Key factors to a successful web conference

Last week I attended the “Future of Web Design” conference in Kensington, London. The event was a one day dream conference for anyone that loves web design and is passionate about the internet. It was packed full of bright, diverse designers, marketers and business mavericks. The purpose of this post is not to attempt to summarise the brilliant talks I heard, but rather to explain why I think the conference was a great success.

A good looking, usable website

The “Future of Web Design”, as the title of the conference says, was all about the future of web design and internet startups, hence the website actually marketing the event had to portray that very professionally. The website was web standards compliant, allowed for easy online purchasing of tickets, had pretty little badges that bloggers wanted to show off on their blogs, and brilliant content that gave an exact indication of who was speaking and about what. After you were registered for the event you had access to “The Lounge”, a backend website that allowed you to update your profile with exactly who you were and what work you did. You could view all the attending designers, business owners and marketers and their personal details and arrange to meet up with them at the event at a click of a button, a great social networking feature.

Once the conference was sold out you could still arrange to buy the CD that was going to be made of the event, with all the podcasts, slideshows and videos of the speakers. You wouldn’t miss a thing.

Great Location

The “Future of Web Design” conference was held in the Kensington Conference Centre. It was big and modern, in central London so easily accessible, equipped with comfy chairs, a massive projector screen, and lots of toilets.

Future of Web Design Conference Centre

Big Sponsors

The key to a successful conference is a lot of money behind it from big sponsors who the attendees know really well, and who’s products/services they use daily. The “Future of Web Design” was sponsored by Adobe, Microsoft, Dropsend, Amigo, as well as media coverage from Vitamin and Favourite Website Awards. Their was a “chill out zone” sponsored by Microsoft, which had free wireless internet, XBOX 360s, cool drinks, and big plasma screens streaming the talks that were happening in the auditorium.

Microsoft Wifi Zone

Wireless Internet

As mentioned above, and mentioned on the website before the event, the chill out zone had free wireless internet. When we arrived at the event we found out the whole place had been hooked up with fast, free, wireless internet. This was vital in getting attendees blogging and flickring the event, and helping the poor buggers who were working to deadlines or had emails to send. Probably the easiest way to satisfy geeks!


The Future of Web Design conference was presented beautifully. Everything was branded with either the event logo or the sponsor’s logos, but tastefully so. From the lanyards, to the plastic bags, the water bottles to the name tags, the speaker’s table, even the walls with a spotlight projecting the logo onto it. Everything was thought about, microphone stands were in the audience area for the Q and A sessions, A DJ performed sets during the intervals, and a 3D video loop of the logo and the sponsor’s logo was blasted onto the projector screens. At the AFTER after party (which I couldn’t attend) the nightclub lighting was even coordinated with the pink colour in the logo. Of course this was all arranged by web designers, so attention to detail could be seen everywhere.

Future of Web Design After Party

Famous Guest Speakers

This is obviously vitally important in attracting a crowd, and probably one of the most time consuming things to arrange, but this conference pulled out all the strings. Guest speakers from within the industry included Ryan Singer from 37Signals, George Oates from Flickr, Andy Clarke from Stuff and Nonsense, Leo Burnett from WordPress, Jason Arbour from PixelSurgeon, Rei Inamoto from AKQA and many, many more. If you are not turned on now then shame on you, go and look at these guy’s websites and see some of their clients and you will be amazed. There was so much to learn from these individuals, unfortunately in such a short time frame.

Software Demos, Competitions and Product Sales

Outside the auditorium was a chance to view some of the latest software products from Adobe and Microsoft, including the new Photoshop and the much hyped Microsoft Expression Suite (Definitely check this out, especially Silverlight!”). There was also a chance to sign up with Vitamin as a guest writer, enter competitions to win free software, buy design and web 2.0 textbooks at discounted rates, and even get a character sketch sponsored by Microsoft (which I was convinced into doing).


I cannot fault the staff behind the conference at all, their schedule ran to the minute, it was well presented, well attended, well marketed and affordable.

Here is hoping that the guys behind Tech4Africa learn some lessons from these sort of conferences, and bring the high quality of information and presentation to South Africa. What is important is that the big African sponsors get excited about these sort of events, like they do in Europe and the States, and see the potential profitability from impressing their users.

4 responses

  1. I went to the Future of Web Apps conference that these guys put on last year in the US. I have to agree with you, they really do know how to put on a good one – and not for some exorbitant price. In fact, it’s one of the few conferences that I really enjoyed all aspects of. Well, besides the Wifi… that left something to be desired.

  2. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the wonderful write-up! So glad you enjoyed the event 🙂

    Ryan and the Team

  3. Thanks for this Mark. Great to get some insight into the event. Of course, now I’m just more irked that I couldn’t go. Hopefully I can make the next one (before they sell out of tickets).

  4. Ryan has been our inspiration, along with SxSW…. 😉

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