What does it take to land THE talk at Web Summit?

Being a speaker at the biggest tech conference in the world is no joke. Attendees from Fortune 500 companies to small startups coming from all over the globe to meet, exchange ideas, sell, network and inspire each other. This year hosted in Lisbon, Portugal for the third time. If you are a professional in tech industry and keen about visions of future that most likely we would see realised within a decade or sooner – this is the place to be. However such broad and diverse audience  not only has its standards but also requires different preparation because one of the rules that applies with no exception is:

know your audience

As one of the 1200 speakers standing out isn’t a piece of cake.

Web Summit 2018: By the numbers

This is not a regular conference from your field. It gathers investors, freelancers, entrepreneurs, artists, software developers and more under one roof and most importantly from all businesses that you could possibly name. The speakers are assigned to blocks about a specific subject, this year we could enjoy:

  • Auto/Tech & TalkRobot
  • binate.io
  • creatiff
  • planet:tech
  • CryptoConf
  • ContentMakers
  • DeepTech
  • FullSTK
  • HealthConf
  • Modum
  • MoneyConf
  • SaaS Monster
  • SportsTrade
  • Startup University

So even if you have your presentation under a specific block you cannot assume that everyone present is going to know the technical details from your field. There’s probably going to be couple of “lost lambs”, time-killers or, as I like to call them, seat-keepers (that are actually waiting for speech after you). But this does not have to mean thet you can’t inspire them, teach them something or surprise them with the best talk they seen during the whole conference!

listen to the questions

Seems obvious right? Careful, active listening is an important skill, you cannot think only about what you want to say cause you will end up with not answering the question at all. And what’s worst than that?

Remember that your time is limited, make sure you are making most of it and be direct.

Many blocks used built in the Web Summit app question drop where people from audience could write their question or vote for one that they liked (one of my questions got picked too:).

calm down with the presentation techniques

Avoid phrases like:

“This is a very good question”,


“This is an excellent question”

We all know it is a technique and that is why it is annoying. Using it makes look less authentic. You can use it if you REALLY mean it, otherwise it is an act and worst part is – everyone knows it.  Having presentation skills means also knowing when not to use them.

find balance

The best presentations I saw during Web Summit were somewhere between advertising a product and entertaining. The speaker talked about the company’s projects but at the same time didn’t leave me with a feeling of watching a commercial. The best presenters  weren’t all extremely charismatic but they had one thing in common:


They all inspired the audience, injected their ideas into our minds and left us with something more than just name of their company linked with a positive mindset. They left us wondering about vision of future that they just sold us.

think about what you want (or don’t want) to say – twice!

This one should land under the article “How not to land the worst speech at Web Summit” and is considering one speaker that I saw (sorry…).

I was actually waiting for this one during the first day at conference.

How we hacked plastic with Daphna Nissenbaum

Mrs Nissenbaum is CEO of Tipa-Corp that provides compostable packaging (one eco-friendly material  to rule them all) and was a speaker in planet:tech block. In conversation with Isabel Hilton (Founder & Editor of Chinadialogue.Net)

The environmental subjects were one of the most promising and interesting for me personally so I went there with big hopes. Unfortunately despite many questions I didn’t hear an answer for the important ones. Istead I experienced a show of how to talk around the question in every possible way.

I still think that the product is amazing and the idea is a game-changer but I wished to hear more about technology itself. Not only WHAT it is but also HOW. Too bad Mrs Nissenbaum, because the potential was enormous.

Who nailed it?

  • Christian Kroll, Ecosia – Opening remarks: Why I bought a forest
  • Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic – Space for everyone: An inside look at Virgin Galactic
  • Grazia Vittandini, Airbus – Airbus’ airborne journey ahead
  • Ruzwana Bashir, Peek ; Alex Tew, Calm & Paige VanZant, UFC in conversation with Leah Hunter (Books + TV + Fast Co., Forbes, O’Reilly) – Are you mindful or your mind full?


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