Here at Poke we like a good event, festival, conference or whatever you want to call it. We’ve been to Contagious events, The Next Web Europe, regularly visit Cannes and SxSW each year and do our own talks at Social Media Week and more. We know a thing or two about festivals in the digital world.
Summer is a time for rest and a time for planning so if you’re in need of inspiration for where to go, what to do and whether it’s worth it this autumn or next year, we compiled a long list of interesting festivals around the world that are worth paying attention to.
Note: Don't be upset if you don't see yourself here (yet). Our list is not meant to be comprehensive as we’d be here a while and have a much longer post than we already do. We’ve grouped some events and conferences together and Googled our way through articles and reports to see how many people attended to give an indication of how big it is. We haven’t included prices and/or locations unless these are fixed because things change and events are not cheap to run, so prices fluctuate a lot.
Make this list better: suggest changes or submit a festival
If you organise any of these events and feel like we got something wrong, like calling you a conference instead of a festival (and it’s important), or we haven’t listed you then let us know on Twitter.
To the list:
If you’re into … startups, tech and the digital world.
(Now in) Lisbon, Portugal; Usually around November -- @WebSummitHQ #WebSummit
Web Summit is “where the tech world meets”. It’s rather famous now, having grown in size and exceeded capacity in its Dublin home. It aims to bring together 50 of the world’s top minds in technology. The format is talks and networking, though we’ve heard Twitter rumours about a bunch of influential people giving Web Summit a pass because of the way they were pitched to do talks. Past attendance sounds like 45,000 people were there in 2015 for talks and networking.
Amsterdam, Netherlands -- @TNWConference #tnweurope
The Next Web: One of our favourite news sources for all things digital and the organisers of a pretty large conference on trends in mobile, internet, business (and advertising) practices. We were amongst the 20,000 or so people geeking out in Amsterdam in 2016 and thought it was great if you want to read our tips for navigating talks.
New York, Brooklyn; November 2016 -- @TNWMomentum
Cool newcomer alert! TNW are at it again - after fixing the European conference scene they want to sort out New York. This is the first event of its kind and it will be attended by selected speakers from the tech, design and startup world, including Mattermark, Reddit, Foursquare, Sagmeister + Walsh and more.
Paris, France; Usually in December -- @LeWeb #leweb
LeWeb is certainly one of the longest-running conferences to happen in Europe. It aims to “bring together the most ambitious audience in the internet ecosystem” . The conference took a break in 2015 as the original founders bought back the concept and there’s no LeWeb in 2016 either. Economist says it’s "Where revolutionaries gather to plot the future”. Over 2,000 attendees from over 80 countries attend LeWeb and the talks are keenly followed on social media by far more. When it does come back it might come back with the usual theme to each year, and lots of talks to follow on social or watch recordings of.
Geneva, Switzerland; Usually in February -- @LIFTConference #lift16
LIFT is not on the same scale as LeWeb but it is one of Europe’s oldest digital innovation conferences spanning three days. It was created in 2006 in Geneva and sees over 1,000 participants each year who attend talks, workshops and masterclasses, prototyping labs and exhibitions for interactive projects all around Geneva. There’s often a theme to each conference, like the business and social implications of technological innovation (2015).
Originated: Berlin, Germany; Usually in June -- @TheEuropas #TheEuropas
They bill themselves as Europe’s most prestigious tech awards, where you’ll get to see the best of what Europe has to offer and meet the key movers and shakers. The format is talks around the awards ceremony and a lot of networking in between. From what we can see about attendance usually over 1,000 startups take part.
Berlin, Germany; Sometime in June 2017 -- @thingscon and #thingscon
ThingsCon is a festival and community about the Internet of Things (IoT), new hardware and connected devices. The two-day conference started in Berlin and spawned local chapters and conferences like the one in Amsterdam. The big event will likely move away from this location to somewhere else in Europe in 2017. As the organisers put it, they cover “everything it takes to grow a hardware product from prototype to scaling business, to empower local communities through connected technology, to make a meaningful impact through product design.” So don’t be scared if you’re not making hardware with your own hands - it’s still a great conference to look out for. Over 400 people attend and the numbers are growing with each year. If you’re into… entrepreneurship
Sheffield, UK; Usually September-November -- @MADEFestival #MADE
They call themselves “the entrepreneur festival” and it’s a celebration of UK entrepreneurship delivered through inspiration, networking, pitching for investment or even informing policy. It was ranked one of the Top 10 Best Worldwide Conferences for Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur.com. Since the audience is very UK and entrepreneur-focused you might expect to find VCs and other investors mingling. From reports around 3,000 people have attended in the past and there are over 50 speakers.
Dublin and New York
Secret festival alert! F.ounders festival has been called a “Davos for geeks” before. News about this invite-only festival by Paddy Cosgrave (the man behind Web Summit) came about as far back as 2012. The website boasts some pretty impressive attendees (including Elon Musk) and it’s hard to know what really happens. It’s also hard to know whether it’s still a thing post-2015 or it’s been replaced by Converge, a similar event hosted before Web Summit in 2015. With so many high-profile attendees and a low profile for the event itself we reckon attendance can’t be more than the low hundreds. If you're in the attendees list, lucky you!
London, Berlin -- @NoahConference #NOAH16
Going between two cities, this event is also startup and entrepreneur-focused but it’s got a more serious and corporate feel to it. It bills itself as “leaders, connected” and it’s where European internet companies gather to assess the state of the industry. The format is talks and networking, and it’s been going for a while with over 2,000 attendees.
If you’re into … art, media, games and entertainment
Barcelona, Spain (and elsewhere) -- @OFFFest #OFFF17 #offfontour
Another festival where the reference to Flash has been quietly retired over the years. The OFFF festival (originally the ‘Open Flash Film Festival) in Barcelona brings together a diverse range of speakers from Sagmeister to relatively unknown designers and studios. Although a strong digital vein runs through OFFF digital is by no means the only star here and more traditional design and art forms rub shoulders with digital luminaries such as OFFF grandfather Joshua Davis. Due to the low price, OFFF is a favourite for students and young designers and there are always workshops which run parallel to the festival: anything from papercraft animation to programmatic animation in Processing.
Austin, Texas, USA -- @SXSW #sxsw
Music, film and emerging technologies to foster creative and professional growth. What can we say about SxSW that hasn’t been covered yet? It’s a multidisciplinary week-long event now full of workshops, exhibitions, talks, music, awards and parties. Some 55,000 or so people attend each year, it has a fringe of its own, a smaller festival (XOXO) was created in response to the fact that SxSW is now so big and even Obama addressed the crowds at SxSW so it has definitely peaked. Poke also attends each year and in the past we’ve written about what talks you should check out as well as contributed our own perspectives to the festival. Keep an eye out on our website or social channels.
Manchester, UK -- @FuturEverything #futr16
Like a SxSW of the North, FutureEverything is a “festival as laboratory” bringing people together to discover, share and experience new ideas for the future. The annual festival explores things at the crossroads between technology, society and culture. It’s a bit like SxSW if we’re allowed to make that comparison, and it brings together “thinkers, developers, coders, artists, designers, urbanists and policy makers, inspiring them to experiment and to collaborate in new ways.” There’s art, music and discussion as well as exhibitions and Guardian named them one of the ten ideas festivals in the world. With around 50,000 people mingling through Manchester when it happens it’s no surprise.
Berlin, Germany; Usually in Q1 -- @transmediale #tm16
Where else to host a festival on art and digital culture if not in Berlin? Running for 30 years in various shapes and forms, transmediale aims to understand contemporary through exhibitions, conferences, screenings, performances, and other publications. Some 20,000 people attend and it’s well established in the local educational scene, usually receiving government support.
Germany; Usually in autumn -- @nextconf #nextconf
Another place where the European digital industry meets and practitioners discuss important matters at hand, and how the things they’re working on will affect the future. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people attend each year to figure out what’s next: what’s next for customers, business models and strategies? There are lots of discussions and workshops and attendees can expect to get special access to venues around Hamburg this year.
Global: Europe (Berlin), Tel Aviv, New York -- @dldconference - #dld16
DLD is a global conference network on innovation, digital media, science and culture. It’s an invite-only event so if you’re lucky to attend you’ll be one of the 1,000 who will hear from 150 speakers selected from the ranks of influential business people in Europe. Lucky you!
If you’re into … trends, inspiration and future thinking
Europe, USA -- @PSFK #psfk16
Going for ten years now, the PSFK conference is the flagship event of the creative ideas and intelligence portal by Piers Fawkes. It runs over three days and it’s billed as a curated collection of creative thinkers with new ideas in design, innovation and storytelling.
New York, USA -- @FastCompany #fcny
Another one of our favourite news sources, Fast Company started and seems to be continuing its Innovation Uncensored conference. It might have a competitor on the scene with Momentum cropping up but the FastCo talks are attended by around 1,000 people from amongst those who “have a mind for modern business”.
Online, worldwide -- @thinkDIF_
For something different, look no further than DIF: an online festival that is free to attend! Set up by the Ellen MacArthur foundation of MacArtur genius grant fame, Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) is an online, open access event that invites thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses, designers and learners to explore the question “The economy is changing - what do I need to know, experience and do?”. It takes place over three weeks worldwide, with over 200 sessions coordinated and accessible via their website.
Usually UK --@Wired #Wired16
As with the magazine, so with the content. Wired has split its events into a number of separate conferences on business, health, money, security and young innovators but the main happening (depending on how you see it) is full of talks about “anything that’s delivering the future today”: neuroscience, robotics, business, design, music, and so on.
Global, London and New York --@contagious #mostcontagious
Contagious conferences are amongst our favourite conferences. We’ve been to, and written at length about what we liked at Now Next Why and Most Contagious. The insights and consultancy company puts on some really smart and insightful events that don’t just do creativity and innovation for the sake of it; they make you stop and think because their network of journalists, researchers and editors dig really hard to ask questions and extract information from places where others might not think to look.
If you’re into … UX, interaction design, web design and more.
Oxford, San Francisco, NY, Spain, Germany -- @smashingconf #smashingconf
From SmashingMag comes SmashingConf: a conference exploring practical insights, tips, tricks and techniques that UX practitioners, web designers and developers can apply straight away. The conference is usually pretty small: 350 people. First come, first served: there’s one track, two conference days, six workshops and fourteen speakers.
Helsinki, New York, South America too -- @ixdconf #ixdconf
Some 1,000 design leaders, professionals, and students converge over the course of a week for an active program of workshops, talks, and awards. It’s generally not a cheap one to attend so better have a spare £1,000 for your ticket alone, flights not included if you’re not lucky enough to live in the host city. The high level calibre of attendees and speakers is worth it though.
Global but we focus on London -- @UXLondon #uxlondon
London isn’t short of UX practitioners, and for those who can’t afford to go to IxDA there’s three days of inspiration and practical workshops in town. It will set you back about £900 for the whole thing but each day of the conference will focus on a specific area of UX, giving people flexibility to choose the most relevant parts for them.
If you’re into … social media
Global, September -- @socialmediaweek #smw16 #smwlondon
SMW is now a worldwide event taking place 18 cities throughout 2016 and it’s also a publishing platform full of insights into how social media and technology are changing business, society and culture around the world. There’s always a theme that changes with each year and influences the talk, such as “The Invisible Hand: Hidden Forces of Technology (and How We Can Harness it for Good)”. It has over 10,000 attendees in New York and similar numbers in London. In 2015 we held two panels in London: Storytelling for Generation Z and Connecting with High Net Worth Individuals. In 2016 we're focusing on the influencer power format: how to do serialised entertainment content in social media.
October, Online -- @SMExaminer #smss16
For those in the granular, nitty gritty world of social networking the people at Social Media Examiner should not be news. Their annual summit is held online, attended virtually by some 3,000 people. On its eighth annual iteration and for half the price of a physical conference we say, why not?
Thanks for reading. Get in touch with us on Twitter if you have suggestions.