I just finished my 3rd consecutive Facebook F8 developers conference. While I missed the first one (I followed it remotely though), the Facebook conferences I have attended thus far just get better year to year. This year was no exception. I noticed something this year though, reflecting on years past and other, non-Facebook conferences I’ve attended in the past. There’s one thing Facebook (and a lot of that credit, according to many Facebook employees I talk to, is due to Mark Zuckerberg himself) really, really understands is relationships. That understanding bleeds into everything they do, and that includes their conferences.
Looking at other, non-Facebook conferences I’ve attended, they try to get attendees excited by giving them freebies – a free laptop, a free tablet, or even a free phone or similar device. Attendees flock there out of hopes they’ll get to learn the latest things about the products they’re passionate about, but many also have in the back of their minds that, on their company’s money, they’re going to get something free out of the experience.
While the people attending may be focusing on meeting new people and getting to know their industry, the conferences themselves weren’t really designed around building relationships or networking. There are often closed room session, with single speakers in a very intimate setting designed around learning. The focus of most conferences is just that – learning. At Facebook’s F8 it’s different though – the entire experience is designed around networking. They’re designed around relationships.
From the sessions, all in open rooms that you can walk through from room to room, to the main floor, which stands centered amongst all the sessions so people can easily pass by other developers and Facebook engineers, everything is designed so you have to pass by other people in order to participate. Booths are set up around the conference where you can swipe a card that is tied to your Facebook account, and on Facebook it checks you in, or uploads a photo of you, and other things, showing you the other of your Facebook friends that are also there with you. Even the DJ booth is programmed so that when you swipe that card the songs are played by your Facebook likes and friends’ Facebook likes, making even the music experience a more social experience.
It’s not uncommon to see even Mark Zuckerberg roaming the halls, talking to anyone he has time for, and most of the executive team also make themselves available. In past years Mark has even brought his family to the events with him – yes, it’s a family event too!
My entire experience ended with a party, usually with a well known artist of some sort, but right in the main hall where everyone can participate (last night was an exception for me, as I was invited to another party, but Facebook’s still went on without me!). Delicious food is served by the wonderful chefs at Facebook, and participants are encouraged to celebrate with each other, and the entire Facebook staff and their families all come to join in on the fun with the participants. It is the epitome of a social event!
Having worked with the Facebook team over the years and having the privilege of intimate knowledge of how they work, there is one thing you quickly realize – Facebook gets relationships in a way no one else can understand. It’s a different culture and way of thinking than I’ve ever experienced. The best way to learn of this is by attending their annual F8 conference, where the same culture extends to the developers participating. If you haven’t been able to attend previously, maybe you can attend in the future. If not, at least be sure to check out the recordings of all the keynotes and sessions from yesterday’s conference and at least you can catch a glimpse. It truly is a unique experience I haven’t experienced anywhere else!
Disclosure: Facebook comp’d me a press pass for this since I’m an author of Facebook developer books and blog about Facebook. I’d say the same thing if I paid for the conference though. It would be worth every penny.