If Carlsberg Made Conferences (part 3)…


This is part 3 of this article (also read part one, two, four and five)

Jindrich Faborsky was a new name to me on the conference scene, but it turned out he’d already been to way more events than I’ve attended. As part of his research into all the tech and marketing conferences in Europe, he did successive road tours — pounding the dirt, taking notes and making trips all over the place. Reconnaissance.

This was pretty smart in my book, because he’s a natural pattern spotter and is interested in a lot of the details that people miss. He wanted to set up something new, different and better and so started by exploring the problem space — what sucked about the conference he gleefully traipsed along to?

And this research spawned Marketing Festival, in Brno in the Czech Republic. Attended by nearly a thousand people, it was the biggest event of the year I’ve spoken at and certainly the most organised. Amazing speakers too — and mainly in English. All the sessions are realtime translated using an interpreter and a streaming app. If you don’t do English, your headphones will translate everything for you. Smart and genuinely useful.

From the moment I was contacted by Jindrich (months before the event) until I left on the plane, I experienced a level of effortless organisation of every detail that stands out above any event of this kind. All the speakers spent hours (yes hours) on Skype or by Phone discussing the audience, ideas for the talk, initial outlines, travel, how everything would work on the day — really useful for me to make my stuff better for all the attendees.

I had an amazing speaker experience — I felt like I’d just morphed into the body of someone about to get taken out onto a live TV show — these guys know how to do this stuff slickly and professionally and without hassles. It was wonderfully hosted, the content and speakers were fantastic and the range of topics interesting, practical and useful.

Other small details stood out — the local and frankly ‘artisanal’ food that we sampled, the coffee (OMG — the freaking coffee) was soooo good that words don’t do it justice. Espresso or tiny cappucino were the only two options for fast queue turnaround but the beans were the star here. Best coffee all year for me (anywhere, period).

After his talk, Avinash Kaushik was handing out chocolate from Tcho (www.tcho.com) that is on a different planet from anything I’ve tasted before. I was laughing my ass off when he was asked for a “selfie with friends” photo for the 926th time, as I looked at the haunted (hunted?) expression in his eyes. I congratulated myself on being unknown enough to avoid this level of attention, when I got tapped on the shoulder by two Polish guys, wanting exactly the same <ironic lopsided grin>.

After chatting with them, I breezily told them that I’d been thinking about Poland the other day. They looked shocked with that ‘Are you pulling my leg? Seriously? WTF?’ kinda expression. I then explained that I’d been reading again about Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski and their role in being both 10 years ahead of everyone else in breaking Nazi messages and for managing to smuggle out an Enigma machine before Poland was invaded in WWII. Without them, there would have been no Bletchley Park or films about Enigma or indeed a United Kingdom any more— as the critical aspect of using mathematicians to break weaknesses in ciphers would have been missed and I’m sure we’d have lost the war and been invaded.

We also owe the Polish nation a debt for their contribution to the Battle of Britain, with the largest claimed combat successes of any Allied Fighter Squadron, the British included. I laugh when people talk about “Bloody Poles/Romanians/Insert country here” coming over here — if it hadn’t been for the Poles, that flag outside your house would have arms and legs on it, matey.

The parties though — oh yeah! — I forgot to mention them (grins voraciously).

First night before the conference there was a large party in a Cinema & Art Gallery (missed that one). Second night was in a freaking massive pub, on several levels, with live music — including a spectacular 12 piece Ukulele Orchestra. They were fantastically tight players as a group and rocked the house.

The last night was the best. One 1500 capacity nightclub, two sound stages, 7 hours of music including live DJs, Electronica, Rap, Rock and more, all set in a maze of rooms, mini parties going down and people having fun. I think I went back to the hotel around 4 am but I’m not sure.

I’m playing next year on the DJ stage so it was good to reccie everything to see what the setup was like. I met some amazing people at this party, had lots of fun and the music was excellent too. More like a festival than a conference.

So congratulations to Jindrich Faborsky and his amazing crew for making the top 4. The best attendee experience I’ve seen and apart from the wifi, nothing else went wrong or caused a hiccup and everything generally looked effortless — hard to pull that off.

I saw all the planning, preparation, organisation, detail obsession and sheer effort that went into the whole crafting of the experience, which was also fantastic as a speaker too. The skill level in the Czech Republic is fantastically high and the conference programming reflects both local and international talent in a beautiful and unhurried city.

Videos are still available on the site for those that didn’t go and if you meet Jindrich, talk to him — he knows a lot about what does and doesn’t work, from hard won experience.


Originally published at medium.com on November 25, 2014.

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