Google Festivalizes its Annual Developer Conference
Since 2007, Google’s annual and typically sold-out Google I/O conference has treated developers, product partners, educators, students, entrepreneurs and technologists from around the globe to a “show, don’t tell” experience with the brand’s latest products and platform. But every good event marketer knows that at some point it pays to flip the script. For its 2016 Google I/O event, Google moved the conference from San Francisco’s Moscone Center to the 10-acre Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA, near the Google campus (where the first Developer Day took place) for a Burning Man-style event. Combined with the worldwide virtual audiences it was the largest I/O yet.
The three-day event featured 380 speakers, more than 190 sessions, 18 Google product teams in the “developer sandbox,” 85-plus hands-on Code Labs, “behind-the-scenes” access, two evenings of hit musical performances including Charli XCX and Kygo, and festival-inspired structures. Phew.
One of Google’s goals for I/O was to “keep attendees looking up, around and out in wonder.” And that they did. Forty-foot custom façades covered breakout structures for up to 1,500 people, geodesic domes acted as dynamic projection surfaces and stacked shipping containers soared 36 feet in height. The Sandbox, the outdoor product showcase, was housed in outdoor tent structures, while pop-up activations were placed around breakout sessions for a “choose your own adventure” experience.
Conference builds consisted of natural plywood, woven fabrics, unique shade structures and custom street murals. Colored smoke and bubbles, food and beer trucks, stilt walkers, karaoke Pedi cabs, art cars, light shows and impromptu dance parties completed the transformation from “conference” to “festival,” an atmosphere that modern b-to-b attendees crave.
For the first time since the conception of I/O, the keynote was presented outside in an amphitheater setting using hypersensitive outdoor LED screens and a high-definition audio system that reportedly “rocked” the neighborhood. The main stage also hosted extra-large breakout sessions throughout the conference and provided a powerful, energetic setting for the evening talent on day one. By producing the keynote at Shoreline, attendance grew by 25 percent, topping off at nearly 7,500 attendees.
The larger and open atmosphere meant more attendees and more experts and Google engineers who were able to answer questions and teach developers in 1:1 settings. The result: free flowing conversations and intimate connections to Google products. On top of the masses on-site, more than 625 I/O Extended Events were hosted in 90-plus countries, garnering 22 million minutes of watch time via I/O Live. Not only was it the largest I/O, it was named the biggest developer festival of 2016.