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Beyond Tellerrand: beyond amazing

Sophie Koonin

I had the absolute privilege of opening Beyond Tellerrand Düsseldorf recently. Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect, other than a great conference (from what everyone had told me), but it was incredible! (Apologies to anyone who tried to chat to me on the Monday after my talk – if I seemed a bit distant, it was because I was literally struggling to string words together because of adrenaline and tiredness.) It took me a week to recover from the travel, socialising and speaking, and I went straight back to work so I'm only getting around to writing this now!

From the first conversation with Marc I knew this was something special: he and the Beyond Tellerrand team put so much love into this event, and it really shows. The venue is awesome, the production quality is amazing, and the speakers are treated really well. I arrived at the hotel exhausted after a day of travel to find a handwritten letter from Marc, a beautiful book, and a very useful backpack which will be accompanying me to all my future conferences! The team and the speakers had a wonderful meal the night before the conference, and the first talk wasn't until 11am which meant I didn't have to panic-inhale my breakfast and leg it to the venue for an early start. I never sleep well before giving talks, so the extra time was very welcome.

Me on the stage
Photo credit: Florian Ziegler

Speaking of the incredible production quality: Marc got dina Amin to do these unbelievably cool stop-motion videos of our names (by the way, she's the loveliest person and I'm so excited to see her speak at All Day Hey next week). Even more impressive: there were posters for each of our talks, and they were AR-enabled! I managed to get my poster home on the plane, and I've framed it by my desk.

My Beyond Tellerrand poster hanging up in the venue. It says 'A Beyond Tellerrand Film' and underneath has the title of my talk - 'This website is under construction - a love letter to the personal website'. Then it has a series of squares with household objects in, that when you scan it with a special app move to spell my name. Underneath are credits for the conference.

Between the talks we had DJ sets from the electric Tobi, incorporating snippets of our talks. It was quite surreal hearing my own voice played back at me as I sat down after I'd spoken!

So, that's my speaker review (100/10 would speak again), but I attended the conference too, so here's my attendee review: incredible vibes all the way through. I think it's actually the first multi-day conference where I've watched every single talk - it was that good. Speaking is incredibly exhausting and usually I have to tap out at some point to either go for a walk or chill out somewhere quiet, but the talks were such high quality that I just couldn't miss them. It's quite the honour to have spoken on that roster!

There were art talks: meditation and the art of Japanese calligraphy with Aoi Yamaguchi, psychedelic slogans and incredible murals from Gemma O'Brien, algorithmic art and machine learning with Mario Klingemann, stories of toasters and living as a goat from Thomas Thwaites, and light painting with the charming Hugh Elliott. The last talk by Eike König was more of a career retrospective which perhaps went over my head a little, but it was still something different.

Gemma O'Brien shows the illustrated sick bags she's done on various flights, all with puns relating to movie titles. Thomas Thwaites shows his handmade toaster, which he snuck onto the shelf of John Lewis

Opening the second day was Dr Emily Anhalt, a clinical psychologist, sharing her tips for being an "emotionally fit" leader - at times what she was talking about resonated so much with me that I got a bit emotional. I'm definitely taking some of her tips away with me to use with my teams.

Emily Anhalt stands in front of a slide titled 'Emotional Fitness Survey Questions'. 'Do you like to be praised in public or in private? How do you like to receive feedback? How do you like to be cared for or cheered up during a tough time? How would I know if you were feeling overwhelmed? How do you like your birthday to be celebrated?'
Emily Anhalt's list of questions that all teams should answer to work together better.

Then we had some excellent typography-related talks from Scott Kellum and Tobias Kunisch, showcasing the importance of dynamic typography on different size screens, and the power of variable fonts. I actually use variable fonts a bit on this site, but I've never really explored their full potential!

Tobias Kunisch talking about variable weight fonts, and the slides just say 'aaaaaaaaaa'

Joining me in the web dev contingent were my pals Cassie Evans and Michelle Barker, with some brilliant talks on UI animation and modern CSS layout respectively. I get so excited when I see talks like theirs because they remind me what the web is capable of (and that it's really fun!). Michelle is speaking about Modern CSS Layout at All Day Hey this week, I'll be there!

Cassie Evans stands in front of a slide that says 'The web is an infinite and unknowable canvas' - Miriam Suzanne
Cassie shares a lovely quote from Miriam Suzanne

All in all, I came away feeling so inspired (and so very, very tired). I can't wait to go back next year.


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