Le Web ’10 Was a Networking Behemoth

December 14, 2010

in Event Review, Networking, Tips

It’s clear that Loic and Geraldine Le Meur have righteously created what’s the “Number 1 Internet Conference in Europe”. If there is one particular characteristic to define Le Web (web, twitter, facebook, youtube) is that it is a huge networking machine, with the 2010 edition attracting around 3,000 attendees from 60 countries (mostly European but with a good dose of Americans and a few Asians and Middle-Easterns).

Loic Le Meur, founder of Le Web

Le Web is less about what happens on stage–with its ongoing parade of entrepreneurs, managers and web-stars–and more about the networking and deal-making that takes place elsewhere around the venue (this year dislocated in 3 buildings of the Les Docks center).

It’s not that the “show” is boring. Rather most speakers won’t share any real news to those already following online the happenings of web world. Michael Arrington from TechCrunch asked interesting questions but top Google exec Marissa Mayer doesn’t give off any unexpected news and does not engage in the controversies that Arrington is trying to spark. Dave McClure gave useful tips for startups and Gary Vaynerchuk made a powerful closing of the event. Yet, Le Web is not a place to discover new technologies and companies like at, say, South by Southwest (though there was a startup competition).

The killer feature of this conference is the networking. If you ask around you’ll hear things like “everyone that matters in my industry is here” or “I come here to do business. It’s no longer cold and food is abundant unlike before [citing a situation that happened in 2008] and I occasionally listen to an interesting speaker”. In fact I spent most of the second day at the Nespresso Lounge in a series of back-to-back meetings that I had organized using the networking tool Presdo Match (more on it in an upcoming article).

Three thousand attendees, most of them paying for a ticket somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 euro, is an amazing result if you consider that Le Web is managed mostly from San Francisco by Geraldine, the producer, and a small team in Paris. In fact, I know of several full-time conference organizers that envy those results badly.

A packed conference room during Marissa Mayer's interview

But at times this high attendance also felt overwhelming. It’s a lot of people. Forget about intimacy. I knew very well at least 50 other attendees and we never even bumped into each other.

A few tips to improve the odds of meeting people would be:

Make the meeting-points VERY obvious

While Presdo Match was like manna from the skies to set up meetings, the meeting-points were not clearly indicated. It would have been great to know beforehand that there were 3 predetermined meeting points, for example by including a reference to them in the pre-event email “Prepare your Agenda for LeWeb” that was sent on November 25.

An official meeting-point

The meeting-point hidden behind a few people, imagine when there were hundres of them

The ideal meeting-point (not kidding!) - Photo by Roswellsgirl on flickr

Make the names on the badges HUGE

The badges had a clever disposition, with a pocket to hold the name tag, the program booklet and a two point lanyard. But the names were small, small, small… it was very difficult to read them even at close distance. Sometimes, when you’re trying to meet someone for the first time, being able to read the name on the badge from a few meters apart is extremely useful.

The Le Web badge - practical but name is impossible to read, even from a short distance

Don’t seclude speakers in a VIP area

As I said, Le Web brings a high number of speakers, most of them current actors of the Internet world. In most cases it’s difficult to meet them or make an appointment to talk business as when they are not on stage they are gathered in a VIP area where “regular” attendees cannot access. Positive exceptions were people like Dennis Crowley, Gary Vaynerchuk or Robert Scoble that decided to stay amongst the attendees, something that was widely appreciated. After all, they are enabling new business opportunities for themselves too.

All in all, Le Web was very positive for my professional activities: shared time with old friends, maid new acquaintances and opened several paths for new projects. Thanks Loic and Geraldine, see you next year!

  • http://www.loiclemeur.com/ Loic Le Meur

    thanks very much for this post and your kind words, glad you liked it.

    the speakers VIP lounge is tricky, most speakers can’t even move in the normal rooms as people jump on them or circle around them. Most don’t want that, it’s a very difficult experience for them, while some, as you noted, love it.

    the VIP lounge solves it well, if they want to meet the participants they can, if they want to be quiet, they can do that too. I think it’s best to leave it up to them.

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

      Thanks for your comment Loic.

      I know the VIP lounge is tricky -haven’t found a solution for that either- especially with 3,000 attendees. I brought it up because often the reader surprise me with interesting solutions :-)

      Congratz again, especially to Geraldine, for a big success!

      • http://www.loiclemeur.com/ Loic Le Meur

        thanks! some speakers want almost a separate kind of small event just for them…

      • http://www.loiclemeur.com/ Loic Le Meur

        thanks! some speakers want almost a separate kind of small event just for them…

    • http://www.facebook.com/rsousa Ricardo Sousa

      In that aspect last year was better IMHO. The fact that the Speakers Lounge was just near the networking area enabled speakers to have a quite place to seat and prepare presentations but also enabled them to easily go and network with attendees. (they actually were around in the networking areas much more often). Here, in a separate building, they sometimes simply disappeared. Trying to have the lounge in the main building might be a solution. Just my two cents though.

      • http://www.loiclemeur.com/ Loic Le Meur

        Ricardo, half of the speakers heavily complained last year that it was
        actually way too close and too easy to find them. Same, but less, this
        year. We think that next year we will just completely hide the
        speakers room upon speakers request…

        • http://www.facebook.com/rsousa Ricardo Sousa

          Ok. Didn’t knew that was such an issue among speakers. I undersand the need to please speakers. That said I do think, however, that LeWeb should promote networking between speakers and attendees. Is a tricky question though for sure.

          • http://www.loiclemeur.com/ Loic Le Meur

            throw Marissa in the middle of 1000 people at lunch time and you will
            see what happens!

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

        that’s a good point Ricardo.

        I do understand that the size that the event has gained in the last two editions makes it more difficult to create more intimate spaces for attendees and speakers… it’s something easier to manage in smaller events.

        • http://www.facebook.com/rsousa Ricardo Sousa

          That is the biggest disadvantage of big events. You loose intimacy. But I guess that’s why there are all sort of events. From ones you’ll take the long meetings and another kind of networking. From LeWeb you’ll take 10 minute meetings but you’ll meet people from all around the world, all of them committed to the event and excited about it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rsousa Ricardo Sousa

      Loic,

      Ever thought of releasing a pos-event survey to attendees? Such a big crowd might give you insights and suggestions / improvements you may never think of. And that is a good way to gather important data/feedback from the event as well.

      Not expert here, but just an idea :)

      • http://www.loiclemeur.com/ Loic Le Meur

        we’re actually writing one right now!

  • http://www.loiclemeur.com/ Loic Le Meur

    I love that packed room from the side pic btw, do you have it in high def somewhere we could re use?

  • Fabrice

    It was absolutely great!
    The suggestions are indeed quite to the point.
    You could also add that Facebook and Google workshops where full.

    Fabrice – youfoot.com

  • http://twitter.com/oneglobe oneglobe

    I started as a Les Bloggers participant..so sincere congrats to LeMeur + co for becoming the No.1 internet event in Europe…especially raising Europe’s visibility vis a vis Silicon Valley. However, the size and corporazation make it a members only club. Alas.

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

      Due to the (big) size and that anyone (with the money) can pay and get it, I see it as the opposite of a club, don’t you think?

      • http://twitter.com/oneglobe oneglobe

        Le Web is a huge success…so bravo to Loic, Geraldine and their terrific team. I attended for 5 years starting from the first Les Bloggers. Simply, I mean to say Net innovation can benefit from smaller, ‘communities of interest’ supported by the ‘big boys’. Events with major corporate sponsors do not permit the intellectual interaction that is the hallmark of Net entrepreneurship.

        I think it is a fantastic event, fabulous for Paris…it would be great to see scholarships for early entreprenuers/students vs. sponsorships by major brands.

        So, yes, I can pay…and have done so…but it doesn’t make me a member of the club.

        • http://www.facebook.com/rsousa Ricardo Sousa

          you do know students and startups have special price right?

          • http://twitter.com/oneglobe oneglobe

            Right, yes, thank you.. know about special discounts for students…a means of sponsoring a promising entrepreneur, or people 2 to 3 years graduated could have benefit….if there they do not have a well defined project.

            Simply a suggestion not a critique.

  • http://twitter.com/gheijkoop Gerrit Heijkoop

    Nico blogpost Gianfranco! Sharp analysis.
    At the risk of being ‘promotional’ (which is NOT my intention), I would like to bring up:
    How would real-time sharing of the time and location of the sessions you will attend help with this? Then at least your online network connections will know were you will be at a certain point in place and time. Or is technology not a part in this?

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

      Thanks Gerrit

      the issue with real-time sharing IRL is tricky as there is already an overflow of “physical” activities taking place and you don’t want to be distracted [too much] by more technology (we already have emails, sms, tweets and other to take care of).

      That being said, I’m interested in exploring new solutions as I don’t have the final answer :-)

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