Gary Vaynerchuck (or garyvee for short) is like a nuclear powered volcano with clear ideas: if you start him up on one topic he will erupt in honest, direct and rather colorful descriptions of what he thinks of it, and you will hardly be able to regain control of him. That is probably why so many people love him (and for the same reasons hate him). I was conquered by his blunt style and the real content he decorates with foul language. His speech at Le Web 2009 was no exception on this (will update this post with the official video as soon as it’ll be available) and he touched several sensitive points that have to do with conferences.
At a certain point Loic Le Meur, founder and main host of Le Web, told him that “[Le Web] is not a conference, it’s a community” to which Gary exploded with this remark “If this is a fucking community, why aren’t we doing Q&A?!” (referring to the fact that his presentation was structured as a talk with Loic on stage and there was no real/direct engagement with the audience). Of course his comment was followed by a powerful round of applause and cheers from the attendees.
Intrigued by his reaction I met him backstage and asked what his vision on The Future of Conferences is (a.k.a. how should a successful conference be live?). This is what came out of it (I apologize for the background noise, I should have used a microphone):
On Gary Vaynerchuck’s vision of a conference of the future there should be “an enormous amount of Q&A and obnoxious interaction with the presenters”.
“[…] see as we go to technology changes where you have Ustream, why are you going to fly all the way to Paris and pay for the ticket? No longer is it just the content that really becomes valuable as a matter of fact it becomes commodity […] The two things that really, really become powerful are your ability to ask a question in person and make impression with the person on stage and everybody else and the fact that you can really engage with people”
“So for me the Future of Conferences looks like I get on stage, I do an hour of Q&A and then at some level some way of obligation as well to the audience of being in the crowd and intermingling not going off backstage and taking a limo and getting out of town […] Those are things i do already and I know the “stickiness” and the appreciation of it and I feel like it’s going to become a standard”
But what happens when the attendee/speaker ratio is too big? For example if there are 2.000 people in the audience and 1 speaker, the former is only able to take very few questions and maybe they won’t be the most interesting ones for the rest of the delegates. How do you tackle that?
“Time! Instead of having 8.00.000 speakers get the 25 best ones and let them sit there for 2 hours. In two hours you can ask and answer a lot of questions, and by answering 60 to 120 questions you can get a lot of damage done. That’s how: effort, hard work!
A lot of people have similar questions that cross-over. On my book tour I did nothing but Q&A and about 12 to 14 questions you took away about 85% of the audience”
What a character!
I recommend Gary Vaynerchuck’s recently published book CRUSH IT! For all those out there doing marketing, customer service or creating experiences for people, check out Chaper 8 for Gary’s advice on how to make the best marketing plan. It won’t take you that much to read it… actually, it is just one word: CARE.