How This Conference Created High-Tech and High-Touch Networking Solutions

While the program at the ASU GSV Summit is packed with content, organizers know one-to-one engagement is the main draw for attendees.

By Mitra Sorrells July 25, 2017, 7:16 AM EDT

For the main stage, pieces of vinyl-wrapped foam hung from the ceiling and were mounted to the flat vinyl backdrop to give it a three-dimensional effect.

Photo: Courtesy of AgencyEA

ASU GSV Summit
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A desire to connect with existing professional connections—and to make new ones—are often the primary reasons people attend conferences and meetings. Savvy planners know this, and seek out new and better ways to facilitate that networking at their events.

At the ASU GSV Summit—an education and talent technology conference hosted by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley—the way to facilitate such mingling was a mix of on-site and in-app experiences for the 3,500 entrepreneurs, investors, policy-makers, and educators who attended the event May 8 to 10 in Salt Lake City at the Grand America and Little America hotels.

Building on the popularity of selfie-style video content that is commonly shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, organizers created a new experience for the event’s mobile app. Through pre-event email communication, registration materials, and signage on site, planners invited attendees to record a 90-second video of themselves.

“It’s a way of introducing people to who they might meet, sort of as an ice-breaker, and also to give a chance for people to pitch their ideas, who they are, and what their vision is, and do it in a new way,” said Kerry Rodeghero, C.O.O. of GSV. To make the process easy for attendees, the app platform prompted them with three questions—what’s my passion, what innovation do I have, how will it disrupt the sector—and counted down 30 seconds to answer each one. “This gave it a sense of uniformity and kept it moving,” he said.

In addition to being viewable in the app, the videos played on large screens in the Town Square, the conference’s central gathering space that was also an integral component of the event’s networking strategy. Located in an enclosed courtyard in the middle of the meeting rooms, the space included a variety of seating options, three social media walls, and two large LED screens that displayed all of the general sessions.

“[The goal was that] attendees didn’t have to feel stuck in a conference room all day. If they wanted to get outside and meet with people or shoot off emails, they could still watch the general sessions as they sat outside in this beautiful space,” said Kerry Roach, senior account executive at AgencyEA, which has designed and managed the conference for six years. “It was extremely full at all times.”

In addition to the general session presentations from speakers such as Andre Agassi, Betsy Devos, and W. Kamau Bell, the program included dozens of panels and breakout sessions, Shark Tank-style presentations by start-ups to potential investors, and Tomorrowland—a small exhibit area where attendees could test new technologies.

About 10 percent of the 3,500 attendees were from outside the United States, with representation from nearly 40 countries.

Correction: The original version of this story listed the incorrect date for the 2017 summit. 

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