Thiemo Gillissen at Conventa Crossover 2019 (

Six years ago, we started out with an idea: We wanted to organize an event that was new, bold, and different—not just another dusty old conference, but a business-themed event where people could learn something and enjoy themselves in the process. We didn’t want to think about the status quo but focus on the future. And we called our event a “festival,” because that was exactly the spirit we wanted to capture.

Fast forward to 2019: “Fifteen Seconds Festival” has attracted some 20,000 attendees over the span of less than a decade. We have brought several hundred thought leaders from a broad range of topic areas to Graz as speakers and created a well-recognized (anti-)conference at the thematic intersection of business, innovation, and creativity that is on the cusp of going international.

Naturally, we spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Because that’s what Fifteen Seconds Festival is very much about, but also because we continually question how we can stay future-oriented in the way we organize our events.

The future of events, as we see it

Digitalization has quite drastically picked up pace in the last decade and technological change is happening quicker than ever before in human history. From e-learning to videoconferencing to virtual events, modern technologies have, in many respects, made it obsolete for people to come together in a physical space to collectively participate in an activity—which is (or at least used to be) the essence of any organized event.

This begs the question: Will events of the future take part solely in the virtual realm? Will coming together at a place to do something be completely replaced by coming together on the Internet, while each of us sits at home individually, staring into their computer screens?

Luckily for us and anyone in the business of organizing events, we are convinced that the answer is no. Technology will play an increasingly important role in all aspects of organizing and executing events: From attracting guests and selling tickets, to bringing attendees to the event location, to venue and experience design, to content delivery, new and upcoming technologies will open up new possibilities and, in many ways, change the way we stage events.

But, at the core, they will remain the same: an opportunity for people to convene and engage. “Homo est animal sociale,” wrote Aristotle—man is a social being. It is our nature as humans to be together, not alone. From a sociological standpoint, organized events feed into that: they can create a sense of social status and belonging for people.


Building on content

So how will we go about creating events in the future? The challenge will basically remain the same: to work out a unique characteristic that truly makes an event stand out; a selling proposition that people are willing to buy into.

We believe that two things are key when it comes to that: high-quality content and an experience that sets you apart.

In our globalized, hyper-connected world, a plethora of content is readily available for anyone, anywhere. This creates freedom of choice, but it can also cause uncertainty and raises the question of where to place one’s trust—a trend that will likely intensify in the future. As event organizers, we can set ourselves apart in this respect by building upon content that is trustworthy and reliable.

At the same time, relevancy of content will carry more and more weight. In order to counteract the information explosion, identifying future-oriented topics that matter and making them a subject of discussion will go a long way towards differentiating oneself from a content perspective.


Delivering on experience

But great content is only one of two cornerstones when it comes to creating events—the other is outstanding experience.

Following the premise that—even in our digitized world—real-life events will continue to outvalue virtual ones, this is where event organizers will have to excel: designing an experience that not only captures people’s attention but captivates their senses and makes a lasting impression.

By the same token, we will have to recognize events as opportunities for true social interaction that are irreplaceable by anything digital—and design them as such.


Thinking ahead

What will events look like in the future? Truth be told, there is a lot that even we do not know and cannot foresee. For instance, people might be arriving at Fifteen Seconds Festival on hoverboards in 2025, they might use fully electrified cars—or some other form of transport that hasn’t even been invented yet.

What we do know is that digitalization and technological change will continue—likely faster than ever before—and that exciting new possibilities will lie ahead as the result.

At Fifteen Seconds Festival, we will continue to put exciting, future-oriented content and enthralling event experience front and center—bringing together forward-thinking people and creating opportunities for exchange and interaction. Because, the way we see it, that is where the future of events lies.


About Thiemo

Speaker at Conventa Crossover 2019

Thiemo is an Austrian entrepreneur and digital leader. He co-founded Fifteen Seconds, a global community gathering thinkers, makers and innovators at Europe’s leading festival to network, learn and get inspired. The conference attracts more than 5.000 attendees annually and hosts some of the world’s most successful individuals for a week in Austria, including leaders from brands on the likes of Google, The New York Times, Harvard, BBC, Facebook, Netflix, Nasa, Red Bull, GE and Apple. In 2017, Thiemo joined the international consulting and design firm moodley as partner and managing director of the interactive team, leading a multidisciplinary team of digital specialists designing growth and transforming business for clients worldwide. Thiemo was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30.