Friday, February 1, 2008

2 Tips For Hosting A Great NYC Tech Event

Last night I attended Ember Media's "The Future of Digital Media - Predictions For 2008." My company Outbrain sponsored the event.) Aside from being a great event, Allen Stern from CenterNetworks (who was also a panelist) posted some details here. I finally figured out why Allen has so many evangelists - its because he can talk well to anybody, no matter their level of understanding. He has talent in keeping his audience in mind when he speaks and when he blogs. Anyway, there were 2 elements that made this event much better than average.

Tip #1: Moderator's ability to keep the tone
Clayton Banks, CEO of Ember Media was the keynote speaker and moderator of the discussion. Clayton was a large factor why the discussion was very good as he kept the tone of the event flowing exactly in balance. Here are the notes I "made to self" on his job well done;

Managed the flow of the conversation, not too fast, not too slow.

Injected humor when appropriate.

Summarized the more complex discussion points in one line, easy to understand phrases.

Reigned in topics that had the potential to disrupt the flow before they did, and pushed topics that were advancing the discussion.

Kept the audience and its understanding level in focus at all times thereby avoiding the conversation to drift only between the panelists.

Choose a location that was unique and made it relevant to the discussion.

Tip #2: A Sense Of Place

This event was held at the Armory. The Armory, run by the Armory Foundation, is home to the premier indoor track and field center in America, and is committed to serving the youth by promoting excellence and fitness through a broad range of athletic, educational and community programs. As the event got closer, and guests started mapping out where the Armory was located, the natural question was why are we meeting there? Those of you who are in NY know the Armory is way uptown (168th street on the A train subway.)

But here are the interesting reasons why we met at the Armory and why this was a great contribution to the event as a whole:

The Armory is a place of energy and celebration of achievement and hard work. On its walls are photographs of some of the world's greatest athletes, and on the tracks and training rooms you can see the athletes of tomorrow hard at work running and preparing for their next challenge. This made me think of startups in much the same way. At the Armory you felt this energy first hand. Actually the energy there made me feel a bit guilty because on your way to the men's room you had to keep hard right because the hallway was actually an indoor track where youthful men and women were bounding by at impressive speeds. It was natural to feel a bit lazy after just having eaten shrimp cocktail, lamb chops and a cold beer but it gave this event a wonderful sense of place. It felt special in a way that no bar or standard meeting room could ever offer.

Also, on the walls at the Armory you will see pictures of a three time Olympian named Will Banks - this is Clayton's brother who was also at the event(pictured above). cool!

To cap it off, Clayton also informed us that the Armory provides broadband access for that part of upper New York and its citizens. So not only were the panelists and moderator good, but the uniqueness of the Armory lent a special aspect to the event as a whole and I believe will be one of the reasons people will talk about the event and remember exactly where it was held years from now. I can't say the same for many of the other tech events that I have attended recently, can you?


Anonymous said...

great writeup - thanks for the kind words about cn. your point about the location is key - it can really make or break an event. People don't think about it much when at the event, but afterwards you look back. Even the food and the wait staff helped to make the event better.

Anonymous said...

Great blog on the event. Your insight is certainly appreciated and in a city that is loaded with constant events and activities it is good to hear about such a good gathering. Thanks for sharing.