Maris Tepers, CEO of MateHR, gives his tips to those planning to visit this year’s Web Summit for the first time.
Web Summit is Europe’s largest tech event welcoming about 70 000 participants over 4 days and still growing every year. Obviously, this is no regular tech conference, and it requires special preparation for anyone setting foot in beautiful Lisbon.
In this article, MateHR’s CEO Maris Tepers shares his impressions and practical tips after visiting Web Summit 2018. He believes that this is an event for everyone to experience at least once in a lifetime.
1) Plan your Web Summit days (but stay flexible)
Web Summit 2018 hosted 23 conferences across 4 huge pavilions, an arena, and nine main stages. To make the most of this massive convention, Maris’ advice to all Web Summit visitors is to be well-prepared: “Sure, you can come just to enjoy the atmosphere, but it’s not a business-wise decision.
On the other hand, don’t try to plan every hour of your Web Summit days and cling to your plan no matter what. I made that mistake: I often had unexpected conversations with cool people or saw something important or surprising that demanded my attention. And when I realized that I can’t make it everywhere, I felt some discomfort and stress.
Therefore, I’d recommend staying flexible and accepting that you won’t be able to manage everything you had initially planned.”
However, make sure you have an idea about the things you want to see and the speakers you want to hear at the conference. Web Summit’s website and app can be very helpful in finding relevant topics, stands, speakers, and even people you’re interested in networking with.
2) Network, learn and get inspired
Web Summit unites startups, established companies, investors, and representatives of countries and regions. Maris says: “More than 70 000 people visited Web Summit 2018, but, in its essence, it’s still a networking event. You can meet people of all IT industries and professions, and starting a conversation is rather easy because everyone is open to networking and learning something new.”
Another goal for visiting Web Summit is to find inspiration and new business ideas, as well as embrace innovation. “At Web Summit, the air is charged with innovation. It’s kind of a time machine - a chance to experience the future today.”
3) Visit smaller, more focused meetups and side events
Not all of the Web Summit’s action happens around the main venue - there’s an abundance of side events and parties worth visiting.
Maris believes that these networking events are often even more valuable than the main speeches. And what’s even better - they are often free of charge.
For Maris, some exciting side events of Web Summit 2018 were Surf Summit 2018, Unicorns & Indexes: A Cocktail with Euronext and Beta-i, Pop-Up House of Scandinavia, Bring-a-random-friend dinner, and Underground Closing Party.
If you’d like to network with Lisbon’s meetup community, startups and incubators, as well as investors and leading managers of companies, look for more focused events instead of the biggest side events that tend to get very crowded.
Maris shares a tip: “If you feel overwhelmed by all the choice of speeches and side events, simply choose to visit those that you find interesting and exciting without thinking which might be beneficial for your business. Then you’ll meet like-minded people with whom you’ll have common ground for conversations or even cooperation.”
4) Keep your eyes open everywhere you go
Web Summit is not an event to forget about as soon as the door of the venue closes behind you. On the contrary, the spirit of innovation, networking, and a brighter future can be felt all over Lisbon during Web Summit days. Therefore, you’ll be wise to keep an open mind to opportunities everywhere you go, e.g., in your hotel, and even on your way to the event and back.
Maris reveals that his first Web Summit networking session took place on a public train when he asked another passenger where to validate the ticket. Maris recalls: “It didn’t take long for us to notice Web Summit entrance bands on our wrists and start a conversation about what we do - in life and at the summit. This resulted in a common lunch later on and a possible partnership in the future.”
5) Get exposure for your company
As you probably suspected, getting a booth at Web Summit is an excellent opportunity to advertise your company. While you promote your solutions, consider putting out a sign saying “We’re hiring”. Maris explains why this is a good idea: “If an IT specialist notices your company and likes the solutions you offer, they can also be potentially interested in the job openings you have. Thus your booth gets a chance to shoot two birds with one stone.”
However, buying a stand at Web Summit is not cheap, so countless companies reconcile themselves to the role of visitors. But also as a visitor, you can find a way to stand out from the crowd! For example, use creative outfit or headpieces that attract attention while staying relevant to your business. An unusual outfit will not only get you noticed, but also work as an icebreaker to those passers-by who could be hesitant to start a conversation with complete strangers.
6) Think about your basic necessities
This might sound like an odd tip, but remember - Web Summit is no ordinary conference. Visiting an event of such scale requires all your energy reserves, and you need to plan on when and how you’ll recharge yourself.
Maris suggests planning brakes for eating and scheduling enough time for sleep (this is relevant because many side events and Night Summit might cut a piece of your sleep time). He shares his own experience:
“To make the most of the conference, I slept maximum 5 hours per night. To be honest, I didn't think it could get so exhausting.
Also, I wouldn’t suggest going home between the main events and evening parties - this will just steal your precious time. Therefore, you should plan what you’ll wear at night already as you leave your accommodation in the morning. Definitely, grab a warm jacket because Lisbon in November can get very chilly and windy, especially at night.”
7) Leave time for sightseeing before and after Web Summit
If you are determined to make the most of Web Summit, you won’t be able to do any city sightseeing in the meantime. Maris explains: “The Summit ends around 5 or 6 pm. Afterparties and side events follow shortly after, so you won’t have time - or energy - to visit places in between. The good part is that many side events are held in interesting locations, like the Expo promenade or Pink street, so you are kind of doing sightseeing while being at the Web Summit.”
A good idea is to come to Lisbon a few days before the conference or stay some days longer to experience the cultural and natural gems of Portugal. If you can afford to take a longer holiday, do it - Portugal won’t leave you disappointed. But don’t forget to follow up on the contacts you made at the Web Summit!
Last but not least: Don’t forget to enjoy this event as it certainly is an outstanding experience!
Written by Ieva Baranova