Web 2.0 conference theme: The power of less

Meliza Solan Surdi · March 24, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/78d

Despite downturn, Web 2.0 conference organizer sees minimal drop in attendance

In this segment, Bambi Francisco interview Jen Pahlka, general manager of the Web 2.0 Expo. The expo is coming up and will be held on April 1-3 at Moscone West in San Francisco.

BF: Lets just start off with a general question about conferences, the appetite for conferences, we are living through tough times and budgets are tightening. So what are you seeing as you put this together. Has it been a tough time to draw a crowd to this conference?

JP: Right now we are seeing a pretty minimal downturn for this event. Looks like it will be a 20% downturn for this event and last year was a big boom year for us. I think the dynamics which is supporting that kind of attendance which is still pretty healthy are that there have been many events. The boom in social media and the boom in the Web 2.0 industry has meant that there has been a conference every week. This is an opportunity for people to get together and I think that's great for the growth of the industry overall. I've been on a nonstop conference schedule for the past couple of years. But when people have to really make choices.

They're looking for an event that has a broad footprint and Web 2.0 Expo really covers that entire industry. It's the developers. entrepreneurs, designers, VCs. It's the people making decisions on products as well as enterprises that are looking to moving to making Web 2.0 tools. There was an interest there but always a roadblock. Now when you have a budget, somehow the roadblocks seem to go away. There will be some companies that have been looking to make the move and now because of the economy, will be forced to. This means that this is a very good event for them. We are finding that people need to choose one or two events that they can go to and I am happy that people are choosing to go to Web 2.0 this year.

BF: That's great. So when you say you have a 20% decline, you mean in attendance. So what is your expectation of how many people will be attending and how many sponsors you will be getting.

JP: We are guessing about seven to eight thousand this year. I don't have a crystal ball so I remind people that I really don't know how many will be there. But I think it will be the right size and have the right people for this industry.

BF: How many people exhibiting?

JP: Last year we had about 150 companies exhibit and this year we may have about 130.

BF: So, 130 companies exhibiting and seven to eight thousand attending, and this is your best guess? What about in terms of paying. How much are they paying giving the economic downturn? Are you going to be lowering the prices for people?

JP: We've done a lot of specials and they've worked for us really well. We know that people cannot afford. For inauguration day we offered 44% off in honor of the 44th president. We haven't dropped prices for the exhibitors. We've tried to communicate the value of what we are offering. Our prices for attendees is still the same except for the fact that we've offered these specials to get people's attention.

BF: So you just can't rent a place at Moscone Center.There is a lot of work to it. You are an organizer so what are some themes that you are working on?

JP: Our main theme is called " The Power of Less." Ironically, when we brought Expo to New York, we landed on the day that the stock market crashed. But there was an enormous feeling o gratitude that we brought the event to New York. We wanted to meet the needs of the attendees so this theme is based on people having less of a budget for marketing and development. They are hiring fewer people or they have laid people off. Well that is traditionally seen as a really big negative. Well it can also be a really big positive change for people. It can force people to make changes that they've always wanted to make. If you're sophisticated in tracking your marketing effort you will see which half is wasted and which is useful. So we are also telling people to come and learn about the new set of analytics and the new ways of measuring marketing efforts. So if these are the changes that are going into your mind when you think of less, I believe this conference can help teach that message to people and create positive change in their industry. Another way that we want to see positive change is within business models. The companies that have been foundational to Web 2.0 are based on offering less whether it's less features, less clutter, but then providing more. Twitter is a great example. If you told someone what Twitter was they would have said that there was nothing there yet it was creative.I believe this is the year of creativity.

BF: Jack Dorsey would definitely endorse that. Constraints are a huge driver of his vision.

JP: We are all starting to live with constraints to find ways to make our lives better.

BF: Is there going to be a strong presence of startups there or investors? What's the makeup of the attendees?

JP: We've had a very traditional startup presence and I think that will happen again this year. There are some people who have left startups and won't be with us anymore but what will they do? Hopefully they will be looking at a new model. There is a real evolution in the Valley of what learning how models can be sustainable and a real vibrant discussion around what the new business models will be.And one thing we are looking at particularly is that startups who had an advertising business model, is there a way for the to tap into the enthusiasm of the public factor right now around the change of our government and work with our government and build business models around that?

BF: You'll have workshops and discussions about that, right?

JP: Yes, we are adding a track called Government 2.0 which is something that we are enthusiastic about and we want entrepreneurs to look at government business models.It's been difficult to work with the government. Now that is changing.

BF: So you're going to offer direction and guidance about how you would do that?

JP: Yes.

BF: Ok, Jen Pahlka thank you so much. We will direct people to go to the Web 2.0 Expo website which is

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