The greatest sign that Christmas is around the corner is not all the Christmas party invitations, nor is it the festive lighting that starts to appear. It’s Slush, the biggest tech conference in Europe that happens at the end of November every year. Roughly 25,000 people attend annually, and for the past couple of years, I’ve been one of them. I work in communications, so every year I undertake a number of activities in relation to Slush. It’s my job to secure speaking slots, media train spokespeople, coach them before and after speaking slots and interviews with the press, and — of course — set up interviews with members of the press about whatever piece of news we’re pushing at that particular point.
This year there were five of us going for three days packed of talks, interviews, and meetings. Someone asked me if it was my first time at Slush and it made me think of my all the international tech conferences I’ve gone to and how I can backtrack personal and professional growth by using tech conferences as milestones. Here are some snippets:
2015 —Web Summit, Dublin: The first conference I travelled abroad for, and also the first time I singlehandedly did a press briefing with a C-level spokesperson. I think it was with The Times, and I remember that I was very nervous.
2016 — Slush, Helsinki: The first time I travelled to a tech conference without a spokesperson or any particular news to talk about, but still managed to set up meetings with several journalists that led to great things later.
2017 — SXSW, Austin: I tried a similar approach at SXSW a few months later, but the American journalists were much harder to charm. After five days or so I eventually threw caution to the wind and went on a date with a real-life cowboy instead, which, to be fair, I’ll remember forever. I also got hold of a top tier business journalist who I met in New York several months later, at which point she took me to a very fancy press launch of a new oven(!). It felt uncanny, and it turned uncannier when she eventually said that she would cover my client for money. Unethical beyond words, but in her own words: ”This is America, we’re capitalists”. I didn’t take her up on the offer.
2017 — Slush, Helsinki: I didn’t go to Slush that year as we’d just done a big press shebang with His Majesty the King of Sweden (yes). Nevertheless, I was included on Slush’s list of the 100 most impactful tech profiles in the Nordics. It had been just a year since I moved back from London, and I felt strangely proud and amazed that my work was recognised in such grand terms.
2018 — Slush, Helsinki: I was invited to a fancy dinner by one of the world’s largest VC funds. My social anxiety was still well and alive and I dreaded going. I still went, initially spent half an hour hiding out in the loo before finding some friendly faces. I had a great time in the end, and haven’t experienced social anxiety since.
Slush is amazing and I’m very lucky to get to go, but there’s little time to enjoy all the glitz and glam. Overall, my attitude and approach toward tech conferences have changed considerably over the past few years. I was big on the parties when I first started going, but it’s now been a few years since I had more than a glass of wine at a tech conference as I need to save my energy for Real Work™. I go in to do what I’m there to do, and then I leave. I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get some exercise in if I can. I do enjoy tech conferences, but only because I enjoy my work and the field that I’m in. To me, it no longer feels like an exciting leisure trip the way it used to. That’s probably because I now have very clear goals and KPIs every time I go to a conference and there is little to no time to faff about. I usually watch the talks at the airport on my way back home hehe as there hasn’t been any time to watch them during the actual conference.
Anyway! It was another wild year at Slush. Here’s my colleague, our VP of Data Acquisition, talking about how Mapillary helps some of the world’s largest mapping companies keep their maps updated, why mapping matters, and how it affects our lives on a daily basis. In other words, MAPS MAPS MAPS. Love my job.