What to expect at The Next Web 2018

Photo: Dan Taylor

Photo: Dan Taylor

The Next Web kicks off next week in Amsterdam (24-25 May), and this year's event looks set to be bigger and better than any that have gone before. The core of the conference focuses on digital innovation, but this year organisers have scaled up in a big way: there are now a whopping 19 content tracks, covering everything from pure creativity to how to build for the future. 

Creative Bloq will be at TNW, reporting on all the action as it unfolds – keep an eye on our Twitter feed for updates. We caught up with director of events Wytze de Haan to find out more about the event, and get a taster of what ticket-holders can expect this year.

There are still some tickets available to buy here, but if you can't make it there will also be live streams of all the stages.

How are preparations going for this year's TNW?

Building a technology festival for 15,000 attendees outside in a park is one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. An enormous amount of detail goes into the execution and each year as the event grows, the pressure to outperform the previous edition grows with it. The production is one beast to tame, but then there are also the 264 speakers, 59 brands we partner with and roughly 750 staff members that play a part in the event.

I really can’t imagine the preparations being more overwhelming than they were now, but then I say that every year. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way, working on TNW Conference is like taking cocaine: it’s really addictive and we spend way too much money on it.

What sets TNW apart from other events?

The answer to that question is hard to put into words. I think one of the defining fundamentals of what makes the event great is the fact that we’re innovators building for innovators. I don’t have to stick to some bullshit corporate playbook, and not everything we decide to build or implement has to make sense commercially. 

Sometimes you just want to create stuff because it’s provocative, crazy and never been done before. If you’re going to spend so much of your time and energy building something, it’d better be something you’re proud of.

Xander (creative producer) and I both loved the film Prometheus. The opening scene has Peter Weyland do a talk at TED2023 in a 360-degree arena. We both really wanted to rebuild that setting into the Gashouder – five months later we have a real-life version that fits 3,100 people and is equipped with eight 5x3 metre screens. 

You've scaled up from last year. Tell us about some of the themes you've added…

We’re in a position now where we’re seeing that technology is no longer an industry, but rather the underlying driver of change and innovation for every business everywhere. We’ve added tracks like Offside to discuss how wearables and eSports are innovating the sports industry, Music Summit to talk about distributing music over the blockchain and The Future of Work to look ahead at how Internet of Things will affect the way we work and live in the near future.

Overall it’s clearly evident that blockchain, artificial intelligence and internet of things are the key themes of this edition, but what’s really fascinating is to see how these three technologies are being used in niches you would have never expected. That kind of inspiration is what makes it interesting to be here for these two days.

For designers attending, what talks would you recommend?

One of the tracks we’re launching this year is Design Th:nkers. We have some of the leading experts in design thinking coming to share how they’ve implemented that in their business. Even though I’m usually trying to convince non-designers why they should attend sessions that will help them think like a designer, I also believe this content to be great for designers wanting to understand how their work can help drive business innovation. 

And then for the creative minds, come and see Jason Silva. His mind works on a completely different level and the last talk I’ve seen him do really blew me away.

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Ruth Hamilton

Ruth spent a couple of years as Deputy Editor of Creative Bloq, and has also either worked on or written for almost all of the site's former and current print titles, from Computer Arts to ImagineFX. She now spends her days reviewing mattresses and hiking boots as the Outdoors and Wellness editor at T3.com, but continues to write about design on a freelance basis in her spare time.