Monday, 4 July 2016

Inspirefest 2016: Highlights

Hi all! This will be the first of a few posts on Inspirefest. In this one, I'll generally summarise my favourite parts, then in later posts I'll talk more reflectively about the experience of being a speaker and the reasons I think Inspirefest has hit on a winning formula in my usual verbose way. 

Disclaimer 1: This will broadly be chronological but probably not perfectly.
Disclaimer 2: I've probably missed someone(s) whose talks I loved, plus unfortunately I didn't get to see some (like the Health ones and Karla, who were right after my panel). 

So! Onto the highlights.

#1: Speakers' Pre-Party/Networking in Teelings Distillery

This was cool because I went with Vanessa and we got to talk to a bunch of cool people like Anne Ravanona, plus we reunited with our fairy godmother Mary Carty!
#2: Brenda and John Romero

Brenda gave a keynote and then held a panel discussion with her husband John. Both are longtime game designers and honestly they're just so cool. Brenda gave an absolutely hilarious talk about female avatars in games, with ridiculous costumes and jiggle physics. She was definitely very daring with her slides, which kept everyone's attention. Then John came on and we learned about his background and that he still has a CD of the DOOM source code in his attic (he worked on DOOM, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D). 

(The woman who Tweeted that, Michelle Cullen, works at Accenture and I got to meet her for the first time at Inspirefest. She's lovely). 

#3: Sinéad Burke

Sinéad's talk was just fantastic, about the power of social media and reaching out to people and just having a go at things whether or not you think you'll succeed. I'd talked to Sinéad already on Twitter (and one day she randomly appeared in my school to give a talk, I couldn't believe my eyes) so this was awesome, and she has fantastic stage presence and confidence so she was fascinating to listen to. Plus that wiggle will go down in history. 
Dr. Sue Black's talk on saving Bletchley Park was also great, but I'd heard it before at Outbox so Sinéad takes the cake on this one. 

#4: Kara Swisher 

Kara was part of a panel and honestly she was just hilarious. She cut right through all the bullshit with everything she said and it was great. When asked how you'd get teenagers interested in the print edition of The Wall Street Journal she said "I think you should tape a joint to every page of the Wall Street Journal and then young people will read it". More quotes: "Like, I'm a hundred years old and I consume all the latest stuff", "Zuckerberg is like Murdoch but 48% less evil" and "For a long time I was obnoxious, but now I'm a genius." Definitely wouldn't want to be pitching to her without unbelievably thick skin though!

#5: Brexit and Donald Trump references

I just found this funny, to be honest. A significant proportion of the speakers got up on stage and said "Don't get me started on Brexit" or "Who here is scared of public speaking?" [some hands up] "Who here is scared of President Donald Trump?" [all hands up]. It was nice to know that we were generally on the same page!

#6: Kelly Hoey

Kelly was really cool and no-nonsense, plus (having talked to her on Twitter beforehand) she just seemed to be a really lovely person. 

#7: Noel Murphy

Noel showed us some of the amazing stuff Intel is doing with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths). An Intel collaboration that reinvented fireworks for the 21st century using drones with an orchestra playing on the ground absolutely took my breath away, it was mind-blowing. He also showed a really cool video of Intel technology being used for winter sports. 

#8: Alan Siegel

Alan Siegel is a world-class designer and gave this brilliant talk about the importance of clarity in design. It was fascinating, honestly. Mark Curtis of Fjord and Lorna Ross of Mayo Clinic were also excellent. Particularly enjoyed Lorna's shot of the Mayo Clinic's rooms looking almost the same like 70 years apart and her saying they're not very fond of change.

#9: Nuritas: Nora Khaldi

I really enjoyed this talk because of my interest in science, especially the part where she showed all the similarities between scientists and entrepreneurs, including self-motivation, working long hours, drive, competition, problem-solving.

#10: Our Future Leaders panel

This was amazing fun and I'm so privileged to have been invited to do it. Mary and Niamh's talks before us were brilliant, and we got very emotional when Niamh listed Vanessa and Catrina as role models for her. Then it was time for the much-anticipated (by me) panel. I really enjoyed it - Ann was a fantastic panel chair, it was a bunch of Outbox sisters chatting together who just happened to have microphones and an audience looking on, and we got lovely comments and goodie bags afterwards. I really love public speaking and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to do that here. I'll talk more about this bit in my next post but god I really love all my Outbox sisters and godmothers.

#11: The Fashion session

I definitely wasn't expecting this at a tech conference, but it fit nicely in the diversity and design element and was fascinating. Liz Jackson, with whom I'd chatted earlier for ages in the VIP room, gave a brilliant talk on how current aids for people with disabilities are "so ugly they're deadly". She also said that disability is an $8 trillion emerging market the size of China.

I also thought Carrie Hammer's Role Models not Runway Models talk was awesome. 

#12: The Fringe

The Fringe is such a cool idea for people to relax, unwind and network at their own pace. The VIP area was fantaaastic in terms of food and people to talk to, plus Ada.Ada.Ada, Lisa Hannigan and Wyvern Lingo were brilliant. We even got to go backstage with Wyvern Lingo, who supported Marina and the Diamonds and Hozier on tour, because Vanessa was interviewing them. Black Virgins are not for Hipsters also seemed excellent but unfortunately I only caught glimpses of it. 

I really loved the modular origami stand at the Family Fringe, and learned that I am very unskilled in comparison to a lot of people when trying (and eventually succeeding) to make a light-up LED badge.

#13: People

This could take up a whole post on its own, but in short it was brilliant getting to reunite with so many people or meet them off Twitter for the first time. People like Mags Amond, Laura, Christine Loscher, Melanie of Herstory, Anne Ravanona, Zoe Philpott, Liz Jackson, Sinéad Burke, Clodagh Connell, Darragh Doyle, Eithne Harley, Michelle Cullen, Ann O' Dea, Elaine Burke ... I could go on. (I've done a panel with two of these people before, can anyone say who?)

Not only those, but the volunteers were incredible: generous, helpful, competent and fun. The organisers made sure we were all comfortable and I really can't thank them enough.

Inspirefest 2016 was an absolutely fantastic event, and managed to surpass even the astronomical expectations set by Inspirefest 2015. Congratulations are definitely in order. 

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