Press >PLAY: The Massive Student-Run Digital Media Conference is Back

A participant at >Play 2014 checks out virtual reality with the Oculus Rift

This year’s >Play digital media and tech conference will offer a chance to do just that: in addition to absorbing the latest from top industry leaders, pitching startup ideas, and hobnobbing with recruiters, attendees can check out cutting-edge gadgets and immerse themselves in the Bay Area tech scene.

The 11th annual conference, to be held at San Francisco’s Pier 27 Events Center on Oct. 30, is expected to draw a sell-out crowd of 1,000—including tech hungry students from schools around the country and Bay Area professionals. Organized by MBAs from Haas’ Digital Media and Entertainment Club (DMEC), >Play is the largest student-run tech and digital media conference in the country.

Conference co-chairs Andrew Hill, Jamaur Bronner and Michael Young, all MBA 16, have been working since March to put the event together. Their goal, Hill says, is to make >Play “a digital media event that happens to be run by business students, rather than a business event that happens to be about digital media.”

Organizers have focused on three elements: making the conference integrated, interdisciplinary, and immersive. “For the integration piece, this year we reached out to 25 business schools around the country. On the interdisciplinary side, >Play is open to students across multiple programs, including information, design, and engineering,” he says. “On the immersion side, there will be opportunities for students to get involved throughout the day, rather than just attending lectures.”

Diversity and inclusiveness were also cornerstones of the planning process, organizers say. >Play 2015 boasts record numbers of underrepresented minority and female speakers from across the tech landcape. A Diversity in Tech Design Thinking workshop features leaders from Facebook.

Events actually begin the day before the conference, with the “Hack All Night, >Play All Day” hackathon on Oct. 29. Hackers from UC Berkeley, the Bay Area and other schools will compete to present a prototype and product pitch to a panel of Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists. The winners will present at the conference the next day, for the chance to win $3,500.

A unique Entertainment X Tech panel features musicians, VCs, and digital strategists who are bridging the gap between the entertainment world and the tech industry. The panel features Grammy-nominated R&B producer Ryan Leslie. >PLAY participants will also get the scoop on more than 40 startups.

Speakers include keynote presenter John Oberon of Cisco, as well as Signe Brewster of Gigaom, Makezine, and Wired; Nelson Kunkel of Deloitte Digital; Chris Nyffeler of IDEO; Emily Peters of Uncommon Bold; and Michael Seibel of Y Combinator leading a Pitch 101 workshop—just to name a few.

At the end of the day, attendees can bust a few moves at a massive Halloween after-party at the Armory on Mission Street—a “Deadly Disco” co-sponsored by Tilt and hosted by Crossroads Nightlife.

Tickets are available for the conference alone, or bundled with after-party. Check out more details on the conference and buy tickets here.

—Kate Madden Yee