The 2023 Crypto Conference Calendar is Bigger and Bolder Than Ever
Cryptocurrency conferences have almost become their own industry in recent years, with dozens of annual international summits attracting the best and brightest minds in Web3. Hosted in glitzy locales like Barcelona, Paris, Dubai and Seoul, these regular colloquiums provide an opportunity to sound off, launch products, announce partnerships, and brainstorm with investors, thought leaders, builders and developers.
The exponential increase in meetups, be they IRL or virtual events, has provided a wealth of networking and publicity opportunities for crypto projects, and given users the chance to learn more about the people behind the protocols. But are the conferences geared up to retain the interest of their attendees over the coming years? What will the web3 events landscape look like in a depressed market, and are organizers leveraging technology to deliver real value for money?
A Banner Year for Blockchain Events
A cursory glance at the 2023 calendar shows that, despite a tough macro picture and challenging regulatory headwinds, interest in getting together to talk turkey about crypto hasn’t dimmed. The first half of 2023 was dominated by established conferences like the Blockchain Economy Summit in London in February and Bitcoin 2023 in Miami in May. The latter – the world’s largest Bitcoin gathering – commanded a general-admission ticket price of almost $1,000.
In the entertainment world, awards season only lasts a few months. Not all crypto conferences hand out gongs but many try to emulate the glitz and glamor of the Oscars with the red carpets, press junkets and swanky side events hosted in rooftop bars and beachfront nightclubs. Attending them all would be a full-time job.
IVS Crypto was one of the latest crypto conferences to attract startups, executives, evangelists and web3 builders. Held in Kyoto in late June, Japan’s flagship crypto convention was typical of the genre, packing dozens of events into a congested three-day schedule at the city’s vast International Exhibition Hall Mikayo Messe.
Big-name speakers at IVS included Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire, Ripple VP of Strategy & Operations Emi Yoshikawa and Yield Guild Games Co-Founder Gabby Dizon, and in keeping with its deal-making reputation, the organizers chose 14 entrepreneurs from a longlist of 250 to pitch their products to a panel of VCs. IVS claims to have facilitated the accumulation of over $2.2 billion for over 430 participating companies since its formation.
Like other blue riband events in the crypto calendar, IVS was a centerpiece fringed by numerous side events run by sponsors and supporters. One such bash, organized by gaming-optimized blockchain Oasys, was held in the famous Nijo Castle and provided an opportunity for game studios to showcase their upcoming releases. In addition to presentations, there was a special art installation, a DJ set and demos.
Things don’t exactly slow down in the second half of the year: at the time of writing, the largest annual European Ethereum event, EthCC, has gotten underway in Paris (July 17-20). The three-day Ethereum Community Conference, sponsored by blockchain infrastructure firm Anoma among 53 others, features over 350 speakers, an adjacent funding event for projects to pair with VCs (EthVC), and the inevitable afterparty at the buzzy Café Oz Rooftop.
With so many well-attended conferences happening each year, it’s natural that competition is intensifying with each passing year. ethCC will look to make a greater impact than Bitcoin 2023, just as August’s Blockchain Futurist Conference in Toronto will aim to eclipse ethCC before the Korea Blockchain Week arrives in September and then the European Blockchain Convention lands in October. They say money never sleeps. Nor, apparently, do crypto conference-goers.
With all conferences vying for the same high-profile attendees, and ticket prices reliably steep, it’s natural that organizers will look for ways to distinguish themselves from their competition. Side-events and after parties featuring world-class DJs. Unrivaled event spaces. Michelin-star catering. Oscar-worthy goodie bags for VIPs and gold-tier ticket holders. The works.
It’s also likely that conference organizers will utilize web3 technologies in this frenzied arms race. That could mean attendees receiving commemorative NFT airdrops, hosting immersive events using wearable technology, or even inviting people to participate in a geo-fencing adventure.
By leveraging an existing AR application like Rebase, for example, organizers could create an engaging experience for users to coincide with the usual conference experience. The app would allow for a sort of NFT scavenger hunt within the events space itself or the city in which it’s hosted. Indeed, such a prospect gives rise to the possibility of a local or city government partnering with a conference to promote its tourist market.
We have already seen this kind of thing in the wild; back in April, NFT.NYC staged its own geo-located NFT scavenger hunt in tandem with Lost Worlds. Users were compelled to unearth NFTs throughout the Big Apple, with the tokens granting access to prizes like token-gated merch and tickets for real-world events. Organizers should be credited with bringing a sense of adventure to the conference itself.
While 2023 isn’t done yet, there’s already a sense that 2024 will have to pull out all the stops to raise expectations once again. One way it could do that is by making the conference-going experience altogether more immersive and experiential. Turning a compelling conference into a can’t-miss one. We’ll see you at the champagne bar.