Event production is stressful, chaotic and labor-intensive. It is also an act in designed collision. There is a lot of learning to be done in all of these ways.
This Friday will kickoff the fourth annual Philly Tech Week Presented by AT&T, far and away the largest collaborative effort in which I have ever taken part. To track what I’m learning in the process, I pulled five of the more than 130 events happening during the week from which I believe I’m learning the most.
Though we’ve grown a lot as an organization each year, I notice that adding our talented Events Manager Kate Leshko last fall has helped deeply all of these events I highlight move forward.
(Of those 130+ events during PTW, our team is directly and entirely handling 15 of the largest, nearly double that we had some or a fairly involved role and a fair portion more we at least helped shape the timing, speakers and goals.
- Large-scale outdoor festival: Arcade at the Oval featuring Cira Centre Tetris — In addition to the world’s largest video game, we wanted to build out programming that would make the full night a magnet for those playing and those who aren’t. So this year, working with the city on the large Eakins Oval public space near the Philadelphia Art Museum, we’ll have food trucks, a beer garden, live music, locally-produced video games to play and tons of other program. The weather will now be the biggest deciding factor for attendance and that can be just downright frightening. The challenges in doing such a large-scale event are endless.
- Highly curated, premium ticketed event: Future of Digital Marketing — In the events business, a $75 ticket isn’t much, but for our business, this is a big step for us and something we’ve long wanted to do, not just rely on event sponsorship but have a mixtured of highly programmed events that warrant a premium ticket price. We’re close to passing 100 sold tickets and the programming deserves it. That’s a good test for our business.
- Fully developed, neighborhood-based day of programming: Business Track Day — This year, we made a push to get curated days of themed content around each of our six tracks. We made real progress on this, but Business Day is clearly the most defined, largely based in the University City neighborhood. From 8am-10pm, there are events for those interested in or building an early-stage company in Philadelphia, including a bootcamp, a roundtable of outside-market investors, a #Failfest, a college startup demo night and an Entrepreneur Expo. That’s growing and maturing the week.
- Call to action for community action: Commit Pledge — Let’s get our community to give back, something nearly any definable group of people aims to do. In our case, editorially, we’ve always tried to mix in coverage of different corners of tech to expose those we cover to how broadly tech can be defined. With an event, we’ll kick off this initiative to have technologists pledge time and then receive a recommended organization to work with.
- Programming and funding a 1,000-person cocktail and exhibit event: Signature Event — The only event we’ve organized each of the four years has been a closing party that went beyond just cocktail affair to include local tech on display. That was always a natural outcome for what we wanted to do. It’s been a challenge to find larger and more relevant event space to hold this many people (from WHYY, to Moore College of Art to Urban Outfitters to, this year, the dazzling Comcast Center lobby). The stresses of partnerships, placement and coordination of that many people is no small feat, led by Leshko and my cofounder Brian Kirk.
The model of Tech Week is a taxing one, but I come out of each of them with a host of new lessons and a better understanding for large-scale event planning. I hope if you’re able, you’ll come to a handful of events during the week.