WebSummit 2020 Online: Is The Future Digital?

The world´s largest tech conference that went all-digital in 2020

via Websummit

Websummit is the largest tech conference on the planet, which usually takes place in Lisbon each year. Since this year has been hit hard by Covid and Lisbon is partially under lockdown (although it doesn´t seem so), Websummit had to adjust and run it´s conference entirely online. It´s kind of a cosmic joke that a conference that´s all about tech had to adjust its program entirely to rely on tech. Is the future digital? Really?

With people being zoom fatigued and screen-overkilled, Websummit online did its best to keep the vibe high and people engaged through diverse features on their platform. However, nothing replaces a real conference with huge conference halls, tons of people mingling, and the infamous afterparties in Cais do Sodre each night.

This year Websummit boasted 2200 journalists, 1100 speakers, and 2000 Start-Ups, bringing them together in Masterclasses, Mentor Sessions, Pitch Sessions, Roundtables, Q and A`s, Meet-Ups, and more.

Similar to Collision, the sister festival of Websummit in Canada, the three days showcased the who is who of tech, as well as the who is who in the world - in short people who have a say about the future of things as well as the internet of things.

Part of the Summit was Malala, Jane Goodall, Deepak Chopra, Gwyneth Paltrow, Serena Williams, and of course tech giants like the founder of Zoom, the founder of Paypal, the President of the European Commission, the founder of LinkedIn, the CTO of Facebook, the Prime Minister of Spain and many more. (I`m not listing the names, since the companies in most cases are more known than the CEO behind it).

via Websummit

Start-Up Lessons from Cliff Divers in Mexico

The topics in Websummit ranged from sustainability to women´s rights, branding, marketing, scaling, investing, Covid related topics, the future of digitalization, and everything Start-Ups. Most of the talks were around 20 min, some of them had a Q and A at the end. One of the most inspiring presentations for me was from the CEO of Burger King (yes, I´m vegan, but he made a good point — not about food though!), who shared his insights from interviews with the cliff divers from Alcapulco, Mexico. These guys jump 35 meters down from a cliff into the ocean, freehanded.

Key lessons the divers shared where:

1. Feel the fear and do it anyway

2. The worst thing that can happen is nothing

3. Have a clear intention why you do it and where you want to go with it

That applies to anyone starting a business. Running a business is never easy, nor is there a clear cut path that´s always visible. Despite the fact that it might give you all the feels, it´s also the most rewarding thing to do, if you do it with passion.

When you have an idea, you need to evaluate it first. You want to find out where your customers are, what they need, and how you can bring it to them. You might try a lot of things and nothing happens. But if nothing happens, at least you tried and are ready for a better solution.

Having a clear intention is crucial to any business. Without an intention, a goal, or a final destination it's difficult to focus. When you know you want to win the championship as a cliff diver, you´ll focus your efforts on it. When you know you want to reach 500 customers in the next 5 months, you’ll focus your efforts on it. And where you focus your energy, you start to move energy.

James Lee via Unsplash

How to network virtually?

While most of the speaking sessions did not drive live engagement, the chat box next to each speaker's video kept people engaged and fostered some really interesting (and most often funny) conversations. Next to that was the option to meet people in breakout rooms and through video calls that would match you with professionals that align with your interests (as stated in your profile kinda like Bumble, lol).

It´s remarkable how through the power of the internet you get connected with people, with whom you could have coffee conversations in a café. It almost felt synchronistic, but given that it´s a tech conference, I guess it was simply a very, very defined algorithm.

Daniel Korpai via Unsplash

Where is the Party?

I´ve been in Lisbon the past two years for Websummit, and I most enjoyed the party vibe each night! All bars in Cais do Sodre would be overflowing with hipsters, DJs spinning records and the crowd would be on the street chatting and partying. This portion, unfortunately, fell flat this year and we were compensated with a pre-recorded concert, which was nice, but nothing is better then a real dance with actual people.

Take-Aways

For my part, I can say that I get tired and check-out after watching 3 hours of live stream with changing speakers every twenty minutes. But I don't get tired of meeting new people that I get randomly matched with. The networking part is truly one of the best parts of Websummit, same as in Collision! And same as in the in-person events in Lisbon.

Michelle Middleton via Unsplash

Is the Future Digital?

In my opinion no, not as much as it was in 2020 (at least that´s what I hope, we are humans after all). And even Websummit is announcing the next Summit in 2021 in Lisbon and Tokyo in person again. Seems like everyone is shuffling their feet to finally leave the house and meet-up! Yay, thank God for real parties with real DJs!

What would be great in the future, is to also shine a light on the critical side of tech, the part that drives people further apart instead of connecting them (see The Social Dilemma), the part that makes people rely more on devices instead of their intuition, and the part that replaces real jobs with AI.

I´m personally looking forward to innovations that connect us more with our being, remind us to slow down, keep things simple, and make space to rest and digest. Fewer apps, more human connection. Less screen time, more real life. Less talk, more silence (or music). Less scaling, more local innovation.

With a 90% failure rate of Start-Ups, that´s just the breathing space we need, to tune in and follow the ideas that come from deep within, have purpose, empower passion and foster real life connections.

Have you been to Websummit before? How was your experience? Did you attend the online version this year? I´d love to hear from you.

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Anne Haack

Anne Haack

Transformational Coach, Writer, DJ, Insight Timer Teacher. Travelled Asia for 7 years, learned from a sage, published a book. Join: http://bit.ly/annehaack_mail