I’d lose sleep for you any day, CU Asia.
On February 14th, after 1 day, 3 hours, 46 minutes and 37 seconds of travel I finally lay down on my new bed in my new flat in Berlin. During the weeks prior I had accumulated over 3 days worth of travel time, bussing from Bristol to London, flying from London to Singapore and on again to Penang, Malaysia. I followed that up ten days later by repeating the trip back to London, bussing to Stansted, and onward to Berlin. Once upon this new bed, I slept for 14 hours and woke up a total of zero times.
Why on Earth would somebody, namely me, subject themselves to this level of torture?
There’s only one reason in the world, and that’s CU Asia.
The Best Conference on the Planet
By my experience and based on the stories from many others, CU Asia has consistently been the best coworking conference on the planet. This year’s edition, CU Asia 2018, did not fall short of its reputation.
There was a lot of laughter and plenty of heated debate. People were vulnerable in front of strangers and displayed boldness in the face of a rapidly changing industry. There was amazing food (as always), epic dance parties, and a host of new and old friends to share the good times with.
It’s All About the Content
One of the tough parts of working in media and marketing in this industry, is that it’s getting tougher to attend the actual sessions. I’m often too busy talking to specific people or doing interviews. This year was particularly difficult, especially considering I was giving a talk of my own on coworking technology and led a session on content marketing for coworking spaces, which I’ll write about separately. However, I was able to attend a few amazing sessions throughout the conference.
Ashley Proctor’s talk on community cultivation during the Coworking Academy was tantamount to being led, hand-in-hand, through the process of building a world-class community the right way, in under an hour. Taking the format of 10 lessons Ashley has learned about community building over more than a decade, the talk was filled with incredible insights. My favorite, by far, was that coworking communities take on the characteristics of the founders that host them. Ever wonder why your members walk into the space, don’t say hello, and just get into their work without socializing? It’s likely because you or your team are that way. Change yourself, change your community.
Another session I fell in love with was the Coworking Manager Burnout session during the unconference. We covered all the sources of burnout, from the feeling of “being all things to all people” to worrying about event attendance to educating the public on what this whole coworking thing even is. This session was not recorded due to the sensitive nature of the conversations. It was amazing to see founders and team members in the same room, airing their grievances. But it wasn’t just a complaining party. There were practical solutions discussed as well. If you’re interested in those, I suggest you get in touch with Lavinia Iosub, the magnificent session leader.
It’s All About the People
It’s conferences like these where I’m continually inspired by how quickly our little movement is growing and evolving. It’s not so little anymore. There are now likely more than 14,000 coworking spaces worldwide and over 1.2M members1. Real estate behemoths like British Land2 and CBRE3 have taken an increasingly positive interest in the movement over recent years. And we’re seeing the nichification of coworking spaces, or rather the dissemination of coworking ideology to industries we never dreamed it would reach4.
For some, all this growth leaves us to wonder, has coworking gone off the rails? Have we lost our way? Well, if you’re ever smart enough to attend CU Asia I believe you’ll come to understand that no matter how the industry grows and changes, there’s a core group of people who are committed to the values that coworking stands for.
I was lucky enough to host in-depth interviews with several of these coworking leaders, these standard bearers, while attending the conference. And what I can tell you is that come rain or shine, profit or poorhouse, the ethos of coworking will never die so long as these leaders, and the coworking generation coming up after them, get together, share stories and ideas, and support each other for no other reason than they love to do so.
It’s All About the Experience
Okay, you get it. I love CU Asia. I’ll get off the soap box for now. But before I go, as is customary when I write about coworking events, I’ll leave you with a few thousand words. That means pictures, folks. (To Mario and Brittnee, sorry. I couldn’t not post that one.)
See you next year!
1 Deskmag Global Coworking Survey First Results 2017, https://www.slideshare.net/carstenfoertsch/the-first-results-of-the-2017-global-coworking-survey.
2 “British Land launches Storey flexible workspace brand”, http://www.britishland.com/news-and-views/press-releases/2017/20-06-2017.
3 CBRE Shared Workspace Report, https://www.cbre.us/research-and-reports/United-States-of-America-Major-Report—Shared-Workplaces-Part-3-June-2016.
4 “As co-working grows up, niche spaces catering to small businesses take center stage”, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/small-business/2018/02/20/co-working-grows-up-niche-spaces-catering-small-businesses-take-center-stage/343147002/.