53 thousand people gathered at one event in Lisbon. Was it a lot? Imagine all the inhabitants of Jarocin and Wyszków in one place. Was the greatest Web Summit successful? It surely was if you consider the profits of the organizers, local hotels and restaurants. How I remember those four days? to

Content
To be frank, I was expecting more from such a powerful brand. In addition to the main stage, there were 20 other stages (or thematic paths) running simultaneously. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I thought the presentations were unequal in quality, and the panels very often digressed from their subjects. As soon as I realized the panels and discussions were so weak, I started to choose the ones with only one speaker. After the first two days of the conference I was devastated by – and astonished with – the poor quality of what I was able to hear.

Inspiration
Nevertheless, my overall impression of the entire Web Summit was saved by the final day of the conference and two people: Saul Klein and Gary Vaynerchuk.
Saul Klein talked about the importance of technology and entrepreneurship in the times when the U.K. exits the EU and Donald Trump wins the presidential election in the USA. Very interesting and clear-headed discussion on the origins of the change that I and like-minded people find so perturbing.
 The presentation is available here.
The problem was also addressed by the head of Publicis agency Maurice Levy, who stated that the democratic elites unfortunately failed to respond to the needs of a large part of the society growing poor, who have become so frustrated that expecting a different life they became so willing to accept populist narrative.
The headline of the event was Gary Vaynerchuk encouraging to a wise marketing marriage of design and mathematics. He was very charismatic in emphasizing that this is the only combination that can bring valuable offsprings. It was the first time that I was able to see Gary live, and I can say without doubt I’ve become his fan. I was impressed by what he said and in what way, as here the content and the form go hand in hand. See for yourself

Development
Listening to the founders of young companies, who are looking for partners and investors, is something I really enjoy; freshness, passion, nerves sometimes, and ideas for improving the world. There’s no chance to see them all – the presentations were held on three stages at the same time. But I do recommend such presentations wholeheartedly. The startups also had their stands where you could talk with the ones you found interesting. If anyone wasn’t able to visit them all, the list of all of them is available online.

Networking
I didn’t set any sales goals before the Web Summit and I didn’t make any appointments. But still I managed to meet interesting people, including the fantastic women from Poland dealing with digital education, such as Bianka Świńska (Fundacja Edukacyjna Perspektywy), Jowita Michalska  (Digital University) and Beata Young (Mission ToRun).
I am very happy with those meetings and cheer for what they do. I also spent a lot of time talking to Kasia Wojniak about digital marketing, likes and effective company building via digital media.
Lisbon itself is a city that favors networking – it’s good for talking and being open. The organizers made sure there was enough space to meet new people. Good job.

Organization
In my opinion the scale of the event was too big for the organizers. As many as 3,000 people were not able to enter the building for the opening of the event. CEO Paddy Cosgrave stated with a smile that some people did not believe it was worth coming earlier. Well, when you’re standing outside, it’s cold and there’s no logic in who goes in and who doesn’t – it doesn’t seem funny at all. If it was obvious that the place wasn’t big enough and that 3,000 people will have to stay outside, I can’t see why this wasn’t communicated and why there was no warning that some guests will have to watch the opening standing outside and that they should consider putting on some extra warm clothes, etc.
The summit app looked really good in the advertising video shown before the lectures. It was well thought-out, but it crashed very often. The Internet was available, but it also was often unable to withstand the number of users.
Standing in various lines and seeing the “stage full” boards I had the impression there was room for much improvement.

What if?

  • there were fewer thematic paths and the speakers were maximally prepared
  • the number of panels was limited to the minimum
  • the thematic paths and the lectures were better described
  • the speeches were assessed
  • giving the speakers a chance for improvement

I would surely be more willing to condone some organizational slips. Nevertheless, I am glad I went to the event, but I’m not planning to go there again.