I was reminded of this concept last Tuesday during the second edition of Uncubed NYC — an annual tech startup event held Nov. 13 at the Altman Building in Manhattan. It was a one-track conference and all sessions were held in the same room, and the “Uncubed” theme was everywhere. Large cardboard cubes hung from the ceilings that were later used as tables for the cocktail reception. The main stage was flanked by cardboard boxes, each with a different image projected on to it (courtesy of event production company Splash) — including talking red lips, cartoons, and sponsors’ logos (an interesting, non-overwhelming way to incorporate sponsors).
There were large wooden structures throughout the room that could be used as tables for laptops, drinks, briefcases, and could be easily moved, just as the chairs surrounding the stage could be easily rearranged as well. There was no separation between socializing and panel discussions. Attendees could walk over to the wine bar to the left of the stage and sample something from Lot18, a new online sommelier and wine store; watch artists at work in the Outlook-sponsored art studio; or try out the interactive photo booth provided by The Bosco — all while remaining tuned into the panel discussions and presentations taking place on stage.
The only downside to this open-air layout was noise. It was often difficult to hear the speakers because so many other things were going on. As the night progressed, and more and more people began to relax, this grew to be a bigger problem. But all in all, the layout was inviting and resulted in a creative, comfortable atmosphere.
One of the founders of Lot18, Tim Vidra, was already seeing the benefit of such a structure. He explained that while his company makes the online experience as interactive as possible, they want to attend live events because (as we all know) the best way to experience wine is by drinking it. By placing the wine bar next to the main action, they were seeing a lot more traffic, and engaging in a lot more conversations than they would have with another layout.
The intimate setup made it easy for attendees to experience the entire conference in a pressure-free environment. No running around, checking watches and room numbers. Attendees were free to network, observe, engage, explore, and discover on their own time.