Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Inspirefest's Winning Formula

You may be relieved to know that this is my last Inspirefest post for this year - after this, I'm going to do a June review and then talk about a variety of things from aphantasia to impostor syndrome to Brexit to space debris.

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! 

1 comment:

  1. That's a good synopsis of the event; I agree with each of your chosen words. I did get chatting to one or two of the PhD students that took part in ResearchFest and they were, naturally, only too happy to get into more detail about the science behind their work. I thought the formula for their presentations worked really well, in the three minute soundbites. Maybe a more informal 'chat with the researchers' afterwords would allow more in depth discussion for anyone who wants to know more. I really enjoyed the panel you were involved in and hearing about your Outbox Incubator experience! Now that I found your blog, I'll be following with interest.