How To Manage A Blockchain Event
Last weeks' Underscore VC Blockchain Core Summit epitomized what I consider to be a perfect way to bring together smart people, feed them, water them, and keep them from getting bored.
And for the price of free, it's a whole lot more than I can say for some other glitzy conferences.
Obviously, every conference -- no matter the industry -- has two core attendees: the speakers and the audience. The speakers are there to lecture and the rest of us are there to listen and take good notes. As the interest in crypto and blockchain has erupted, so have the number of events being held around the world. Many of these events will price all but the most OG hodlers out of attending, with many selling tickets for as much as $3,000 a pop. Because of this massive expenditure of money and time, friends often ask me about the cost-benefit of attending the popular conferences.
My answer is virtually always the same: take a cursory glance at the speakers, but focus on the attendees. Those are the folks you'll be sitting next to, eating with and speaking to for 90% of your time at the event. Make sure the audience is worth meeting.
Which is why the Underscore Blockchain Summit really blew me away. By carefully selecting the core attendees and by running a pre-event survey, Underscore was able to really create a unique experience.
[Note: I encourage you to take the survey. It's a good thought starter and I'll bet Underscore will share some results.]
Instead of staying focused for a series of 20 minute lectures, the audience was invited to listen to "lightning" talks from the experts. And when I say lightning, I mean lightning -- I've rarely heard people speak this quickly and eloquently at the same time. In a 15 minute span, the audience learned the most recent thinking about Interledger, non-custodial trading, scalability, the state of mining and institutional crypto-asset trading.
With so many from the audience getting up to speak, it felt like the event was being led by the attendees, and completely flipped the old conference model on its head.
Without missing a beat, we were then herded into groups of 10-15 on specific topics of (mostly) our choosing. I spent my time in the Future of Custody roundtable, a fascinating discussion around the major issues of custody and crypto assets. In addition to deciding that cold storage hardware, wrapped in bubble wrap is basically the state of the industry, we also discussed the likelihood of major custodial banks (State Street, BBH) waiting to get into the game until the regulatory hurdles are solved. But, all agreed, once this happened, institutions would bring in capital at a pace not yet seen even during the greenest days.
Hats off to Cory Bolotsky from Underscore, who I heard was the architect of what happened next:
I asked Richard Dulude, co-founder of Underscore, what led to this more unique event style. His response: “We build community at our core, so the Blockchain Core Summit was meant to be an “unconference” of sorts — bringing the top thinkers in the space together for peer led conversations as entrepreneurs and practitioners.”
In my view, this is the methodology blockchain events need to pivot into: drop the ridiculous prices, focus on engaging the audience, invite new perspectives and break the ice.