It's not easy building a professional community from the ground up, but Noelle O'Reilly has managed just that: her inaugural Dublin Tech Summit hosted over 10,000 attendees on February 15th and 16th, 2017.
Here's how O'Reilly has made it all happen:
1. Location, location, location
Where your network meets is crucial. If you're spending time in an area that's run down or hard to get to, you're going to find it almost impossible to get quality professionals interested in your events. O'Reilly credits the creation of a vibrant tech community in Dublin to the development of a dedicated area (Silicon Docks) that "has incorporated residential and social elements," creating a "hub for those working within the tech community" and allowing networking opportunities "in places like local bars." As a result, it's fairly easy to bump into a colleague on a night out at the pub -- a much more casual atmosphere than your usual networking event.
The success of Dublin's tech community comes down to the fact that everyone and everything -- companies, employees, residential buildings -- are in the same area, making even a trip to the grocery store a networking opportunity. While this is a feature that not many places have, the key is to keep things accessible for the majority of your potential participants.
"There's no need to taxi or train to or from work to socialize," adds O' Reilly. "It's truly an urban neighborhood for the tech community."
2. Lead by example
According to O'Reilly, one thing that leaders often forget to do when they're attempting to create an engaged community is to lead by example. "If you're trying to build a tech community, be that a community of staff or of customers," she says, "you need to live and breathe tech and everything that it stands for." Your dedication and expertise will inspire others to speak up and participate.
3. Find somewhere with the right culture
Dublin is a place that's been able to create a vibrant tech community in part because of its culture. "I think the main difference between Irish cities and other cities is that people genuinely do welcome people with open arms in terms of business, networking, and relationships," observes O' Reilly. "There's a more casual approach to business," she says, leading to business relationships becoming true friendships that cross over into the non-professional realm.
The success of Dublin's Silicon Docks is down to the open and friendly culture that permeates the city. Not every networking community needs to be based in Dublin (obviously), but it helps to be based in a location that is amenable to your needs. The benefit of networking in a place with a more casual approach to making connections is that it becomes less of a chore -- and more likely to lead to lasting relationships.
4. Develop cornerstone events
Events such as Dublin Tech Summit are critical in ensuring the development of any tech community. After all, they provide an opportunity for people to meet, build meaningful relationships, and reaffirm the vibrant community present in any city.
O'Reilly and her team invited speakers to come to the event from every corner of the globe, inviting investors and startups from 20 different countries, all with positive responses -- surely a strong indication of early success.
5. Keep it simple
O'Reilly says that her ultimate goal when creating the Dublin Tech Summit was "to provide as much value as possible for attendees. Success for DTS is creating a global technology conference that makes it simple to network, learn, and connect with others who share your interests, be that personal or professional interests." This meant making an event that was accessible for people from all backgrounds, even if they weren't technology experts.
"Simplicity is at the core of everything we try to do at DTS," says O'Reilly, "and so our aim for the conference was to create an event that reflects that." This desire for simplicity can be seen throughout the DTS app, schedule, and even the way in which the conference was marketed.
Ultimately, building a dedicated community from the ground up is hard work, but if you find the right location, lead by example, think about cultural fit, create impactful events, and don't overcomplicate things, you'll be well on your way to building a lasting professional community.