Interview with William Nash, Content Manager, Zero-in Conference
We caught up with William Nash, Content & Experience Manager at UPRISE Festival Europe, a product-focused tech festival in the heart of Dublin, to talk about the maiden version of their new event, the Zero-in Conference. The conference, held in Amsterdam in April 2018, is centred around Personalisation Technology products and featured stages dedicated to FinTech and Marketing. William talked how to curate the right speakers, how FinTechs fare with marketing and dreaded coffee shortages.
You’re no stranger to successfully curating large-scale business events, how did Zero-in start and what is it about?
You’re right! We have our roots in the UPRISE Festival series, with the seventh instalment coming up in Dublin this October 17/18th. Zero-in, took place for the first time on April 19th 2018 in Amsterdam and was set up to be a tech conference with a focus on the long-term trend of personalisation in tech products and experiences. Our main aim was to provide a platform for connection between tech professionals, and feedback from attendees suggests that we largely succeeded in this regard.
So, you’ve decided you’re setting up a new conference, how do you settle on a topic that ensures your speakers cover a diverse range of topics?
It all starts with creating ‘tracks’ and ‘themes’, basically shorthand for key topics of interest. These tracks then lead us to stage and workshop title creation, then to targeting key speakers in these areas.
Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are great in this regard, plus of course a knowledgeable overview of the tech landscape, including; influential blogs and magazines for the wider view, daily news updates, movements in the ICO and crypto-spheres, plus much more. Once we are confident that our keys are interrogating an interesting area, we then reach out to the big movers in the area and continue from there!
Does the fast-moving nature of the industry make selecting tracks and themes difficult?
We create conversation tracks and topics often as far as 6 months out from an event, and so an element of forecasting and guesswork is involved. Predicting tech conversations is notoriously difficult, and can lay waste to the best plans. Therefore we have to be flexible with our schedule requirements for as long as possible, we have learned with experience in setting up UPRISE that is the speakers are experienced and knowledgeable then you have the best chance of a smooth and rewarding session.
You said it’s hard to predict tech conversations, In that case we have to congratulate you on hosting a conference with a focus on personalisation in the midst of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica uproar!
Thank you! this was one of the world’s leading news stories in the weeks in advance of Zero-in, and thus was a huge point of interest for many – especially when we also consider the impending GDPR introduction and broader conversations on data-handling. However, from our POV it was important to balance a variety of key ideas and themes across the worlds of Fintech and Marketing Tech and so the Cambridge/FB saga wasn’t allowed to dominate the day.
How do you attract smaller startups as tickets to trade shows can be very expensive and could create a barrier to entry?
We try our very best to help startups attend and showcase at our events, whether this be the Zero-in conference or UPRISE festivals. Our ticket price categories compare very well to larger conferences and trade shows and we also offer cut-price startup tickets, which often receives positive feedback. To make it win-win for everyone, we then must reserve some focus to attract the bigger players, as these bring pitching and investment opportunities that startups so badly need.
Do you feel that FinTech startups are good at marketing or is this something they neglect because they are so focused on their solutions?
That’s a difficult question to answer, it really depends on the startup in question. Sometimes you get companies that are magnificent in their approach to marketing, while others have a haphazard approach but a really strong product that compensates in the short term.
What these companies need is access to information in a straightforward format, and there are tools and resources out there to help them do so, especially in vibrant tech-infused cities like Amsterdam and Dublin.
Is there anything you would do differently next time?
Of course, there always is. Conferences involve so many moving parts, and so many different interpretations of the services we are trying to provide, it is impossible to keep everybody happy. The key is to get the basics right; to ensure food, wifi and the space are as accessible and comfortable as possible. On a more practical level, events always throw unexpected curveballs that you can’t plan for (often multiple at the same time), and we had to deal with speaker cancellations, coffee shortages and a multitude of other tiny issues.
Further, as this is our first Zero-in conference, the aim is to make it bigger and better next time, to expand and offer more to our partners and attendees. This may involve more stage content, more workshop sessions, more networking events or otherwise!
Find out more about the upcoming UPRISE Festival and Zero-in Conference: