But for now, I want to explore why I think Inspirefest has had such an impact on me and many other people. What is it about its model that makes it work?
I can think of five elements to the formula. Here they are in no particular order.
I think a major asset Inspirefest has is that it gives you a whole range of speakers you might never hear from otherwise, like hidden gems. But at the same time, they do it without compromising on quality. I met so many amazing people who are doing awesome things but aren't necessarily in the public consciousness. I like that they give a big rebuttal (less diplomatic way: give the finger) to that idea that to find new people you have to sacrifice quality.
Similarly, Inspirefest has a big focus on diversity, particularly gender and race but also sexual orientation. Personally, I get sick of people harping on about diversity very fast, but I think it was done well here since it was mostly about sci/tech/design. Also, it was quite funny that instead of token women there was a token man on almost every panel.
Inspirefest benefits hugely from taking place in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, in my opinion (although I do find it hilarious that the Theatre is on a place called Misery Hill). The theatre set up with a huge, well-lit stage and a big, dark, comfortable auditorium makes it easy to pay attention to the speakers and lends a magical, dramatic feel to the whole event. I also love that there's only one talk/panel on at a time, so the whole audience experiences things together and have lots to talk about later, plus you don't have to choose between talks and potentially miss out on something great.
I haven't been to many conferences, but I've been to a few, and I think Inspirefest definitely has the best extras I've seen so far. The way they took a tech conference and added the Fringe, with its focus on connecting tech to art, theatre and the real world and facilitating relaxed networking and wind-down time after a busy day of keynotes and panels is very clever. ResearchFest was a new addition this year and I really liked that - it's similar to other things like thesisinthree and FameLab, but it was cool to have it happening right in front of me. I would've liked a bit more explanation of the actual science though - maybe if they had links somewhere to the research? The analogy-based explanations were very interesting but I'd love to actually know the details of the science.
Okay, this one seems obvious - every conference/big event requires a ton of planning. But I want to give special props to this one because it just flowed so smoothly. Quite amazed nothing (visibly) fell apart over those two/three days with so much stuff in them.
A large part of Inspirefest's atmosphere of unity, progress and acceptance is created by the people, from the organisers to the volunteers. I don't really know how they attracted such great volunteers and staff, you'll have to ask them that, but I feel like there was this good sense of everyone having similar goals and working together. It also helped that they had a tech website basically dedicated to covering it for the few days.
So that's the best explanation I can come up with! Also, I'm probably very biased but I do love Grand Canal Dock in Dublin so I think that definitely helped. Even though, as one American speaker commented, it cycled through all four seasons within twenty minutes!