Community Before Events

Skift Take

Luke Bilton, co-founder of Life Science Networks, in a conversation about community, content, and connections.

Luke Bilton is the co-founder of the newly launched Life Science Networks, a community and events organization for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

Bilton started in publishing, working at Conde Nast and for publications like GQ, Glamour, and Vogue. He later moved to Future Publishing, where he focused on the digital side of the business. His foray into the events industry began when the organization he was working for, Chelsea Magazine Company, was acquired by Informa. From there, he discovered the world of business-to-business events in sectors such as security, health and safety, pharmaceuticals, and aviation.

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Customer-Focused Event Tech

Before launching Life Science Networks, Bilton was chief growth officer at ExpoPlatform, which recently announced a partnership with IMEX. His time at ExpoPlatform coincided with the Covid pandemic when he experienced firsthand the importance of staying in tune with customers. This intentional approach ensured that product development was in sync with the market shifts. With the event tech boom during the Covid pandemic and the downturn since remaining customer-focused helped keep ExpoPlatform on track. Unlike some competitors, the company did not secure large rounds of funding. Ultimately, its financial structure also made it possible to stay focused on long-term consumer needs.

The Next Generation of Communities

Looking to the future and the types of events that Bilton’s new company aims to create. He has a clear vision of how to make them successful. Content, connection, and commerce are the ingredients in his secret sauce for events. He is also a proponent of matchmaking as a key part of a successful event. Having a high-quality program alongside an exceptional onsite experience is what helps the audience justify the cost and time away from the office. Matchmaking doesn’t have to use technology, but using the best tools available makes sense.

Bilton sees a gap in the marketing for engaging online communities in life sciences. He is betting on taking a community approach to connect communities year-round. The company has researched different micro-communities within life sciences and has identified several where a community approach would work well. The favored approach is to focus on specific job titles instead of particular verticals, which will be the starting point of community building. From there, they will tailor the content, meetups, communication, events, and more to that community’s specific needs.

AI Supports Humans Building Communities

Having just launched Life Science Networks, Bilton believes that there’s no better time than now to launch a company or community. His feeling stems from the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) since the Covid pandemic. The company’s approach relies on implementing these tools, yet he acknowledges the challenge of finding the right combination of human and AI involvement. He sees no way for AI to replace humans in understanding customer pain points, but he is confident that combining human connections with AI tools will enable the business to scale for years to come.

Community building is the organization’s central focus, with highly curated and targeted content playing a key role in community development. They are staying away from traditional journalism but will be curating existing content that is relevant to their audience. Original organic content is also part of the plan, starting with face-to-face interviews that look deep into current issues. The goal will always be to focus on the people that make up the community.

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