Earlier this month I had the fantastic opportunity to attend Dublin’s Web Summit. Nearly two weeks later and I am still taking it in: new friends and potential business contacts, amazing speeches and panels, after parties, and more. The aftermath is still occurring as I haven’t come down from the high yet. But how did I get the chance to go to Europe’s largest technology conference? With over twenty-thousand attendees, the Summit requires a ton of hands on deck from information desks to physical plant and more. As an incentive to volunteer, admission is free after your shift is complete. Normally the ticket costs over $1200. In total there were over fifteen-hundred volunteers who took this opportunity. The sign-up began sometime this summer and extended till one week before the conference began. Champlain Abroad recognized that being a volunteer at the Summit would be an invaluable opportunity, and emailed all the incoming students about the opportunity. I expressed my interest and was sent the link to sign up. After a short interview process a few weeks later, I was selected!
Before the week of the event I received some minimal training, getting a guided tour through the premises of the Royal Dublin Society as well as a staff handbook. Monday night before the Summit, I attended the first Pub Crawl which gives attendees and speakers the chance to mingle. As a volunteer I helped people reach their destined pubs, but also had the opportunity to talk to some exhibitors. Everyone had different goals: some people wanted funding for their projects, others wanted business contacts and job opportunities, and a few just wanted to learn and be exposed to new ideas. I’ll be honest I was in the second and third boat, but more on that later.
With over 1500 volunteers, there were multiple shifts throughout the week. Some worked during the weekend, registering volunteers and exhibitors, while others worked during the week during the event. I was doing the latter, working the information desk Tuesday through Thursday. When I wasn’t working I was wandering around the RDS center, talking to exhibitors, collecting swag, sitting through talks, and having an amazing time. Since I wasn’t necessarily looking for anything in particular, I received a few dozen business cards and multiple invitations to afterparties. I noticed other volunteers and attendees being pushy and rather aggressive at times, which just deterred people from talking to them or handing out information. I also noticed the difference between appearing confident and acting cocky. It is absolutely amazing the difference in results depending on what attitude you display.
I have a few favorite moments from the Web Summit:
- Seeing Eva Longoria. I have always enjoyed her acting and have known about her philanthropic efforts for a while now. Before the end of my shift the first day, I was in the VIP lounge while running an errand and made eye contact with her. I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with her, but I got to see her talk a little while later. I would highly recommend watching her talk on Youtube.
- Making friends. There were a ton of students from all over the world at this event. I got to work with British, French, and Irish volunteers through the week. One particular volunteer and I hit it off and we will hopefully meet up before I head home. Most Irish students I have met commute to Dublin, so it is harder to meet up with them to hang out.
- Getting to every exhibit. It was a difficult task that wore out my feet and was time consuming, but every day I made sure to get to every booth. Through this I got an idea for all the businesses that attended and had a chance to talk to everybody I wanted to. By Thursday evening I had received: over 40 business cards, 24 t-shirts, multiple pens and other swag, and a few potential business propositions (internship or otherwise).
I hope that one day I will have the chance to return to the Web Summit, but as a speaker or panelist instead. I can’t see it happening in my immediate future, but I know the possibility exists. I urge all Champlain students and anyone who has read this blog post to take the opportunities in front of you. So many people passed up this opportunity and my story has made them regret it. Don’t do that. Take the chance, take the time.
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Fall 2014
Champlain College, Management of Creative Media, class of 2016