Move over, Richard Saul Wurman. There's a new King of Schmooze. A major hit of the current season of tech industry conferences was Internet Summit 2000, held July 15 to 18 at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, in California. Gary Bolles, a veteran of the tech conference world, reviewed the conference at Conferenza.com with unusual fervor: "... the Internet Summit is one of the few that clearly justifies the [Summit] moniker.... Testament to The Standard's drawing power, the dais of the second annual Internet Summit included a who's who of some of the most visible brand names in the Net Economy.... In the crowd, entrepreneurs populated the landscape."
This was only the second annual Internet Summit produced by The Industry Standard, the hottest print journal of the New Economy, and its parent organization, The Standard, which operates the magazine, the Web site, and the conference organization.
We spoke to David Evans, vice president of conferences and events for The Standard (and former manager of Business Week Executive Programs), who shared some thoughts about what it takes to be the King of Schmooze:
1. Audition attendees: "One thing we've done right from the beginning is exercise some care in who we invite and who we let into the conferences. Almost all our conferences require going through an approval process to get in. We look at your title, your company, your record."
2.There are limits to content, but no limits to networking: "This may seem obvious, but all the research says people go to conferences for two reasons: content and networking opportunities. It's very difficult to distinguish yourself with content, although I think we do. Everybody has the same celebrity keynoter list, the big companies they want on the programs. On the networking side, however, you really can make a difference if you pull together the right group of people and provide them the opportunity over the course of the event to spend time together. I think one of our distinguishing characteristics is that we actually spend a lot of time on the latter--as much as we do on the content side. Spending time thinking about how the cocktail parties, receptions, and dinners are going to take place may be perceived as trivial to the outside eye."
3.Don't allow room for anything but the event: "We try to occupy most of our delegates' time throughout the day. We don't make the assumption that they're going to leave the site and go do other things during the conference. We think of each of our conferences as a cohesive environment, so there isn't a big distinction between what's going on in the general session and what's going on elsewhere at the conference. A lot of others do this too, but we typically broadcast the conference live to a networking area, into the hallways, so people can meet and still feel part of the program. Basically, we try to integrate everything with everything else."
4.If attendees take you seriously, speakers will, too: "If the audience comes to the conclusion that the quality [of the networking] is a valuable reason to attend our conference, that in turn makes it easier for us to get the star speakers and so forth, because they know they're getting a quality audience and that the audience is engaged in the event. It's not a boondoggle or a working vacation."
5.Charge enough to make people take you seriously: The registration fee for Internet Summit 2000: $4,300. 'Nuff said.