There is an old joke in the Real Estate business:
Question: “In establishing the value of a house, what are the three most important factors?”
Answer: “Location, location, location.”
Although I’m sure it doesn’t translate 100% to conferences, the location IS an important part of the show. The atmosphere of a building has a lot of influence on the experience of the conference. That is why we spent a lot of timing looking for locations that would be compatible with the character of our TNW2011 conference.
The location we picked isn’t just big enough it is also flexible and beautiful, but in a rugged way. The buildings at the Westergasfabriek (that roughly translates to ‘Gas Factory in West’) are old rugged old buildings that seem to be perpetually in transition between what they used to be and something new. Some part look like they stripped away something and then halfway during the renovation just stopped working.
We fell in love with that aspect of the buildings as that is what the Web is to us too: always in motion, changing from day to day and never finished.
The other advantage of these building is hat they are basically empty boxes. No fixed chairs, lights or any other crap that makes you less flexible. That means we can design the whole thing to our own specifications and turn it into a high tech conference including our own Wi-Fi, blogger wired internet access, impressive stage with nifty graphics and a cut-out logo that is also the projection screen. Yeah, hard to explain but just wait until you see it. ;-)
The proprietors are pretty tech savvy too. They are installing free Wi-Fi all over the terrain (will launch this summer) and they recently revealed their ‘Twitter Tree’ to the public. It is a steel contraption, charged with solar power, that you can reach via a tweet. The tree, called ‘Populair‘ collects and displays the tweets.
They have a separate organization called ‘Up Labs‘ aimed at further digitizing the parks around the former factories with Urban Screens, whisper benches (called ‘Story Wells’) where visitors can leave stories and QR tags on all buildings and landmarks with embed stories and history.