By Veso Varik EBA year 1
This year at the start of my BBA studies in Metropolia UAS I found out about the tech-leading event of Slush that has been held in Helsinki almost annually for the past five years. So I decided to chip in and experience it in a different way – as a volunteer.
I applied to volunteering teams on one of the last application days as a last minute decision and did not think much of it. The following week I was invited to a brand new team – The Oasis. You might think the Oasis team is all about playing the broken record of Oasis – Wonderwall, fortunately it had nothing to do with that.
The Oasis is the getaway area of the Slush event, for the times when the tech- and business-talk becomes too much and you have to have a break from the storm. It is a paradise of calmness, relaxation and goodwill human-to-human encounters. A space without devices, brands and selling. A chance to reduce stress, reload mental batteries and all-in-all sharpen focus.
The first official event of Slush for volunteers – The Volunteer Day – was where we got to meet all of the teams and workshops for this year’s Slush event. The day started off with every volunteer meeting with their own team in the team lead’s home for a nice warm breakfast and a meet and greet. Each team then moved onto Aalto University’s three factories. The first factory was Design Factory where everyone got their introduction to the ins and outs of Slush and its concept. From there we moved onto Urban Mill where there was a small booth for every volunteer team the Slush 2018 had on its premises and had a short and quick rundown on those. The third destination was the StartUp Sauna, where we had a few speeches given by the lead volunteers and a game of sustainability where we had to recycle different types of trash into their rightful places (i.e. plastic cans into metal, paper plates into flammable waste and so on). After this we moved to Aalto University main auditorium where all volunteers came together for presentations and learning how to exceed customer service expectations, as well as how to react when certain more difficult situations arise.
After the learning part of the day, we got to finally relax and crack open a few beers for the Volunteer pre-pre-party at each of our team leaders places. We played some games to get to know each other better and had a quick meditation ring with the whole gang in order to get into the more Oasis vibe for the night. All of the members of the Oasis team were surprisingly like-minded and very open people regardless of the age differences and ethnic backgrounds.
After the pre-pre-party, most of us continued to the official pre-party of Volunteers day in Aalto’s Design Factory where a lot of volunteers took part in different card games, drinking games, casual chatting and also dancing to the beats that were blasting from the towering speakers. Pre-party at Design Factory ended at around 22:00 and the party moved on to Club Maxine in Helsinki where the late nighters met their limits in the early morning hours and stumbled home in Michael Jackson “Thriller”-style.
The day had finally come and the gates of Slush were finally open. Masses of people started pouring into the Messukeskus venue and Oasis was ready to start its mission of relieving stress and taking guests’ minds off the business once they got burnt out. Throughout the day, the majority of guests who wandered into Oasis were positively surprised. We welcomed them with open arms, gave them a short rundown of what the Oasis is about, introduced them to the activities and offered them some warm relaxing tea or a wake-up-coffee. The different services we offered to the guests were just relaxing on a beanbag/mound of pillows, doing yoga with the very talented yoga instructor Kylli Kukk, enjoying the soothing Tuvan (Mongolian) throat-singing, yatga instrument-playing volunteer Merja, colouring in Mandalas or receiving a shoulder and neck massage from the Refugee Startup volunteers who also served middle eastern coffee, tea or just a cup of cold water to the guests.
The more the time passed the more people came to Oasis and by 4pm the whole room was full and people were relaxing from the whole hectic event and multiple hours of talking, hearing and seeing business in every possible direction they look.
The first day was quite hectic although overall very successful. People really liked Oasis and kept coming back when they had spent a few more hours roaming the rest of the venue. Guests had constant questions about locations of different booths/rooms/stages which we had to either explain or directed them there so they would arrive to their meeting on time and without too much of a hassle.
Second day emerged and the morning was much calmer than the first. People were most likely still tired from the previous day and since Food Market served beer then some were also quite hungover. We had new tactics for the Oasis volunteers and were much more organized. A couple of us went to roam the main venue of Slush, advertising the concept of Oasis. We did some minor remodelling and relocating of furniture for it to have the maximum space for seating, more visible massage spots so people would see it from afar and some volunteers were assigned to help in the kitchen with serving beverages.
The rest of the event was very well designed, planned out and brought to life. There was never really a moment when there were too many people in one spot. Guests received good customer service, were well fed and hydrated, got to their meetings, different panels and presentations and a lot of Startups and Investors formed new partnerships for co-operation and to create something new and innovative.
The topic most often discussed in Slush this year was information security and Blockchain, seeing how data-leaks are a frequent problem these days and our information is not handled nearly as securely by large corporations as it should be. Therefore the technology is somewhat going in a right direction to not further damage the risks of personal privacy.
After a long day of working, attending the event and the most out of the short time, the business part of the day had come to an end. People went back to their homes and hotels to take a hot shower, eat some food and open the first beer of the day to start getting ready for the official afterparty which was also held in Messukeskus, the very same venue as the event earlier in the day. Construction team had the short time of 3 hours to get most of the booths and smaller construction done and the stages ready for some DJs to spin the plates and provide music for the guests to move their body. Some of the bigger artists that performed at the afterparty were K-X-P, Death Hawks and one of the guys behind the electronic music supergroup Major Lazer with his solo career that goes by the name of Jillionaire.
People had fun and pushed their Slush experience to the limits by dancing their shoes off at the afterparty. The day after we already got some feedback regarding the Oasis and it seemed that people were very happy Slush had brought this concept to life and that they hadn’t had to spend the entire 2 days in a loud and dark environment. We can be sure the Oasis concept will be included again in future and in even more powerful format.
Volunteering at Slush was a new and very interesting personal experience. I learned a lot about how such massive events are brought to life, the processes happening behind the curtain, the technological advancements that are happening in tech as of right now and much much more. If you have ever thought about going on this journey of volunteering to any big event/festival, then I highly suggest you try it out and you will learn a ton of new things and find a massive amount of new information regarding of what direction to take with your future plans.