Networking by volunteering

One of the Student Activators, Satu Niemelä, was volunteering in Slush last fall. Satu was part of the construction team. Satu praises the experience because in Slush the organizers took good care of the volunteers and it was inspiring to build a big, international event.

Slush is an international event for technology and startup businesses. It has been arranged since 2008 and it takes place in Helsinki. Slush’ goal is to bring together international growth companies, investors and media and to help entrepreneurs to succeed and to grow their business in the industry of their choice. Slush has become one of the leading growth company events in Europe in the last few years. Slush is organized by a non-profit organization, which consists of investors, entrepreneurs, students and volunteers. Last year  3500 startup companies and 2000 investors attended the event. In addition to these there were also 2400 volunteers and 350 researchers.

“This was my first time in Slush. In the application for volunteers we were asked if there is a particular team where we would like to attend to and I answered that it wouldn’t matter to me. I attended because I wanted to see how to organize such a big event. Slush is such an amazing event. How on earth do they manage to transform Helsinki Messukeskus into something so different. It can’t even be recognised as the same space that is used in some other fairs that I have visited! Organizing big events interests me. How important it is to control the whole event. That someone really handles everything especially when there are so many people helping and everyone has their own responsibilities”, Satu lists her reasons to volunteer.

Volunteers come to Slush from different kinds of backgrounds and also from abroad. “I think that individuals have very different kinds of reasons, why to volunteer. Many of them want to grow their network or they might be interested in organizing events or want to take part because of the free ticket to the event. It’s a big bonus that you can walk pass the queue and get in through the volunteers’ door. Our construction team had voluntary work days. We did all kinds of stuff that could be done to prepare for the event. We started building up the event about a week before. We were also volunteering during the event in case someone would have needed any help”, Satu says.

The team leaders were also volunteers. Slush’ Talent Team organised all the volunteer actions. There was a group in Slack for all volunteers and there was one person who delivered all the messages for volunteers and for the team leaders. “Our team leader recruited us straight to his own team by calling everyone personally. The team leader made sure that everyone was working in their own shift. The volunteer shift lasted eight hours, but we were very often in the evening shift so if we got the job done faster, we could leave earlier. We had our own space where we get to take a break and eat during the construction and the event itself”, Satu explains to me.

The organizers of Slush had prioritized that the volunteers would team up and get to know each other. Before the event they had arranged a Volunteer Day, which was of course voluntary. Satu says that during that day everyone got to know all the volunteers, not just the ones in your own team.

To expand its own network, Slush had a Match Making Tool app, through which all participants, regardless of their role, be it an investor or a startup or a volunteer, were able to network. There was a Meeting Area in the event, where you could book a table for a specific time and meet the people you had contacted. After the event, the volunteers still had their own After Party, during which they could continue networking together.

Satu thought the experience was really nice and inspiring. “I could volunteer again this year.”

This interview was made before the coronavirus outbreak and now we know that Slush has been cancelled this year. Hopefully Satu and the other volunteers will be able to help organize Slush next year.


Text: Susanna Leinonen

Photo: Riikka Vaahtera / Slush