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Web Summit 2020
December 7th

Web Summit 2020 Review

A few years ago I attended TechCrunch Disrupt a technology conference in Berlin. It was thoroughly enjoyable to travel to Germany and soak up the atmosphere for one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. The impact of the pandemic lead us to attend Web Summit 2020 virtually.

Usually, Web Summit is held in Lisbon Portugal this year the event was held online. It’s the largest Tech conference in Europe with over 100,000 people attending including corporates, venture capitalists, start-ups and other attendees.

This wasn’t my first virtual conference because I’d recently attended Brits in the Bay online. Again, Brits in the Bay is usually held in person by GBx in San Francisco. It is fair to say that I probably wouldn’t have attended both Web Summit and Brits in the Bay had it not been a virtual event. Virtual events allow for bigger audiences because you don’t have to travel and pay for expensive hotels. Of course, because it’s virtual it’s not as personable and it’s harder to read the room. This makes it difficult when you are meetings someone for the first time.

I was particularly impressed with the Mingle feature on the Web Summit event platform. This allowed you to network with other conference attendees with random video calls limited to 3 minutes in duration. After each networking session feedback was given helping the algorithm provide better matching for the future. Whilst the matching wasn’t brilliant it was very exciting waiting to see who you would meet next. I did meet one person I know out of about 50 networking sessions. Virtual networking is fantastic for business development and building partnerships.

In a 3 minute dialogue, you’ve got to decide who goes first and how to use your 1 and a half minutes. I think early on you get to understand whether there is common ground. In cases where a partnership isn’t possible, you get to learn lots of interesting information and how people are trying to take their ideas into reality.

In addition to the ability to conduct virtual networking, there was the main stage with five main tracks. Attendees could choose from channel 1 which was for “General Key Notes”, channel 2 which was for “Creators”, channel 3 for “Society”, channel 4 for “Builders” and channel 5 for “Portugal”. Whilst the event was largely online it was good to see some footage from Lisbon Portugal where the annual event usually takes place. Talks tended to be shorter than their in-person equivalents due to the online nature of the summit.  

Main stage key notes would often be attended by over 1 thousand people. If you wanted interactive experiences you could join smaller Q&A sessions or masterclasses. I joined one masterclass held by AWS where instead of joining a text-based live chat I was able to join the video conference. I generally preferred the more interactive sessions making connections rather than consuming content. One of the frustrations of the show is posting questions which don’t see the light of day. Perhaps I need to ask better questions or get them in earlier! This could represent a big opportunity for future online events?

Virtual events have fixed start and end dates but should they be allowed to run on? Some trade shows have pre and post-conference sessions and perhaps online events can be expanded beyond their predetermined dates? On the third and final day of the event the conference continued on into the evening. Web Summit started each day at 12 noon to 8 pm to accommodate both European and American time zones. Many of the guest speakers joined from the United States including Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow and top tier venture capital firms such as Sequoia, Klein Perkins and Index Ventures. Whilst Web Summit claims to be the pre-eminent European tech conference there was a big US influence on the show.

When you are at a trade show the last day often involves a rush to the airport to get home. Virtual conferences don’t have the packing up of bags and stands before the show has even finished. Web Summit gave all participants both a password-protected website to access information and a companion mobile app. Long after the conference had finished I continued to receive messages and connections from participants. It makes you wonder when the actual conference ends? Perhaps there is a missed opportunity from the conference organisers not to extend the event? 

There is no question the amount of data created on both the Web Summit web app and mobile apps will be astonishing. It will be interesting to see how the event organisers use the data for next years event? Perhaps they will compare the data for 2020 with 2021 in sophisticated ways to make for an even better event experience for returning participants.

In a traditional tradeshow, your badge is scanned and there are technologies for geographical understanding such as footfall. However, in comparison, an online event generates a much deeper understanding of speakers, sponsors and attendees which in theory should lead to greater personalisation.

Web Summit has announced that they will be back in Lisbon in 2021. It will be interesting to see how they balance the needs of in-person attendees versus online participants? Personally, I love attending live events but given the economics, environmental impact and travel times it is tempting to stay at home.

Face-to-face communication is best especially when you’re meeting people for the first time. However, video calls offering sophisticated matching might surpass the effectiveness of in-person exhibition shows. Ultimately I think hybrid events will be the way forward.

Event organisers will have to strike a careful balance between the offer for in-person attendees versus online participants. Organisers will need to think about the price of an online ticket versus being in person. Sponsorship is key to events. How and where sponsors spend their money will be interesting for the future. Perhaps smaller in-person trade shows will be complemented by online participants?

If you want to learn more about virtual events please visit Event Anywhere:

Series 1 #SeanInTheShed on LinkedIn

New #SeanInTheShed Series 1
Watch 18 Episodes on LinkedIn
#SeanInTheShed is a new daily business talk show started during the lockdown 
Coaching Sean talks to Antony Cockle about Organisational Development 

Social Media Sean talks to Alex McCann about Social Media 

Finance Sean talks to Simon Palmer about the Financial Landscape  

Sales Strategy Sean talks to Steve Crow about Sales & Marketing Strategy 
Silicon Valley Sean talks to Richard Kil about Silicon Valley 
Tax & Risk Sean talks to Andy Wood about Tax Planning and Managing Risk
Marketing Sean talks to Pete Coates about Online Marketing 
Events Sean talks to Pete Erikson about Events Management 
IPO Sean talks  to Jonathan Straight about Floating on the Stock Market and to James Poulter about Voice Technology
International Sean talks to Simon Bedford about International Business 
Sales Coaching Sean talks to Nijar Kapur about Sales Coaching
Self Development Sean talks to Bianca Best about Self Development and Phil McKeith about eCommerce
Mentoring Sean talks to Victoria Tomlinson about Mentoring 
Legal Issues Sean talks to Gareth Yates about Legal Issues 
Technology Innovation Sean talks to Howard Tullman about Technology Innovation and Start Ups
If you would like to be a guest on #SeanInTheShed we go live daily at
(BST) 4.30pm and warm up at 4pm. Please direct message me on LinkedIn.
I hope you enjoy watching.

#SeanInTheShed On LinkedIn LIVE

Following the coronavirus and everybody working remotely I now work out of my garden shed. If social distancing had not been introduced then #SeanInTheShed a business talk show wouldn’t exist. It’s one of the small ways we can turn this crisis into small positive actions.

I talked with Antony Cockle

We go live at 4:30 pm every day of the working week. We start off by talking about the interviewee and how they started their career, then about their business followed by how they are coping with the coronavirus crisis and any advice they would give.

Having published my own book “Flexible” about five years ago I was able to get Beta access to LinkedIn live. I either had to use it or lose it and so I decided to get started.

I talk with Simon Palmer

#SeanInTheShed has made me become a better listener. I’m also learning a lot along the way and making some fantastic business connections which might be mutually beneficial in the future. It’s also good to reconnect with people I’ve known over the years.

#SeanInTheShed broadcasts on a daily basis on LinkedIn LIVE.

Visit my page on LinkedIn to see the archive of #SeanInTheShed footage

The massive problem that needs to be solved is scheduling!

The most successful people schedule their time. However, some items in schedules can get in the way of important tasks. For some people reducing the number of meetings and emails helps to declutter schedules. Whether you are strictly on billable time or not we all want to be productive and add value. Unnecessary meetings and replying to communications that shouldn’t have been emails get in the way.

Rather than broadcasting our message at the point of conception we often wait to schedule a meeting. This means we wait for a conversation to happen and the moment has passed. If we do communicate thoughts immediately via email authenticity and meaning is lost.

Already we see people using video conferencing as a new way to communicate more effectively and reducing travel. Video combats global warning and reducing our carbon footprint can only be a good thing. Of course you’ve still got to schedule these video conference calls. 

Conference calls quite often are recorded and sometimes without knowledge of the participants. In a webinar situation recording is accepted but often run of the mill meetings are recorded. Greater transparency about recording is needed. The benefits of recording is a searchable archive similar to email. This helps us to recall and remember prior conversations. Lots of households have Alexa and Google home devices are listening in and whilst there are privacy concerns most people have come to accept these devices.

Now when you are in a video conference call sometimes they’re cancelled because people forget to turn up and other times people are late and had you waiting around for at least five minutes until people join. All of this is wasteful of time. Another point is that video conference calls tend to last half an hour or sometimes an hour. This doesn’t mean that the conversation isn’t important and that you shouldn’t have one hour video conferences! There will be times when a half an hour video call can be replaced with something more efficient of time. We all know as a meeting becomes longer attentions wain. 

Combining asynchronous communication with video allows for a more personable communication that doesn’t need to be scheduled. Whilst these videos are not live the recipient gets to choose when they play the video. Undoubtedly some users will play the videos shortly after every recording and others will wait a few hours. This allows a greater flexibility around schedules.

For businesses there are a multitude of videos you could post. It could be an appraisal video with evidence to your manager on what you’re learning what you’re achieving. This sort of video diary will be able to be played back by not only your manager but you yourself.

You might be a coach or mentor developing a member of staff. If your staff are remote it can be a challenge after a face-to-face meeting to keep in contact. Again asynchronous video can help keep relationships and conversations going.

You might have just won some new business and want to personally thank a customer for the contract award. Why not send a video? Not only can you thank customers but video can be a fabulous way to praise staff for going the extra mile whether that is in a private direct message or on a company wide timeline.

When you look at the most popular Internet platforms at the moment video is a common ingredient. For entertainment there is prime and Netflix. Kids prefer YouTube and TikTok. Lots of young people use Instagram stories and we are all sharing videos on WhatsApp.

Video isn’t going away. Transcribed videos with ability to quickly recall key information makes the corporate intranet much more appealing. When it comes to knowledge transfer be it handovers or for new starters video screen casts showing and telling how software is used increases time to competency.

The world of business is heading towards self service. If you’re travelling abroad you check in online yourself, in the supermarket there is now self checkout. When it comes to business communications there will always be face-to-face communications for building relationships. Video messages are there to supplement communications for “between times” to improve your productivity (avoiding a meeting) and to increase richness of communication (videos beat email for authenticity). With more people working from home and people being conscious of their carbon footprint video might just be the answer. Less scheduling, less travel, greater productivity without compromising relationships.

You can learn more about video and artificial intelligence at the below link: