[video] Gary Vaynerchuck on The Future of Conferences

December 11, 2009

in Future of Conferences, Interview

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.

Gary Vaynerchuk and Loic Le Meur at Le Web 09

Gary Vaynerchuk and Loic Le Meur at Le Web '09

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.

  • http://www.juliussolaris.com tojulius

    You beat me on time time there and you got Gary speaking which is awesome. I loved how he told Loic about it on stage. Definitely an highlight on a rather dull format.

    Julius

  • http://www.tourismkeys.ca/blog @Todd Lucier

    Gary is right about the future of conferences.

    The Q & A formula advocated for by @garyvee is a good one, and the ability of the presenter to dance on their feet and provide great value for the audience will require recruiting speakers who know their stuff backwards and forwards, understand the needs of their audience and are comfortable in a “Bring it on” environment.

    This clearly isn't the entire spectrum of presenters we saw on stage at #leweb, or even close to it. Some of the brightest lights in online blogging and reporting – sadly, are poor presenters on stage.

    Gary's points taken into consideration, some presentations are performances. Lawrence Lessig comes to mind. Give me a front row seat for one of Larry's presentations and I don't want to interact or engage with him, as well, the online version of his presentations will fail to fully capture the value he brings to every presentation.

    I think the large conference format itself may be broken. Smaller breakout groups are really valuable and providing access for Q & A is critical.
    We've all seen how conference question askers can sometimes take over a conference though and this can often be mitigated by having a great speaker who can still control the flow of information.

    Are we recruiting the right speakers for our conferences? Do panels work at all?
    Big names will put bums in seats, but the outcomes of any value come from off-stage interactions. This will never change.

  • http://www.gchicco.com Gianfranco Chicco

    @Julius and @Todd: thanks for commenting. I do believe that each speaker should find the format that best fits his/her presentation style and in the case of Gary Vaynerchuk Q&A is definitely it! He was also right when he said at Le Web that if it had to be a community (as opposed to “just” a conference) then there should have been way more interaction between the audience and the speakers.

    I have been to (and organized) Larry Lessig's presentations and his “method” perfectly suits how he wants to tell his story, and he is so effective because he is not pretending to imitate someone else way of presenting.

    Regarding the recruiting process for speakers and the eternal dilemma between having “famous” names (ticket sellers) as opposed to interesting names (top satisfying) that requires an entire article on it's own :-)

  • JeffHurt

    Gianfranco:

    Gary's got the right concept that conferences need to become more interactive. We should just implmement it differently.

    The brain is not designed to sit passively in chairs for six to eight hours a day and listen to lectures. It cannot retain all of that information. 90% of what is taught or learned at a conference is lost within 30 days. To change that stat, conference organizers need to build in more “Adult White Space” as I call it. It's time for attendees to talk with each other.

    So for instance a ballroom presentation by a speaker could occur for 45 minutes. Then spend the next 20 minutes allowing attendees to talk about what they just learned with each other. Using a moderator or facilitator as a meetings chauffer guiding the discussion, the attendees would be repeating their takeaways with each other. That helps the brain encode the learning differently and retain the information.

    Social netorking has risen to the top as a new engagement tool for a reason. It allows people to engage with each other. Now, we need to take the element of social and let conference attendees engage with the content and with each other onsite.

  • http://jeffhurtblog.com JeffHurt

    Gianfranco:

    Gary's got the right concept that conferences need to become more interactive. We should just implmement it differently.

    The brain is not designed to sit passively in chairs for six to eight hours a day and listen to lectures. It cannot retain all of that information. 90% of what is taught or learned at a conference is lost within 30 days. To change that stat, conference organizers need to build in more “Adult White Space” as I call it. It's time for attendees to talk with each other.

    So for instance a ballroom presentation by a speaker could occur for 45 minutes. Then spend the next 20 minutes allowing attendees to talk about what they just learned with each other. Using a moderator or facilitator as a meetings chauffer guiding the discussion, the attendees would be repeating their takeaways with each other. That helps the brain encode the learning differently and retain the information.

    Social netorking has risen to the top as a new engagement tool for a reason. It allows people to engage with each other. Now, we need to take the element of social and let conference attendees engage with the content and with each other onsite.

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