought 10,000 highly creative people together such that when you walked through the Exhibition Space and Pitching Posts in the Main Hall of the RDS you could feel that magic as tangibly as I will feel the 40 degree of heat when I disembark in Abu Dhabi from this aircraft!
2. Dublin is front and centre on the main stage
When 600+ travel bloggers held their European Conference in Dublin less than a month ago the Twitter impressions were in the millions. The vast majority of these tweets was wholeheartedly positive, generating wonderful profile for Ireland and her capital city.
With the Web Summit the global digital reach becomes stratospheric as here the attendees uniquely own both message and media. Time and time again, dotcom leaders publically endorsed Ireland as an exciting, creative hub and a great place to work and live.
3. Spreading the gospel of Good Food Ireland
The inaugural Food Summit was a masterstroke emerging from the genius mind of food marketer, Margaret Jeffers of Good Food Ireland and the discerning palate of Web Summit founder, Paddy Cosgrave.
This initiative was a very late addition to the programme, its success testament to the extraordinary collaborative attitude of the individual food producers, all members of Good Food Ireland. They turned up in a volunteer capacity to prepare, present and serve over 7000 bento boxes featuring artisan cheeses and cured meats, wild smoked salmon, Waterford blahs, mince pies and the best yogurt in the world, Glenilen yogurt …
But it wasn’t only the food. The Night Summit, staged in venues all over the city, presented the best new and up-and-coming Irish bands and further characterised Dublin as a creative, happening hub of Europe.
4. The Relationships
The Web Summit provided a nexus or launching pad for relationships, partnerships, alliances, collaborations and friendships to form and flourish.
During my half day at the Summit I spoke with a wide gamut of people, many only vaguely connected specifically with digital technology but all of whom had come in search of something from tangible transactional sales to intangible, ephemeral ideas.
I spoke with DCU students of journalism, an experienced web project manager from Cork, two guys from an exciting Indian start-up, the director of an Irish based Engineering company, a well-established SoMe blogger, the senior executive of a major event sponsor … and countless others. We all accepted that the digital infrastructure needed to improve radically (in fairness the WiFi was shite and the 3G was patchy) but unanimously agreed that there was something special here and that we’d keep in touch and that be back in 2014.
5. The Ripples
The Web Summit has already generated a ripple effect which, undoubtedly, will impact on many other aspects of Irish business endeavour. It’s been all over the Irish Media thanks to the presence at the Summit, on two occasions, no less, of our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. On 30 Oct the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange was rung from the RDS, our Taoiseach a Yeatsian “60 year old smiling public man” amidst a stage full of 20 and 30 year olds. But what an amazing opportunity to signal to the world that Ireland is “open for business”?
The presence in Dublin of the founders and senior leadership of such luminary start-ups as Prezi, HootSuite and EverNote along with such established behemoths as CISCO, Microsoft and Google speaks volumes for the truth of the adage “if you build it, they will come”.
The Web Summit is an increasingly large window on Ireland offering unique options and exciting opportunity for us to take our place on an elite global A Team that’s winning all before it in the competitive arena of new technologies.
Let’s hope our Taoiseach’s obvious appetite for the glorious photo op translates quickly into policies that can maximise the benefits of this amazing opportunity and truly leverage our small island community’s potential to be the IT hub for Europe.
But what’s the learning for meetings and events professionals?
- Hire GenYers and let them tell you how they like to assemble and meet.
- Be audacious and daring, try new meeting formats.
- Take more risks, don’t absolutise the safe hands approach.
- Always connect your event with the wider realities of the destination.
- Embrace technology always and everywhere.
- Wear sunscreen.