Why Go To Technological Forums If You Have A Liberal Arts Background
The DLD Conference through a PR consultant’s eyes
Since 2013, I’ve been consulting in the sphere of strategic communications, and providing PR services to technological companies and venture funds. I have worked with startups, with venture capital firms, and with companies from the Fortune 500 list, such as Microsoft, PayPal and eBay. Over the years, my clients have included EdCrunch, MEL Science, Target Global, Gett, Prisma Labs, and others.
I often go to international conferences. Over the last two years, I’ve been to two Web Summits in Lisbon, the Emerge conference in Minsk and TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin. And just recently I returned from Munich where I attended the DLD Conference for the second year in a row.
DLD stands for Digital Life Design. The event’s main goal is to bring together investors and creative public opinion leaders. For me, the forum offers two significant benefits.
Insights from world-class speakers in their own words
Each year, DLD has a new theme, and the speakers have to adhere to that theme through their thoughts and talking points. The recurrent themes of 2019 were optimism and courage, and the ways of adding them to everyone’s lives. This year, the participants were challenged with a question: “What are you adding?”
One would think that such a topic would be covered by motivational speakers or life coaches. But the stage was taken by a Nobel Prize laureate from Bangladesh, a global chess champion from Russia, a writer from Germany, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and a geneticist/futurist from Switzerland.
The topic of each presentation always relates to what’s happening in the world. This helps me to both keep track of global events, and to better understand how to work with international projects. For example, I’ve been working with Genotek for over three years now. Although I am no expert in genetics, I can be on the same page as the journalists. I see the overall picture, and thanks to the DLD lectures, it’s augmented with more important details.
Below, I want to share some ideas and thoughts from this year’s conference that really caught my attention.
Are we ready for genetically modified humans?
Jamie Metzl is a well-known geneticist from Switzerland and the author of the Hacking Darwin book. In addition to his work in genetics, he is also a futurist who is often invited to the largest global forums.
Jamie is excellent on stage: his speeches are clear, focused and well-articulated, and his presentations are always eye-catching. Like many European speakers, Metzl ends his speech with a call-to-action — “Read my book if you haven’t done so already” — and the claim that “Genetics in everyday life is not the future, it’s the present.”
The topic of his DLD lecture was “Are we ready for genetically modified humans?” Below are some quotes and advice from Jamie Metzl.
The knowledge of your genetics is not a whim, but a sign of self-care. Caring for your health and assessing it is a must: at the very least, you should regularly do blood tests and check your blood pressure. Invest in your social circle because profound and warm relationships extend our lives and help us feel happy every day.
Medical treatment on the basis of your DNA tests is a normal and expected transition to personalized medicine. The progress of P4 medicine remains the principal healthcare trend around the world. Genetics has already transformed our approaches to treatment and prevention of diseases and pregnancy planning. A simple genetic test provides couples with an excellent opportunity to forecast their future child’s health. If there’s no overlap in genetic mutations, the child will most likely be born without hereditary diseases.
Do everything that you can to preserve your youth: train for 45 minutes a day, eat healthy (plant-based) food, sleep for at least 7 hours, don’t smoke, keep away from the bright sun, build relationships with people, set goals for yourself.
How do we make business socially conscious?
The Nobel laureate and economist Muhammad Yunus spoke about the social consciousness of business. Muhammad wrote the book A World of Three Zeros, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to fight poverty.
In his speech, Muhammad spoke about social inequality and about the fact that each of us should already start thinking about our grandchildren’s lives.
“Twenty-six people invited to speak at this conference have more money that half of the world’s population,” Muhammad said, blaming the system. «Such wealth imbalances are a bad sign for democracy and a ticking time bomb”. The professor’s presentation was warmly received by all of the conference participants.
I’m sure you understand that there were plenty of lectures and insights. It would be difficult to fit them all into one or even two posts. But here are some other interesting talking points from the event that got me thinking.
- Protection of personal information remains one of the most important problems for modern people.
- Everything should be efficient — our use of energy and big data, and our relationship with our home, the Earth.
- Environmentalism should form an inalienable part of our consciousness. Global climate change, fires, and excess plastic concern everyone!
- Africa is becoming an open technological market although it has 17 times fewer entrepreneurs than America.
Opportunity to establish strategic contacts
DLD is one of the few conferences with no exhibition space for startups. It’s just two stages for presentations, and a lobby with food and drinks. The focus here is on making connections, communication, and gaining new knowledge.
I always prepare carefully for each conference: set specific goals, study the speakers, decide ahead of time who I want to meet and talk to. I pay special attention to participants and try to expand my network as much as possible.
Last year, I was lucky to meet Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, ballet star Sergei Polunin and the founder of Hoff, Mikhail Kuchment.
Such meetings provide great motivation and charge me with energy to achieve my goals. This year, I dreamed of speaking with Garry Kasparov who was among the speakers. Unfortunately, the grand chess master had very little time, so I was left with just a photo.
I always introduce myself to journalists and interesting speakers. This year, studying the list of participants in the conference app, I saw a young woman from the cybersecurity industry and suggested we meet at the venue. Turns out, she does corporate PR at Kaspersky Lab, and we had a lot of common topics to discuss. In the end we talked for an hour and a half, and discovered that we know a lot of the same people.
During one of the lunches I found myself seated next to a young woman from Kiev. We made each other’s acquaintance and talked. As a result, we agreed on a partnership between our clients.
How to join the conference
DLD conferences are invitation-only, but you can submit an application (with a letter of motivation written in English). You’ll be given several topics (such as face recognition, climate change, confidentiality, etc.) — and you’ll have to explain how they will affect your life and share some ideas. You’ll also have to find somebody working in this sphere among the speakers, and write that you’d be interested to talk with them, offering to meet up.
I work with the Target Global venture fund, and for two years now we’ve been buying a partnership package that provides us with several tickets for the fund’s employees. Having these tickets enables me to attend the conference for free.
Useful extras to take home
DLD is famous for its useful gifts. Each year, you receive a good-quality backpack, a book, international magazines, and brochures with research on different topics, from environmental pollution to the social role of business.
In 2019, we were given a silver-colored zipped clutch — I still use it for cards and documents. They also include a new gadget in the backpack. Last year, it was a webcam cover for your notebook; this year we got a wallet with built-in bank card protection.
But souvenirs are just a nice bonus, of course.
Why is the conference so valuable?
There are no random people at the DLD conference. As a rule, there are no more than 500 participants at each one. Only the largest companies and top positions can attend: founders, top managers, company heads. I’ve seen most of them last year, and many already know each other. So why does this matter? Because you get a chance to build a more profound relationship with people whose mentality is similar to yours.
Both the speakers and participants have a wealth of experience in different spheres, so whatever your area of work, you’ll find this inherently useful. It’s difficult to overestimate the fruitfulness of communication with such people.
And what about you? Which conferences do you consider to be the most productive? Do you go to any conferences at all?