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Web Summit 2022: Casey Lau (Web Summit / Rise)

Presented by João Tomé, Casey Lau
Originally aired on 

Join João Tomé for Conversations at Web Summit 2022, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world — held November 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal.

In this interview, Casey Lau, the Web Summit/Rise events co-host, goes over on how events are using the Internet to make the offline experience better; where is the Internet going; the future of offline conferences after the pandemic.

Web Summit

Transcript (Beta)

My name is Casey Lau, I'm the co-host of Web Summit. And what does the co-host Web Summit do?

I basically do a lot of the emceeing here at the events for Web Summit and we do one in Toronto called Collision and one in Hong Kong called Rise, I do those.

I also help you know the speakers teams, I help the investor teams, I talk to startups, I do a lot of like community work for the company around the world.

And for those who don't know, Web Summit here in Lisbon is a big event already, 70,000 people, next year possibly 100,000.

What is Web Summit about in terms of the concept?

Yeah, I think Web Summit is, you could see it as like a tech conference, but I feel like it's a technology, cultural, political, art, sports kind of conference where it covers a lot of different things with speakers and people in companies that are helping to change the world.

And so you can come here and kind of see what the future might look like in a few years and I think that's what everybody's here and very excited about.

What is Web Summit about? Because a lot of people see Web Summit, it's a conference, but actually it's not, it's a data science company.

So we use a lot of technology to make this entire event work. We do it to structure the meetings for people who feel like they just naturally met each other, it's actually orchestrated digitally, right?

So that they can know that if you'll say you're in e-commerce, you're going to meet more e-commerce people.

If you're into fintech, you'll meet more fintech people. So the idea is to kind of see what people are interested in and kind of move them in those directions.

I think you can do that knowing what interests, what social connections each of the attendees has.

So it expands the experience of the usual offline serendipity type of thing?

Yeah, I don't think, when you go to a normal conference, you just go there and you hope for the best, right?

Because you have a badge on, which usually is really long, and nobody can actually read your name.

There's a lot of things missing, I think, that we do exceptionally well.

But it's like, when you go to conference, you just hope that you're in the right way.

You go for a fintech conference, then everybody's in fintech.

But as you know, fintech is just one track of many here.

And so we try to, but you never know who you might meet that is like adjacent to it.

And I think that is very important. And a lot of things that normal conferences don't understand or take advantage of those kind of synergies.

Where do I think the Internet industry is going?

I don't know. I think it's becoming more and more decentralized.

I'm a big proponent of Web3 and crypto and things like that, because I feel like a lot of people want to take back their ownership of their rights and their virtual selves, where it's not going to be like handed over to like a Facebook or even the Twitter.

I think these things are still going to be around, but I think their power and their dominance is going to start to where there's going to be more decentralized social medias and things that people use more often in the future.

That's where I think it's going. Maybe five, 10 years, but I think we're going that way because you see these things happening in AI these days.

I don't think that people are very excited about how powerful it's getting now.

You're going to want to be able to make it less and less powerful and see what might happen.

I have so many of them, because even though I am part of the company doing this, I still also have these moments of synchronicity here all the time, where it be somebody I haven't seen in many years or somebody who's connected to somebody that I didn't know they knew that was like somebody I'd want to meet.

It happens all the time here.

That's why I also like being part of the show. To me, it's a surprise all the time.

I guess, and it doesn't even matter how big it is. It's just like because Toronto and Hong Kong events are smaller than Web Summit, but it's also very exciting because I don't get a lot of exposure to Europe.

I just met you.

He's a different guy. I don't know if you go to Toronto or Hong Kong, but I'll meet you here.

I'll meet more people from Europe that have similar interests to me.

I think that is very exciting that you're able to do that by coming into this live event rather than doing it online.

I don't know if I just join a random Portuguese tech Zoom or something like that, but I would come here because I understand that Web Summit has a very good structure and how everything's done.

We know it's very international. I'll be able to meet people I know and then new people I don't know who are actually aligned with what I'm interested in.

Well, I do believe that, but I also believe it's still going to be mixed though.

I still think that because right now we're in a mental state where we feel like we've been strapped for so long that we got to get back to life, but after a while, we're going to be like, there's too much travel.

It's too expensive. People will pull back a bit and see how they can connect again with some sort of digital social media.

Also, the fact that you'll meet all these people here, but you're actually going to follow up with them virtually anyways.

I feel like these are big events and you make as many connections as you can and you go back and you'll probably still have a Zoom call with them anyways, no matter what.

That's still part of our lives and I think it's great that we've all accepted that we're able to do that and don't have to wait just to go to these live events, but we can use a live event as a base and then follow up digitally afterwards.

But it seems a good future for live events, right?

I think so. You can just see this. It's super popular.

There's something about being in the room. It's like movies. Everybody says, the movie industry is going to die, but I don't think so.

I think there's a special feeling when you sit in a room with a bunch of other people and you have an experience together, like a concert.

You can watch a concert on TV, right?

You don't need to, but it's something about being in the room with other people.

It's just how we are wired and that's why I feel like that will never go away and it's going to be part of our livelihood forever and the ones that do it very well will be more successful than the ones who don't, right?

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