After writing and promoting this years Berlin re:publica I had high hopes for this Digital “Woodstock” and it didn’t disappoint. Booking in the day before it started to get my badge and band for entry at the massive venue STATION Berlin; I was sucked in to the totally chilled out atmosphere straightaway. The event organisers pride themselves in arranging plenty of networking opportunity for attendees. With beer and plenty of food nearby they have left plenty of space and time for attendees to meet up and build relationships. This event is in it’s 11th year so the concept is well understood and tried and tested, it was a promising start.
What’s it all About?
Unwittingly arriving 2 hours early on the first day, I had plenty of time to scope out the rather enormous rooms of each Stage. We weren’t let in the previous evening as they were still doing the finishing touches, but it was clear they had each area sympathetically laid out in an orderly fashion. As a swarm of yellow “Can I help you shirts?” were marched around to understand the layout I started to go through the Day One list of talks. There are leaflets for each day and an app in case you need a digital prompt (which I did).
I spent most of the first hour or so each day going through the English speaking talks (others are German but all talks are available in “live” translated headsets). I also circled all the stands I wanted to visit (Gaming, AR/VR, Connecting Europe, etc) and charged my phone.
A throng of people descended into the venue from 10am and the noise levels peaked and remained high from then on pretty much! The stands all varied, they ranged from Fintech, Microsoft, Google to believe it or not 3D printed Sex Toys??
One of my favourite ones though was the ball pit. All sorts of people were jumping in it and talking and doing selfies (though none of them would let me take a photo sadly), I of course didn’t get in, far too silly…ahem.
It was all about learning at this event however. There were talks on social media of course but so much more. Business talks ranging from community management, Politics, Arts and Culture, Science Fiction, FinTech and even Hate Speech was discussed. Talks were in German or English but you can go into each video on their website (see next paragraph) and add subtitles in whatever language you prefer.
I was told by several attendees that they didn’t go to many talks at all as they would rather network and look at the stands and watch the playback at their leisure of them. I can see the validity in this as I missed loads of talks myself conversing with all sorts of people from different countries.
I was all suited and booted the first day but people tripped in to the venue in whatever was most comfortable. Most people had used the cloakroom to unload unwarranted garb and meant they had space for all the tonnes of freebees available on the first day on each stand.
They had some very different stands along the way – meeting Donald Trump was certainly unexpected but memorable. This was a stand that was promoting #hugsnothate. Very much in keeping with the whole event.
The secondary theme of the event was very much reconnecting Europe. The Brexit was an issue freely discussed at every level and a whole heap of Europhiles were abound. I did my best not to speak when these conversations started (I’m distinctly English!) but I am Ireland based – it all gets too confusing to explain.
There was a whole section called Reconnecting Europe that I was invited to attend and even had a wee little talk at about Social Media and Community Management along with Martha Ostiouni from Greece.
Last year for the first time re:publica branched out and brought their event to another country, Ireland. They are now planning to grow exponentially every year by adding one country a year. This year they are returning to Ireland (Dublin) and adding Greece (Thessalonikki) this year also. To make it slightly madder, they are doing the Dublin event on the 7th and 8th of September and Thessaloniki event on the 11th to 13th of September. Tickets for both events are available here.
VR/AR and Robotics
I must mention the VR/AR and Robotics I experienced also at re:publica. I tried various types including gaming and was horribly butchered each time by my nemesis David Pollard.
— MelanieBoylan (@STOMPSMTraining) May 8, 2017
The only time I had the upper hand was when using the robotics there. This was a stand demonstrating using either an iPad or wristband remote controller for various “toys”. The wristband was guiding a BB8 (Star Wars) – though a little slow at times you got your “Jedi” on by manipulating it with your hand/arm. Great to blow the minds of children definitely.
— MelanieBoylan (@STOMPSMTraining) May 15, 2017
Also in the VR space was death defying stunts like walking a plank – weirdly absorbing – you could hear the wind rushing around you and I thought I heard the planks creak but apparently that was in my head as they never added that…
— Irish Tech News (@Irish_TechNews) May 10, 2017
I was given the opportunity to speak to Andreas Gebhard face to face on Periscope and interview him on what the last 11 years had brought to re:publica and what was to come. Have a listen and make the decision yourself about what you think the event is about.
— Irish Tech News (@Irish_TechNews) May 9, 2017
This felt so entirely different to the many, many events I have been too. It surely helped that it was a very long running event with an experienced team absolutely – but you can’t make an atmosphere like this without a great deal of thought and hard work.
I don’t like being a “yes man” and wanted to be as objective as I could about this event but I really couldn’t find anything wrong with it. All I hope is they are able to lift this model and replicate it at each venue as they move it around the globe, though frankly I think they will find that very hard to do!