As you walk around during a conference a lot of people you talk to ask the same question: “How do you like it so far?”. It is a good conversation starter. You can agree on what was good and complain about whatever went wrong. At Le Web ’08 there was a lot to complain about and a lot to like. The speakers were very good. It is clear that Loic has an incredible international network. He has access to tech people as well as scientists, writers and politicians.
Speakers, of course, are the most important components of any conference. If you have good speakers you should have a great conference. Le Web had great speakers. But was it a great conference?
Love & Hate
The official subject of this Le Web Edition was ‘Love”. In retrospect it might have been better to call this one “Love & Hate”. People loved the speakers but hated the location, the lack of food, the low temperature of the room and the bad internet connection. Oh, and I’m sure the speakers hated the lousy help they got from the technicians. Laptops didn’t seem to work with
beamers projectors, movies wouldn’t play or would be played without sound and speakers had to use hand-held microphones which meant they were either holding the microphones too close or too far away from their mouths.
A pissed off Michael Arrington
So how legitimate is it to complain about these details? We were these as bloggers, regular participants, competing conference organizers and fellow entrepreneurs so it all depends on our perspective when it comes to these issues. Fact is we were certainly not the most critical participants by far. Someone told us that Michael Arrington was so pissed of at having no connectivity he went back to his hotel the first day after lunch and didn’t come back. He even told people he wasn’t planning on coming back the next day!
He did, of course, and interviewed Marissa Meyer on stage. But instead of diving right into the interview Michael took the opportunity to humiliate Loic a bit before he could rush off stage. Arrington left Marissa waiting while he asked Loic “Will there be enough food for everyone today?”. Loic, visibly stunned, said that he thought or hoped there would be. Loic was about to leave when Arrington addressed the audience “Who has an internet connection here” when about 30 hands went up he simply said “Well, that is about three times more than yesterday”. Loic kept smiling but was clearly not at ease with the situation.
And who could blame him? The cold made everyone very hungry, speakers took more time so we arrived at lunch later and the food was so delicious that we just had to eat everything. Shit happens. Wifi is notoriously unreliable and most conference have bad connectivity. So why were some people so annoyed by all this?
Expect everything to be perfect
I think it all has to do with expectations. When you pay more than €1000 for a conference and see that the best speakers in the world will be there at an event that is being held for the 5th time you expect everything to be perfect.
Loic repeated several times that they were spending more than €100.000 on the connectivity. That is one of the reasons people pay what they have to pay. So when you hear that you pay €1000 so Loic can invest €100.000 and then you find out the internet connection doesn’t work, you get irritated.
A little information please
Managing expectations is hard. At the end of the second day someone told me the largest heater in the conference hall broke down the evening before the conference. They installed a new one at night while we were out partying and the second day was slightly warmer. I didn’t know this until the end of the conference and simply thought they were simply not aware of everybody freezing. A little more information on that would have helped manage expectations.
All in all I had a great time at Le Web and saw a lot of great speakers. The sessions were inspiring and the parties were great fun. I’m sure Loic and Geraldine worked really hard and were just as disappointed at the stuff that went wrong as we were. A lot of people, including me, expressed criticism at what went wrong and we all might have a point.
The thing is, Loic did bring together a large group of extremely interesting and inspiring people and we should be happy he did. So, here is my one and only tip for Loic.
“Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been set up a statue in honor of a critic.”
— Jean Sibelius