I remember the first time seeing the banner of Slush and how I felt I want to be there, I want to be part of it. It was at the time as I was organizing my internship at a start-up in Finland, November 2016. Now, one year later my wish came true.
Slush is huge. As much as I want it, I can’t talk to every each and one of the 20k attendees and can’t multiply myself to see all the talks. So, I had to choose beforehand where to go and what to do. My main motivation for Slush was to connect with inspiring people and to gather ideas. But you live in Berlin, you’d say, aren’t there events with inspiring people there too? Indeed, there are and I have been to numerous of them. Yet, Berlin has for me the attitude of “I am the center of the world”. Most firms and people are content with being part of it and operating on the German market which is big. Currently, I’m building upon my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a specialization in Human factors/Human-computer interaction. So I’m excited about innovation, usability, design, technology that will make difference. And so far, I couldn’t get exactly that level of global thinking in Berlin. So, I applied for a student pass to Slush and here I am.
Slush begins long before you pass the famous banner and enter the building of Messukeskus. Slush begins with the excitement after watching the official trailer, after the announcement of the first speakers and attending start-ups and bigger companies. This article will be about my preparation for going there.
Go for match-making
Around two weeks before getting on the plane I could already get an overview of what will be going on. In addition to the official app, I checked also events on Eventbrite. Matchmaking apps are a favorite topic of mine and I was happy to discover that Slush promotes even two: Brella.io and Grip.
Grip reminds me of tinder with its swiping-feature to show if you are interested in meeting a person or not. It doesn’t offer an overview of all the people attending (and rumors were speaking of about 17 000 people coming!). So, I chose the tinder-strategy of men and swiped right everyone hoping someone would be interested in meeting me. Brella, on the other hand, caught my attention much more because it worked on a smaller scale: it was promoted through a side-event called “Slush y science”. Brella is fantastic because it lets you see an overview and match score with other registrants and directly suggest a meeting. To continue the dating app’s analogy, Brella reminded me of okcupid. To make it even easier, the event organizers had prepared a room with table numbers so one knew immediately “Aha, we are meeting at 09:30 at table 2”. I spent some time on both apps in the three days before leaving for the conference and got 6 amazing meetings out of my usage of brella.
Know who will be there
Another thing I spend plenty of time researching were the firms that attend. Since the official Slush page doesn’t provide much of search possibilities, I had to get creative while having a list of 3000 firms in front of me with a short description and key-areas. Since I study in Germany and have worked in Finnland and would love to work there again, my focus group were both German and Finnish firms. My master’s degree, Human Factors at the Technical University of Berlin, covers numerous topics such as data science, statistics, programming, robotics, self-driving cars and I also have a background in psychology so I was open for pretty much everything and the given key areas were mostly irrelevant. How to find the firms that interest me? This was my research process:
- German firms: Ctrl+F and looking for “GmbH”, German, Germany, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich;
- Finnish firms: similarly, “Oy”, Finnish, Finland, Helsinki, Tampere.
I made a list of all the found firms and then googled every single one of them. I did that mostly in the evenings and in a state of mind when my brain was pretty relaxed, not to even say exhausted (I study and work at the same time). I just “had a look” on them, notifying in my list when the firm is from a city that interests me or does something super duper cool. I did that in the last five days before departure so that names and logos are still retrievable when I arrive on site. But of course, I was open to having a look at every single exhibitor when I’m there.
Old-school business cards
Last but not least, I purchased my first official business cards. I find the idea pretty old-school since on all of the meetups I visited in Berlin, I immediately exchanged LinkedIn with the people I spoke with. To leave a lasting impression I put also my picture on it because I personally much better remember faces than names/firms.
Know the program and don’t forget your swimsuit
Last part of the preparation was the sweetest – having a detailed look at the program, writing down in my notebook every talk I want to see with its time and location. I did it at the airport of Berlin while waiting for my flight. I was aware that I definitely won’t be able to see so much from the program AND interact with people. But I wanted to keep in mind what is going on. And, most importantly, I wanted to know when I have a free slot to go to the sauna on the venue. Sauna is an easy way to interact with strangers since talks between almost naked people start way faster and uncomplicated in the hot steamy room rather than on a huge conference space in suits. So, pack your swimming suit and fast-drying towels for travelers if you happen to visit Finland for business purposes.
All in all, thanks to a healthy mix of careful preparation and spontaneity I had a great time at Slush concentrating on interacting with people and exchanging ideas rather than noticing how much I might have missed.