Postcard from Portugal: How to conquer Web Summit 2018

Keith Varty

12 November 2017

A week ago at a very unsociable hour I headed off to Lisbon to join 60,000 other folk at Paddy Cosgrave’s Web Summit 2017.

I was looking forward to seeing Lisbon for the first time, and the weather would be 10 degrees up on the UK. On arrival, the sun was set to shine for the week, and the people seemed excited and happy!

Apart from the sun and the people, why go to Web Summit?

I went for three reasons;

  1. To learn more stuff about the industry I work in, I say stuff because the subjects on offer were far ranging and eclectic.
  2. To meet new people from great companies that we would love to work with.
  3. Because I liked the idea of going to Lisbon (but that last one’s not common knowledge).

Its also worth stating the obvious. Web Summit is a big gig.

An arena, four very large halls packed with exhibitors, mini theatres for all day presentations, food trucks galore and a serious number of people walking back and forth.

The conference opened with fascinating and cautionary insight from Stephen Hawking - and ended with a rousing call to action from Al Gore that was packed with facts, figures and passion. What's not to like?

So how do you get the most out of Web Summit next year in 2018?

Here are my five tips to conquer Web Summit;

  1. Decide what it is you will do on each of the days and stick to it: learning and meeting is a hard combo. You will struggle to do both well but if you want to achieve it, you need to set your stall out on each day.
  2. Talk to people about stuff they are interested in: If it’s meeting people you want, then you need to understand why they are there and what they want to get out of it. If you’ve got something they want to know about, then great conversations follow.
  3. Decide who you want to talk to in advance: Web Summit places a lot of emphasis on its app where you can set up your schedule and chat to other delegates. The latter is a little odd, though it did work well on one occasion for me but there is no substitute to putting your happy face on and going to chat to people. Remember most people have come to Web Summit for one of the same three reasons listed above, so they will in most cases be receptive.
  4. If it’s keynotes and presentations you want, get a schedule set up on the app: the Web Summit app does a pretty good job of allowing you to set up a schedule. It’s easier to stick to one of the tracks for a few sessions at a time so you can get in the flow of the theme; for example, Auto Tech was really interesting, it’s cars and tech, so how bad can it be.. (see below, as I get to grips with Herbie's grandchild).
  5. Enjoy Lisbon: it’s a wonderful city. Take some time to enjoy it, if you can.