I really enjoyed spending an hour at D Conference listening to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. I mean really. Bill Gates was charming and completely unstressed, he seemed just totally happy. I really liked the personality of Steve Ballmer, very impressive charisma. Now if I had to write about this hour with them at D, and I do not have to but I still do it for fun, I would really not know what to write about. There was no news except that they call Vista a success when everybody in the corridors were talking about its failure, that is ok, it’s corporate. The tiny Windows 7 demo they gave was just embedding some multitouch interface (and was not working very well) that I saw two years ago at TED and was not better than what you get in todays iphones. I was expecting a bit more than that, but still again, I spent a great time listening to them. You can find all the quotes I got on my twitter, here is my favorite one:
Kara Swisher asks “do you consider yourself a business man”. Bill Gates answers “revenue minus cost equals profit, yes I am a businessman”. Clean, short, nice.
The meat of the evening wasn’t really there, as in most conferences, it was in the corridors and in the networking. 400 to 500 very influential people “everybody is here” as I heard many times from the mainstream media to Michael Arrington and from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg. Indeed. I had a great conversation with Mark about shoes. Yes, shoes. Mark traded his famous adidas sandals for very standard marron shoes (sorry no picture) and it looks like even Steve Ballmer told him about them. I think that Mark is damaging his personal branding by not wearing the famous sandals anymore. Joke apart, we had great conversations, I really like Mark.
Now the 3 minutes networking. I met about 50 people with an average of 1 to 3 minutes each, which occupied me for a few hours around cocktails (the Intel ice bar was cool) and great food. That is the number one reason why we were all there, just talk to each other and I have to congratulate Kara and the WSJ team for putting together such a network in the same room. You know that “I am spending time with that guy but in fact I should not” feeling? None of that here, only cool, influential and/or super powerful people. Don’t try to catch them more than 1 to 3 minutes though, they are all here for the same objective as you. “Let’s catch up” meaning the fastest and most efficient networking possible. That requires you to be able to sum up in that short time:
-what you think about Gates and Ballmer tonight (20 seconds)
-how are you doing (yourself) (20 seconds)
-how is the person you are talking to doing (20 seconds)
-what are the 3 key points of your business activity (20 seconds)
-the same 3 points from the person you are talking to (20 seconds)
-stop here if there is nothing to do together and exchange business card (not even if it is not worth it)
-get an extra minute or two to explore the opportunity and promise you will contact again “to catch up” soon
It may be very frustrating at times being european because we tend to see much less people but spend much more time with them, but that “fishing fast” conference pace is really efficient, let’s admit it. I am learning it and now I do not even try to spend more than 1 to 3 minutes with anybody as I would go against the culture. I just let go and adapt. I am very happy, I am coming back with tons of great contacts from my business, some real friends I caught up with, and lots of fun. Gates and Ballmer were just an excuse (and a challenge for the conference organizers to have them both on stage)
Fortunately, my silicon valley and LA friends were here too. There are a few people I spent more than 3 minutes with and one of them is Gabe Rivera, creator of TechMeme. We talked about news and how news is important to drive the stories at the headlines of Techmeme. I was telling him that most of the times I thought the articles on TechMeme that were not specifically “news” were often the most interesting. Look at Techmeme tonight, the headlines are “live from D” covering Windows 7 well I am not sure there is so much news to talk about from Microsoft, but I had lots of fun.
Thank you Kara for inviting Geraldine and myself, D conference #1 for me starts in a fantastic way.