Much has been made of the idea that startups are all about the people, not the product. The theme has emerged in multiple ways of late: Y Combinator allowing people to apply without an idea, Facebook’s huge valuations based in part on its huge user base (“if you’re not paying, you’re the product“), investors talking about buying people, fundraising startups optimizing on people not price, investors jumping on the Maples-Hoffman bandwagon for Rally, and more. It’s not (just) about your product–it’s about you.
The same goes for events. Even the best venue, the greatest topics, and the most exciting giveaways can’t save an event without awesome, engaged presenters–and attendees. The best presenters will be frustrated by talking to an audience that doesn’t ask good questions, in or after the session. The best audience will be frustrated by presenters who just want to toss in their pitch and take off for the airport. This means that the best events will be those that successfully link interested presenters and audience members–and keep them connected.
Technology’s importance to meetings might seem like something that would diminish the importance of people, but the effect is actually the opposite: technology gives us the tools to get more personal more easily. Whether that’s voting on topics ahead of time, submitting questions during a session, or following everything via live stream from home, technology empowers events to become about the people, not the logistics.
That’s part of why event-related startups like Lanyrd, which makes it easy to see the social profiles of event attendees, are succeeding. SnapHop’s Who’s Here feature is another event enhancement that focuses on the personal. With a simple social media login, you can see who else is at an event, and plan an easy way to contact them when they’re not bombarded with post-presentation questions or busy juggling hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and handshakes. A social connection created at an event has more lasting potential than one created randomly. Make your connections matter. Make them personal. And make them last.