A good conference needs to engage in a kind of ecosystem thinking

How do you get a praise from Barack Obama? What is the effect of a beer bar – that's right, like in a pub – on your conference? Jürgen Ingels, organizer of the successful FTI Supernova conference, answers these fascinating questions.

Interview with Jürgen Ingels, organizer of the FTI Supernova conference

Jürgen Ingels is a man of many talents. He is active as an entrepreneur – mainly in the IT sector – and as a venture capitalist. In 2015, he was named "ICT Personality of the Year" by the specialized magazine Data News.

Recently, Jürgen organized the successful conference FTI Supernova. For ten days he put technology and innovation from Flanders on the world map. Barack Obama, among others, was on the guest list.

Empty spaces are rare in Jürgen Ingels' agenda. Yet the entrepreneur found the time to formulate a fascinating answer to our three questions.

In what way did FTI Supernova establish a milestone as a conference?

The milestone of FTI Supernova were the international speakers. We had a lot of international speakers that you don't see often in Flanders, like President Obama and astronaut Charlie Duke, who set foot on the moon as a pilot of Apollo 16.

We also gathered – for the first time – about 150 international investors from all over the world to Flanders, and brought them in contact with scale-ups and start-ups from the region.

We had a lot of pitches, start-ups, scale-ups, and breakout rooms where people could get a lot of experience and learn in small groups from entrepreneurs.

We had a lot of positive feedback about the organization, from both Obama and from the participants.

Why is Flanders such a great location for a conference about technology and innovation?

Flanders is a country that is known for its technology. We have very good engineers, a lot of good universities, a lot of entrepreneurs, and young people who start their technology company.

Of course, it is also a good region because we have great food and great drinks and great beer.

Flanders is centrally located, so our region is easily accessible. You can come by train from Paris, from London, from Amsterdam.

What is your golden advice for people who also want to organize a successful conference?

What made FTI Supernova very particular, is that we had a 40-meter-long bar centralized in the venue. People could gather around the bar and communicate with each other.

It's obvious that a good conference needs to be on content. But you also need to connect people. You need to engage in a kind of ecosystem thinking.

A bar centrally placed inside a congress venue – it was never done before. And the results were really great. People like it because it gives a kind of "in the pub" feeling. There you're much more open and you speak with your neighbours. We wanted to create the same feeling.

It really worked well because people started talking with each other. If you add to that some beers, some drinks, but also good food and some inspirational talks, then you really create that ecosystem thinking.

Jurgen Ingels

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