It is that time of the year. Web Summit has released its schedule, and as usual, for many people, feeling overwhelmed comes before feeling excited about the line up. There are just to many talks, happening at too many places, for someone to quickly grasp the ones that are more interesting looking at the schedule for the first time.
In fact even for the second, third and fourth time. Unless there is a way to break down the schedule and devise a plan to attend the conference, you run the risk of running from stage to stage without arriving on time (or at all) to the talks you really should be watching.
If you arrive without a plan, you will leave exhausted and with a blur of ideas and potential bruises — the area is massive and running hundreds of meters through people going in all directions has the potential for less pleasant interactions.
This post is here to help you (while the author helps herself), to navigate the meanders of Web Summit. Last year I shared the spreadsheet with the planning I had done for myself and people thanked me for it. So let’s see if this year this is also something helpful.
Three strategies for navigating Web Summit: follow-the-glitter, cherry-picking, deep-diving
In my attempts at taming the schedule, I found 3 strategies that could be help me spend the three days a little bit more relaxed and focused, without having to constantly look at the app to know what is next.
These three strategies are highlighted in the spreadsheet: follow the glitter in yellow, cherry-picking in pink and deep-diving in blue.
1.Follow-the-glitter ✨ is all about leaving Web Summit with the feeling that you listened to the people you wanted to listen to the most
It is all about selecting from the get go the celebrity (or less-celebrity) speakers that you want to see, and knowing where and at what time they are going to be.
For this strategy you can indeed make use of the 2018 app. Install it, open it and scroll down the list of speakers. Select the ones that most inspire you. In my case I selected:
Ev Williams from Medium, Helen Chiang from Minecraft, Greg Peters from Netflix, Emmett Shear from Twitch, Mitchell Baker from Mozilla, Tim Berners-Lee from Web Foundation, Jacquelline Fuller from Google.org, Paige VanZant from UFC, to name a few.
For each one I clicked on the profile and selected the talks they would be giving, adding them to my schedule on the app.
The follow-the-glitter track was done. If I opt for this strategy and I know where the speakers that I want to hear will be, I won’t be leaving the conference feeling sad for having missed one of them.
2. Cherry-picking 🍒 is about selecting the talks that are most interesting to you in advance (really!)
This may seem the most obvious, but believe me when I say that many people will leave it to chance. Chosing the talk that happens to be closest to the food court, if they had just lunch.
I must say it is difficult to get a sense of the content of the talks just by looking at the titles. They made an effort to make them sound interesting, but sometimes they are too vague to actually select based on that.
Just like the previous strategy this is highly subjective, what may sound interesting for you may not for me. But here are some of the titles that caught my attention (although not necessarily the most funny ones), and that I am considering in the schedule for the cherry-picking track.
“Selling the brand inside”, “Punching above your weight: Diversity and small economics”, “There goes the neighbourhood; the future of tech hubs”, “Creativity in a world of algorithms”, “Do we need a declaration of digital human rights?”, “Is tech without emotion, just a function?”, to name a few.
I couln’t find overarching themes for the conference, the topics of the talks seem quite scattered, so saving the time to look at the schedule and highlight the ones that make you excited, will make sure you don’t leave the conference just with what chance decided to give you.
3. Deep-diving 🐡 is sbout choosing an area of expertise for the entire morning/afternoon that you would like to deepen your exposure to
This one has the big plus of not having to run around from one stage to the other, since you will watch all the talks for that topic.
If I opt for this strategy, my choices, for now, would be:
- 6th Nov: PandaConf for the entire morning, CentreStage for the afternoon
- 7th Nov: ContentMakers for the morninng, CentreStage for the afternoon
- 8th Nov: Forum for the morning, ContentMakers for the afternoon
Having in the back of your mind mind, for each part of the day, a reference area you can go to and stay longer is always a good choice. In case the talks you cherry picked or followed the glitter to turn out to be not that great you can always go to your reference area and wait for some that gives you more inspiration.
And this is it. Spend some time figuring out for yourself what are the speakers, talks, and areas of expertise that you are really interested in, and you feel a bit less overwhelmed and a bit more available to enjoy the exciting and vibrant athmosphere that is a characteristic of those days. Those who have been there know what I am talking about 😉
Print the schedule and work on it on your own, maybe the plane or the train trip will be a good time to to this. Web Summit says is is still in flux, with speakers still being added, so the spreadsheet may require some updating over the next days. If you identify something that needs to be changed at any point and not yet reflected let me know.
I left the starting and ending times of each block (morning and afternoon), and not the times of each specific block, because they all take around 20 minutes, and making an exact representation to scale of all, would reveal itself an Herculaen effort without much added benefit. Sometimes there are interruptions between the blocks that are also not represented, opted instead for a showing a continuous list of the topics for that specific location.
Of course there will also be Night Summit, a series of events happening during the nights of the Web Summit days, organised by multiple local organisations, that entail dinners, cocktail parties, and meetups. I trust the audience to be already quite savvy at prioritising this in order not to need a spreadsheet…🌙
Safe travels and see you there!
PS: If you are interested in past editions of Web Summits in Portugal, you may find this one interesting The ideas I am taking home from Web Summit 2017 that not even Sophia can take away from me