One of the first things I have noticed after moving to Dublin was that I managed to arrive just before the start of Web Summit conference. Being so late to the party I decided to take an alternative route and volunteered with my friends to get an inside look at how conference of this magnitude is run and also to meet more like-minded people. Following post is going to provide you a short overview of the event and introduce the atmosphere of biggest IT conference in Europe.
What is Web Summit
Bloomberg calls it ‘Davos for geeks’. If you don’t know what Davos is, Davos is host to the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual meeting of global political and business elites. Over the years, Web Summit became one of the most influential and inspirational IT conferences in the world. This years installment promised and delivered over 500 speakers including Peter Thiel (founder of Founders fund), Drew Houston (founder of Dropbox), Phil Libin (CEO of Evernote), Eric Wahlforss (founder and CTO of Soundcloud) and others. Web Summit is usually divided into smaller summits with aim at particular topic of interest. This years summits included:
- enterprise summit
- focusing on innovations in the industry and improvements stemming from adoption of new technology
- machine summit
- focusing on future of connected devices and IOT
- marketing summit
- focusing on improvements in interaction with advertising in the digital age
- builders summit
- focusing on designing great products and the technology itself
- music summit
- focusing on the ways technology influences artists collaboration and music production
- SPORT summit
- focusing on using technology for marketing, data analytics and content creation
- food summit
- focusing on how technology is changing how food is prepared, cooked and even manufactured
- night summit
- combining drink, food and networking for attendees
There were other activities parallel to these main summits that included:
- centre STAGE
- place where the biggest names discuss current event and trends not only in technology world
- The cinema
- movies screening and Q&A with producers
- library STAGE
- talks tackling three cardinal issues: control, culture, and ethics
- attendee & startup workshops
- hands-on workshops focusing on technology, business and design
- open communication for speakers and guests on topical developments within the industry
To grasp the magnitude of this event, please check out following map of the venue it took place in.
What to do there
There is always plenty of interesting things to do or try out on Web Summit. First of all, there are several talks going on at any time spread throughout the venue focusing on topics related to each particular summit. To not lose the grip of your schedule it is possible to pick the talks you like from schedule on the official Web Summit page and import them to the calendar app of your choice. To be honest, it happens often that two or more talks you find interesting overlap, so it is wise to do this prior to the day in question and make the hard decision up front. Talks are of high quality, speakers are experts on their topics and presentations are really interesting and engaging (often include Q&A afterwards). To get the feeling of talks from central stage check out the picture below.
Feel like you want to talk instead of just listening? No problem. There is plenty of people you can network with – startup representatives either pitching their businesses or allowing people to discover what trendy thing are these guys solving right now. These people are extremely friendly and welcome any questions regarding their businesses or technology used and other more general questions as well. But that is not all. If you feel like doing something productive and like problem solving or creative process in general you can attend workshops to try new stuff out or learn something new. If you find all these activities too tiring you can chill and watch a movie or sit down for a drink with fellow attendees.
Not IT only
If you have never attended Web Summit you might get the feeling its all about technology. Well, even though the technology related topics are certainly big part of what makes Web Summit what it is, it certainly does not stop there. There are plenty of talks and events regarding economy, marketing, advertising, enterprise, music, cinema or sport. Several stages are dedicated to these special talks such as cinema, library stage, sport summit, music summit as well as food summit. Apart from hearing Eva Longoria (actress and businesswoman), Tony Hawk (skateboard legend) or Dana Brunetti (producer of House of Cards) speak about their life experiences and topics they are passionate about you can also witness making of history as depicted below. Picture shows ringing of The opening bell of NASDAQ market.
After summit hours
When the day at summits ends, true networking begins. Bono has led a Pub Crawl, as has King Joffrey. Tesla’s Elon Musk, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Netflix’s Reed Hastings and thousands more have all been on one. Whether you are looking for interesting people to meet, find perspective hires / future employers or just good talk by the pint of beer this event is for you. And there is plenty of venues to choose from, just check out this years Pub Crawl map.
Look at volunteering
Last great aspect of Web Summit is volunteering. As a volunteer you get to experience behind the scenes of the conference as well as meet a lot of new people – other volunteers, attendees, speakers or organizers. The whole event was well thought out, prepared and organized. As a volunteer you are always part of a team dedicated to certain area/stage or activity through out the venue. There are many teams one can choose from like helping start-ups set up their expositions, assist speakers, support video and audio production, do the surveys or many other activities. If you feel you’ve got what it takes you can even lead your own team. But wait, that’s not all. As a volunteer, when you are not on your shift you can enjoy the conference as a regular attendee. Getting the best of both worlds. Just look at these testimonials from some of my fellow volunteers.
From my point of view, volunteering and attending Web Summit 2014 was an awesome experience. It is hard to imagine all the work required to make this happen. I want to thank everyone that helped make this years Web Summit what it turned out to be. Also the concentration of talented people is incredible. You can embark on an hour long discussion with fellow techies and let them inspire you or even challenge your believes or the way you think. I would recommend taking part in this event to anyone regardless of their industry, education or profession. Web Summit will both inspire you and uplift your inner entrepreneurial spirit. Don’t hesitate and experience this tech fest next year. 🙂