One more goal for the year 2016 has been achieved – ‘get a volunteer experience’. When I set this goal I had no clue what kind of volunteer experience I wanted to gain. I just felt the edge to be a part of something bigger and help other people. And such an amazing opportunity came along.

What is Slush?

A year ago my friend told me his story about Slush. He worked there as a volunteer and was truly impressed by this event. What is Slush, you might ask? Slush is a non-profit event organized by a community of entrepreneurs, investors, students, and industry experts. It has grown into one of the leading events of its kind, but its philosophy has remained the same: to help drive the next generation of great companies forward. This event is held each fall in Helsinki to bring together the leading actors in the global tech scene to accelerate the growth of startups.

How did I get in?

Back to the story! My friend noticed my interest towards Slush and volunteer experience in general, and in September he told me to fill in the application, as the recruiting process started. He mentioned that most of the places are usually given to students (especially from Aalto University), but it was still worth trying (fyi, I graduated from the university 2,5 years ago, so I’m no longer a student, but a full-time specialist). As I knew that my chances to get a place were really small, I worked hard on my application and hoped that the universe would hear and give me this opportunity.

In the end of October I got a call from a team leader offering me a place in the Meeting Area. No words can express how excited I was about this offer! I couldn’t believe my ears! I got an opportunity to become a part of something very special! This year Slush gathered 17,500 attendees and 1 million live stream viewers. 2,336 startups, 1146 investors, and 610 journalists from over 120 countries came to Slush 2016 to advance their business and to experience the phenomenal atmosphere! And 2,300 volunteers did their best to make it happen!

Slush Volunteers Day

On the 12th of November we had a Slush Volunteers Day, when we met some members of our teams and got to know each other, participated in the check-point race, listened to inspirational speeches (the speech of the Finnish president truly touched me) and had a party at Circus where Reino Nordin sang for us! We spent the whole day together, and it was a great team-building experience!

Preparation Stage

From time to time all the volunteers received newsletters from the organizers and followed updates in different Facebook groups, and it was a good thing because it helped us get prepared and focused on the upcoming event. Besides, the level of excitement was constantly increasing, as we all were looking forward to Slush 2016!

On the 29th of November we had a Venue Training to see the place (Messukeskus), take pictures, get some volunteers stuff and go through the tasks. It was a day to see all the members of your team and get focused on what was going to happen.

What was I responsible for?

I was supposed to be with a Meeting Area Group 6 first, but a half of my team worked for the Slush Music event on the 30th of November, so I had to join another international team, and I got super-lucky! Our team leader was well-organized, truly focused, attentive, inspiring and just awesome. He managed to get us truly dedicated to our work and team – Henrik, du bist ausgezeichnet!!! My team was made up by amazing people from Finland, Germany/Denmark, Austria, Iceland, Norway, Italy and China, and I’m truly grateful to them for the great memories we created together.

As for my tasks, I worked as a receptionist/runner at the Meeting Area that was mainly reserved for investors and startups to have beforehand organized meetings. My goal was to provide the best possible customer service which means meeting and greeting participants with enthusiasm and good Slush-spirit, registering and double-checking meetings, and guiding people to the right table (out of 166).

Meeting Area is a place to be

Of course, I strongly believe that this area is the coolest to work at. Behind our backs outstanding deals had been made. Can you imagine how nervous startups are before the meetings? When you walk them to the table, you’re the last person they see and talk to before meeting their investors, thus your mission ‘help them get ready for anything coming in future 30 minutes ‘ is truly important as it may influence the results.

You know what was the most mind-blowing thing? Seeing how your smile and positive attitude can calm people down. People looked deep in my eyes searching for the last-minute proof that everything would go just fine and said ‘thank you for your help and kindness’. Of course, investors were way less nervous, but still it was clear how our positive vibes made them enjoy this whole event even more. During these 2 days I was giving a lot of my energy to dozens of diffrent people, absolute strangers. I was truly out there for them. And what I didn’t expect at all – I got even more in return. And that was something I had never experienced before.

This year we registered almost 5200 meetings! The initial feedback from the visitors was truly positive. Our team was continuously praised for dealing with any problem in a very professional, kind and extremely helpful way. That was a great success!

Oh my, this blog post tends to be long, so let me divide it into several parts! Is this story interesting for you to read? Stay tuned for more!

P.S. Slush 2016, you have won a special place in my heart!