Web Summit 2014 – an exhibitor’s view

On 4-7 November, one of the biggest tech gatherings in the world, a festival, expo, conference and loads of sub-events took place. Web Summit yet again rocked the city of Dublin. A quick run-down of this year’s event numbers (from Irish Independent):

 

  • 22 000 attendees, hailing from 109 countries (with 86% guests from overseas)
  • 87 venues
  • 42  kilometers of cable run
  • 2,200 employees making it happen

Our Confrenz team (www.confrenz.com) went to Dublin for the whole event, both as exhibitors and attendees. We split our team to get the most out of this giant, so we experienced Web Summit from various perspectives. This note will focus on the perspective of an exhibitor to show you how the event is paying off after some time has passed.

We decided to wait a bit with our note on that festival and post it only now. There were several reasons for that. First, we wanted to exchange our opinions and impressions with other visiting and exhibiting companies. Also, to get the full picture of such an event, you need to check how useful it was for your business, not only judging it by the number of contacts made on the spot.

Was it worth it then? The answer is: yes! This conference is one of the best on the market when it comes to meeting like-minded people, even though it has some shortcomings.

We got a stand for Confrenz on Day 1 (by the way, the organizers set it up for you) with hopes to attract a decent amount of attention. We have been to lots of events before, so our predictions were moderate. The end result was that we were responsible for exceeding the end time of the trade show for over two hours – the interest was indeed overwhelming. This showed us yet again that event apps are what the majority of people at conferences look for. Be it event profs, organizers or vendors, or anybody whose clients run their events – a well prepared, networking, organization and information tool is a desire.

 

tradeshow

 Where do I go now?

But it’s not about any kind of tool that can be used at such events. Web Summit also produced an official app, but even though it was sharply designed, it met lukerwarm reception. The reason was simple: it offered only an attendee search function and a chat. At an event of this size, with so many stages, exhibitors and speakers, it was simply not enough. Not to mention that overwhelming amounts were spent on wifi, which hardly worked.  All this only prompted the attendees to express their need for a well organized, informative and networking tool to keep it all together.

An exhibitor at Web Summit must be prepared to speak with people from all kinds of background and various levels of interest in what you do. This isn’t a networking-cliche here, because unlike on smaller events, Web Summit is so vast that you need to make a good impression within first seconds no to lose your interlocutor. Your visitors may’ve found you on the website, they can be VC investors or just passers-by who’d like to see if there’s something for them (apart from candy, always get candy with fruit before you start!). You need to be prepared to talk to anybody and to answer questions from most general ones to very specific details about the code.

 

alfresco

Also, you need to forget about moments like the one pictured above.

Even more important is what happens as the event is over. The number of business cards collected needs to reflect in further discussions. So, after the Dublin event is over, how do we look back?

We have already secured deals with clients for event apps in 2015. We are in discussions with other providers of event technology that would love to address their clients. There are also a lot of people whose customers got interested by the idea. The year’s not over yet and there is going to be more of substantial outcome for us here. On this side, we need to praise Paddy Cosgrave’s event as the place to get in touch with people relevant to you.

 

ja

You may look bushed when it’s over, though.

Apart from exhibiting, what does it look like in other areas?

Peter Thiel, John Sculley, Bono or Tony Hawk are a few examples of probably the most impressive speaker line-up in Europe. The sheer amount of sessions and subjects discussed makes it worthwhile to start your planning days before coming to Dublin. Also, you need to figure out how to bilocate sometimes, as some stages are really far apart from each other. Within our team, preferences fell predominantly on the marketing stage, shared with the main stage (mainly for the biggest names).

Everything that happens after 5 pm is worth your while, too. There are dozes of pubs and clubs in Dublin that are open to the Summiters, and a good deal of official sub-events, too. We really enjoyed, e.g. our visit to Google’s European headquarters, as well as to the PayPal’s Brainlee’s Night Summit. But, the afterparties may be a subject for another note.

android

Probably, yes.

To sum up, here is our list of the great things about the Summit and a list of things that could’ve definitely been better:

+ great exhibiting opportunities
+ networking
+ night summits
+ speakers
+ investor / startup ratio
+ sub-events

– Wifi: over 400 thousand Euros on a connection that was almost non-exsistent!
– Lack of an event app: over 200 exhibitors, 650 speakers, dozens of events and not a single tool to get it all organized!
– Lines to hottest speakers’ presentations – this should be sorted out more properly
– Food, if you’re from the continent

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