Here and now

New information is everywhere – we’re overwhelmed by it. So how do we make the most of it? We need to be selective about our sources, and save time by cherry-picking only the valuable ones. Which is why tech events are now the best way to stay in touch with innovation and tech trends.

Right, but which ones to choose?

Let’s start from the beginning. Everything started with Steve Jobs and the Apple Keynotes. Jobs’ presentations were the first tech talks to adopt a format different from the traditional new product presentation. He took inspiration from ‘The Mother of All Demos’, held on December 9 1968. This was Douglas Engelbart's demonstration of experimental computer technologies that are now commonplace. The live demonstration featured the introduction of the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, bootstrapping, and a collaborative real-time editor. With Apple using this approach, over the years expectations have grown, so its product demos have become unmissable events complete with teaser trailers, rumours, special guests and organized live-streaming meetings.

One more thing…

Building on the success of the demos, Apple created the worldwide developers’ conference (WWDC), which it runs every June in San Jose, California. All the big players followed, creating different kinds of events and formats: Facebook has F8 (every May, in San Jose, California) covering social media, community management and digital ADV; Google has I/O (each May, in Mountain View, California) dealing with topics such as machine learning, cloud and mobile; AWS runs re:Invent (November 28-30 2018, Las Vegas), featuring everything related to Amazon Web Services; and there’s Microsoft Build (every May, in Seattle), looking at upcoming Microsoft products.

These events are growing

More and more tech brands are choosing flagship branded conferences as the way to show their latest products and research to the world, demonstrating their strengths and innovative approach, and attracting talented staff as well as customers. In the same way, many tech fairs and events have emerged, becoming annual, unmissable dates, essential for staying in touch with the latest trends in tech. Save the dates for the Web Summit (November 5-8 2018, Lisbon), the Next Web Conference (May, Amsterdam), TechCrunch Disrupt (San Francisco, September 5-7), DLD (January, Munich) and - probably the most famous one - CES, next January 8-11 in Las Vegas.

Quite a long list…

Specific and more focused events are everywhere. If you’re involved with coding, you’ll want to join the WeAreDevelopersCongress (May, Vienna). Or you can discover more about cyber-security at DefCon (August 9-12, Las Vegas), or robotics and smart automation at Automatica (June 19-22, Munich). Plus, there’s a bunch of events and conferences focused on creativity and design: Adobe Summit (March 24-28 2019, Las Vegas) and Adobe MAX (October 15-17 2018, Los Angeles), OnBrand conference (October 11 2019, Amsterdam), and the superb series of TED conferences, with the next official event planned for April 15-19 in Vancouver. Also, the BETT Show (January 23-26 2019, London) is probably the largest fair dedicated to technologies for kids; here you can play with, learn about, and experiment with the gadgets that will be in our future classrooms and homes.

But where’s the innovative part?

Tech events are usually thought of as nerdy conferences, but now that the internet is eating the world, the audience is wider. Mixing entertainment and innovative topics, a new generation of events is taking place, focusing not only on coding, gaming or robotics, but featuring engaging content for all kinds of people.

Mixing entertainment and innovative topics, a new generation of events is taking place, focusing not only on coding, gaming or robotics, but featuring engaging content for all kinds of people. Here and now!

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Examples include the SXSW (March, Austin, Texas), an indie music festival that is now a huge tech conference on design, arts and video. Also there are global music festivals like the Coachella (April, California) and the combo Sonar and Sonar+D (June, Barcelona). The trend is growing, with more and more music and arts festivals becoming tech conferences and vice versa. Plus, the outstanding Lucca Comics & Gamesa (October 31-November 4, Lucca, Italy) this year features cover art created with a generative algorithm by artist LRNZ.


Enjoy the Lucca Comics & Games cover art created with a generative algorithm by LRNZ

What’s the recipe for a successful event?

Behind every great event is a great format – one that engages people and makes the experience unique. Conferences and fairs usually consist of an agenda of talks, workshops and visits to an expo area. Plenary sessions can offer keynote talks, fireside chats, ask-me-anything meetings, elevator pitch start-up battles and round-table brainstorming sessions – as at Visionary Days (December 1, Turin, Italy). The expo area can feature hands-on workshops, certification sessions and (why not?) indoor camping, as at Campus Party events (next one in Italy on July 18-22, Milan). Events can offer a programme of satellite events, as parties and visits to the sponsors’ offices (a great example is the TOA – Tech Open Air, every June 19-22 in Berlin, job fairs, idea-generation challenges and hackathons.

This is just a list of options – what’s the real secret?

It’s all about engaging people: the audience you’re entertaining, and, most of all, the speakers and trainers who are going to share their knowledge. They are the heart of the event, a community of people willing to ‘show and tell’ their thoughts and ideas to the audience. Thanks to their enthusiasm, you’ll have long queues and sold-out events, with great feedback and high expectations for the next year. This is how we’re feeling after Reply Xchange 2018. Enjoy the highlights video, and read more about the Xchange speakers’ stories, on Medium.


Cover pic: Reply Xchange 2018 in Milan

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