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).
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.
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.
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.
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!