There’s a reason why we send out an attendee survey after every conference. Your feedback helps us improve, and I say this with the utmost sincerity.
There’s a million and one ideas that we’ve come up with to make Social Media Week better, but the reality is we only can execute on a limited number of things.
In the past attendee survey or two, for the “How can we improve the mobile app” question, we saw a trend emerging:
- + “build a feature that allows attendees can connect”
- + “create a way to chat with people who attended the events I attended”
- + “collaborate with people from other cities”
- + or simply… “Networking!”
Ah yes, “Networking”… The cornerstone of the conference experience. Well, there are many different technologies popping up that claim to do this very well. Some are better than others. Since Social Media Week is not your ordinary conference, building the right networking solution for our attendees would not come easy. But no matter what, we were going to make this happen.
We teamed up with Nokia to figure out how to best achieve a memorable and valuable networking experience.
While it wasn’t easy to find the right technology and right partner to help us build a networking experience, we forged on. Soon enough, our global search led us 10 blocks from our NYC headquarters, to a technology startup named Topi.
With similar goals in mind, we divulged a plan with the Topi team, and earlier this month, we’re happy to say that Social Media Week and Nokia launched the SMW Networking App. Built on its platform and utilizing its mobile networking technologies, Topi brought to life our ambitious dream of integrating an elegant networking experience in the Social Media Week Official Networking App.
Our global community is deep into the hundreds of thousands, and now there’s a place where like-minded individuals can connect and collaborate. For us, this is vital to bring the community together and further our mission of connecting humanity and technology to progress.
For those of you are familiar with Topi and have downloaded their app, you’re already aware of their innovative platform.
Earlier this week, we were able to sit down with the founder and visionary behind Topi, David Aubespin, to learn more about what’s next in the mobile networking space.
- Hi David, what first inspired you to explore building a technology to connect conference goers?
I noticed when attending conferences that I always ended up meeting the people that I already knew. Since the value of a conference is in the networking, as well as its content, I thought trying to help people connect with each other at conferences would enhance the value of the event for everyone.
- What makes a conference successful, and how does Topi play a role in that?
The word “conference” comes from Latin “conferre,” meaning “to bring together.” A successful conference does just that: it helps people meet, exchange ideas, and expand on them. That is not an easy task when you have more than 100 attendees — and this is where Topi can help. Among many other things, Topi finds hidden connections among the attendees, and accordingly suggests group conversations around those shared experiences, people and interests. We’re excited about Social Media Week’s focus on connecting attendees.
- Any thoughts on ways to ensure that technological tools enhance personal interaction without overshadowing it?
Google’s goal is to help users spend as little time as possible on its search engine by returning relevant results quickly. Technology should always get out of the way as soon as the job is done. In Topi, for example, we try to “nudge” people into communicating and meeting with each other without clutter.
- What sets Topi apart when compared to other technologies?
While all event apps started with the sole goal of replacing conference books and digitalizing information, we started with engaging and connecting attendees, which naturally led to a very different feature set and user experience. We tried to extract the best features from apps people already use daily, and added networking functionalities at the core of Topi.
- Are other spaces, outside of large conferences, that you could see this technology applying in a meaningful way?
Thanks to our unique geo-fencing technology, Topi can be used for a wide variety of gatherings. We have seen groups use it at a BBQs, birthday parties, or weddings. This is something we’ll be exploring in 2014. Topi is being used, for example, by a not-for-profit organization to connect children’s hospitals across the United States and help kids recover emotionally by socializing with each other.
- Outside of Topi, what are some of the more innovative apps or features that you’ve come across recently in the mobile space?
“Ephemeral apps,” such as SnapChat, were interesting as they drastically changed the way people treated content. I’m also very excited about the work Vapor Communications is doing. Being able to smell a beef Bourguignon from a photo a friend just sent me will strongly influence how people share data.
- What’s next for Topi?
We have a lot of projects and cool new features in the pipeline. We will continue to bring new technologies to the event industry in innovative ways. We will also continue to hire the best talent and work with organizers who want to collaborate on crazy projects!