LeWeb London: two days of style, ego and elitism

LeWeb London

Last week I attended LeWeb London, the technology and start-up event from Loic and Geraldine Le Meur. Although LeWeb traditionally takes place in Paris in December, this year LeWeb came to London (in part at the bequest of the UK Government).

I was looking forward to attending LeWeb London, not only because I wanted to see the speakers and panel discussions, but to also meet some of the business leaders and experts taking part in the conference.

What I liked about LeWeb London

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Venue and location

The venue and location for LeWeb London was pretty impression. The conference took place at the Central Hall in Westminster so it was great to go to an event in the heart of London, rather than further out away (e.g. Earls Court on the west side of the city).

The venue added a genuine element of character and charm to the proceedings and the juxtaposition of the traditional building with LeWeb’s signature colours and lights worked really well and added to the overall sense of style.

Production values

The production was taken very seriously and LeWeb was certainly produced to a very high standard. Looking back at the YouTube videos the quality really shines through and it’s certainly the most well-drilled/ choreographed event I’ve been to.

Special guests

What I didn’t expect was the impact of the special guests LeWeb had organised. I really enjoyed the music and dance from Lindsey Stirling as well as the comedy from Baratunde Thurston.

Lindsey Stirling added a real touch of class and style to the event and was a brilliant tonic to the technology and business spirit. I thought her music and performances were fantastic and because of LeWeb she has a new fan!

Although I only caught the second half of Baratunde’s presentation (I’ll catch the rest of it on YouTube), what I did see of it made me laugh… and think.

The social business track at LeWeb London

What I didn’t like about LeWeb London

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Limited networking with experts

What I found most disappointing about LeWeb London was the fact that I wasn’t able to (more easily) meet the speakers, business leaders and experts who participated in the keynotes and panel discussions. I found this particularly disappointing because I had paid nearly £2,000 (over $3,000) to not only to watch the sessions and speak to fellow participants but to meet some of the high-profile speakers, too.

I could have saved a lot of money watching the event for FREE on YouTube in the comfort of my own home/ office if I’d had gone just for the sessions. But I hadn’t. I’d gone for the the opportunity to meet some of the people I’ve been reading about and following for a number of years.

It’s a real shame that so many of the experts and thought-leaders were so out of reach. The stage, entrance and ‘green room’ acted as a barrier. As much as I admire many of the speakers who attended LeWeb London, I do not regard them as celebrities and was therefore baffled as to why they were treated as such.

When I spoke personally with one of the main organisers of LeWeb about meeting some of the speakers, the message I got was that these guys are busy, have flown in from all over the world and that they can’t speak to everyone. I’m afraid this excuse really isn’t good enough. I travelled in to London specifically for LeWeb so I would have thought I’d have deserved the chance to meet more of the people I wanted to see.

Aggressive security staff

The security personnel at LeWeb was a real negative point. They were unfriendly, sullen and intimidating – is this really necessary for a technology/ web event? LeWeb is a technology conference, not an LA nightclub.

The interaction between attendees and staff at an event is an important touchpoint and unfortunately the security personnel personnel fell well below par. I was disappointed with the aggressive undercurrent that seemed to present throughout the two days and for me affected my overall customer experience of LeWeb.

Summary

Whilst many of the sessions were very interesting and thought-provoking, my overall feeling at the end of the event was one of disappointment and the main reason for this was due to the lack of access to some of the key speakers and experts.

If I had one word to sum up LeWeb? Elitist. I can assure you that I do not have an inferiority complex. It’s just that I felt there was a clear divide between the ‘experts’ and ‘everyone else’ and at times I felt I was on the outside watching a select group of people from the LeWeb clique.

It might be fair to say that I simply attended the wrong type of event for what I’m interested in. I’m quite sure that the majority of other attendees, be they budding start-up entrepreneurs or technology enthusiasts, got a lot from the event and I hope that they did.

Nevertheless, I thought it LeWeb would have been far more interactive and participatory and the lesson I’ll take away is to be even more selective the next time I choose to attend an event.