Next Web is considered one of the main startup events for digital "geeks" to attend, which we did just that. The event took place in the beautiful Amsterdam, a city full of dark treasures, beauty, culture and great cafes, bars and restaurants, not to mention thousands of bicycles above and below sea level.
It is rare that anyone attends a conference without any specific goals, though our reason for attending was purely to inspect the industry. Working with creatives in the photography and wedding industry for many years, we have had our fair share of conferences outside of our designer realm, and Next Web was the first for our designers to go to an European based event, which was exciting and we simply wanted to take it all in and network. We came back with hundreds of business cards, new friends, inspirational business mentors, links to others that surprised the socks off of us.
We started our time in Amsterdam by checking out the co-working spaces, something that currently has not been developed in Moldova, and proved to be a great spot to grab some good coffee, baguettes and see the local talent… though while in the USA initiating a small talk is like taking a walk in the park, it proved a bit difficult to spark a conversation with Europeans.
There were several speakers that took the highlight of the audience. Among those that we enjoyed where LeWeb, Andy Budd and Tim Ferriss. These guys had their speeches tapped down into full extensive motivating speeches, that felt more like a TED Conference than a web conference. During the event we went to several platform talks, as well as one academy event held by Evernote.
The Evernote Academy was something that I personally was looking forward to ever since Eugen, our dev lead, told me about the conference, as I use it daily for everything and anything from planning new projects, recording new client calls, pitching ideas, creating quotes and proposals, and even do my grocery lists. However, I was quite disappointed by the event. Considering that the audience was from a specific niche and the class was limited to a handful, my expectation was that there will be presented an overview of how one could use Evernote to create notes to accompany a project task for a startup or a client project. Meanwhile, the class was more of a getting started class about how to add, change note folders, share content, and the benefits of Evernote business. Sadly, I left that class going from being incredibly excited about Evernote, as an evangelist, to becoming just a regular Evernote user which was sad, as both myself and Eugen felt the same.
On the other side, Amsterdam was magical, yet cold! Thankfully we did experience a one day heat wave. Amsterdam lives up to it's reputation of bicycle lovers. They are literally everywhere. It is quite remarkable how the transport system is setup. The one thing you will notice is that there are few NEW bicycles. The cars, on the other hand, went from old classics to little red monsters. The streets are always full of life. Keeping your eyes open you can find little gem stores like an old LP store that Eugen spotted, as well as toy stores, and also great fresh juice stalls.
Truthfully we enjoyed every minute in Amsterdam, and the Next Web conference lives up to an exciting event for digital pros through networking, learning, sharing, observing during the event and after hours. In hindsight we would recommend several pointers for the first timers going to the Next Web:
> Do Not Be Afraid To Introduce Yourself To People. You will meet many people you can learn from and be inspired by, just as you can meet many that you have no interest in their product/service, so moving around and introducing yourself will help you keep a positive perspective on meeting new professionals.
> Ask Questions. It sounds silly, though most people always regret not asking questions. If you know the type of people you want to meet make a short list of questions prior to going, whether that is another digital creative in the service line, or a gaming programmer or a serial entrepreneur. Having a few questions you would like answered to help you when you return back to the grind is vital and worth the investment.
> Be Interested. As mentioned above, you will not be interested in all the people, or their products/services/offers. This is human nature, either because you just do not understand it, or it is something that isn't in your goal set. Do not brush them off, listen and even try to help introduce them to people that you might have met and who might be interested in what they offer. The point is to not brush people off because they do not fit your interest, but may be perfect for someone else. Eg. I was interested in completely different people than Eugen, who is our dev lead, since we have different interests and different positions.
> Do Not Conquer All. This is the truth- it is tempting to always want to go to everything. However, I always believe in quality over quantity. During the event, I found several folks from back home in Ireland and the UK that where at the event and I wanted to spend more time with them, as it is very easy to over-network and leave with no real connections after the event. Investing into a few relationships will pay off.
> Go Prepared. I do not mean be a walking billboard, though having an easy way to pass information with people you meet is vital. As you will meet hundreds of people, so will they, standing out and letting them remember you is important.
Next Web has left us with a new perspective, and is definitely a worthwhile investment to engage and push yourself to try new things and be inspired by fast paced forward thinking professionals.