Many conferences and events try to attract the widest possible audience that’s reasonably interested in a particular topic. When the goal of an event is to generate as much business or as many connections as possible, casting a wide net for an audience makes sense. But sometimes, a more targeted guest list is necessary for the results you want.
Enter Founders 50 (F50), a recent invite-only conference for 50 “chosen people” selected by Founders Fund partners and their friends. From curing cancer to artificial intelligence, the F50 attendees have weighty topics on their minds, and the event represented an uncommon opportunity for smart, ambitious folks to network with other people preoccupied with big questions.
TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis was the only member of the media invited (there were also about a dozen Founders and friends attending). The weekend was otherwise a playground for the mind. Attendees were confronted with both audacious and silly questions such as “What could be invented if energy were freely available everywhere?” and “How will the human body change over the next thirty years, and how should we change it?” or “What makes you weird?”
These questions surely sparked fantastic conversation, but was the conference a success? That depends on its goal. If it was to introduce bright people and get connections flowing, it was a success. As attendee Meredith Perry of uBeam told Tsotsis, “The real ‘results’ of the F50 weekend won’t materialize for several years.” Fair enough. But could (or should) the event itself have focused more on outcomes and less on interactions?
A recent blog post by a successful startup founder challenged entrepreneurs to “make something that makes more than money, something that matters.” While the F50 are surely tackling questions that matter, was meaning enough of a focus at the event? It may not be reasonable to expect an event sponsored by VCs to attend to meaning over money. And meaningful relationships probably need to be formed before meaningful questions can be answered. But just think what could happen if more corporate events turned a focus on earning returns of meaning, not money. Maybe things would get just a little brighter for us all.
How could your conferences become more productive with a more focused audience and agenda? Would you benefit from addressing questions of meaning rather than money? And how could you go about achieving any of this?