Stream 2016: Crossing Paths — Musings from a First-Time Streamer

It has been more than a week since I returned from Stream 2016, back from sunny Greece back to soggy London. And I am still hyped up and full of energy to share my impressions and energy with friends and everyone I meet. I am very grateful for this new and unforgettable experience of what Stream, an unconference co-organized by WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell and Yossi Vardi, was.

When I moved to London, I dived into hardcore-networking with often attending several events and multiple follow-ups per day.

Having joined my fair share of events, especially when after moving to London I dived into hardcore-networking with often attending several events and multiple follow-ups per day. I know how rare and unique it is to cross paths with people where it just clicks. You meet such people, maximum once a month (if you’re lucky). And I mean connections on a personal level, because of who they are and not of what their title is or how you can benefit from each other.

Stream is the new, personal benchmark for networking

Picture this: 300 people, in an understated beach-side setting, a casual dress code and drinks to ease the conversation — this combination (somehow) meant the egos were left at home. But the environment is all water under the bridge, if it wasn’t for the people present. I should give full credit to the organizers for how they managed to bring together so many like-minded people, some from worlds and industries poles apart.

From the moment you arrive the culture of the instant connection is clear

Strangers smile, exchange hellos, everyone is open and positive. This energy is contagious. The conversations flow naturally, jumping from one topic to another and you end up talking for hours. There’s no struggle, no awkward moments of silence. You’re part of a new family genuinely interested in building long-lasting relationships, less the hard push of (sales) agendas. This is a perfect habitat for friendship and partnership, where synergies form naturally on a level outside of the office.

Discussions at WPP Stream 2016

It is in this type of environment; great ideas can be born

Who knows, if you might look back a few years from now to how you met your co-founder and conquer the world together, and it will be through Stream. Stream ignites conversations from where life-time ideas and partnerships are born — the atmosphere that every business accelerator and incubator is eager to replicate.

Three days of Unstructured Structure

Smartly and effectively engineered, each day is subtly designed to draw out an individual’s character vs. title and organisation. The scene is set by the blank whiteboards in the main hub. All participants are encouraged to shape the agenda by volunteering to host Discussions and Workshops on topics they are passionate about.

The Big Boards at WPP Stream 2016

This year despite the audience being 75% ‘virgin’ Streamers, the boards were filled within minutes with topics ranging from VR — the impact and future of advertising; Creative AI; Walled Gardens; Sleep Revolution; How to Raise Genius Kids; Data Superheroes; The Future of Food Production; Gender Fluidity; New Marketing Currencies; How can big companies move faster?; LEGO speed building; Build a DIY computer from scratch; How to solve a Rubik’s Cube; and so much more.

Personal highlights

This was my first-time Stream, and I was fortunate enough to direct and co-host the Ignite Talks (15 slides, 15 seconds each). Each Ignite talk is ferociously fast, and fun, and totally unrelated to business.

Maxim Gelmann co-hosting Ignite Talks at WPP Stream 2016

There was a perfect mix of new learnings, practical advice and truly inspiring stories from Swimming with Swans; Drag Queens saving the universe; Blockchain explained in emoji’s; building an orphanage in Nepal; to gamifying cancer (from a cancer survivor).

This diversity of thought and expression makes the format of Stream so unique and engaging, allowing everyone to shut-off from their daily routines and expand their horizons.

The same holds true for the unconventional discussion format, that wasn’t based on the usual PowerPoints, sponsored topics and a top-down approach, but rather on the contrary — open topics suggested by participants, equal opportunity to contribute and no pre-defined agenda. This flexibility in format brings not only a wide array of genuinely appealing topics and opportunity to express your true self, but also new viewpoints and cross-disciplinary, transferable learnings from seemingly unrelated topics.

Another highlight is the talent show that encourages Streamers to showcase their marvelous talents and adds to the atmosphere through its entertaining nature in form of magic and singing performances, PowerPoint Karaoke — Streamers navigating through randomly assembled slides — as well as gadgets such as a dancing robots and guests invading the hotel kitchen for a midnight cook-off.

The final evening was concluded with two bonfires on the beach, which unfortunately marked the official end of the unconference and celebrated the beginning of new partnerships and friendships.

Maxim Gelmann acts as CBDO at Fabacus, where he changes the way the apparel manufacturing and fashion, retail and hospitality industry manages its operations, through smarter business management technology solutions.

The product portfolio ranges from an intelligent SCM and PLM software for the apparel manufacturing industry, to a systems integration platform, paired with a true business intelligence tool that provides clients with cross-company living data that gives them unique and enhanced insights into how their business and customers operate.

Solving real business-challenges, such as delivering a true and seamless omni-channel experience, Fabacus vertical product stack improves efficiency and ignites growth.

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