The end of the year means one thing in the realm of startups – attending the Web Summit conference. Each November thousands of startups pitch their idea to countless attendees in the hope to leave a great impression, collect leads and land investment that will secure its further development.
Being part of such a huge community means that the competition among the entrepreneurs to get to the investor and clients is fierce. Even more so since space and time are limited and often reduced to just a few days and 1sqm tops. This means you should come prepared – something that most of the startups failed to do during this Web Summit.
Organizing and preparing yourself for a conference can be a strenuous and difficult task, especially when you aim for perfection. To help you out on this quest we have put together a list of tips that will ensure you get the most of your time at any future conferences or tech events.
First Things First – Make a List of the Tasks
A common pitfall is to think that you have a lot of time at your disposal so you end up putting the organization of the booth in the background compared to your other daily tasks. Your work on preparing the must begin from the moment a conference’s organizing team gives you the green light for the booth. Like in any business situation, you first need to think about the goal you want to achieve by attending a conference.
Ask yourself: Do you want to find new talents to straighten up your team? Present a new product or service? Find investors or partners? It might be all of the mentioned and much more. Once you have a general idea of why and who you can proceed to the next step – creating a structured task list.
Your task list should include everything that can be important and beneficial for your presentation at the conference. Here is a checklist that can be your starting point and give you an idea of some of the most important things you need to think about:
- Notify the team about the news of your booth
- Brainstorming sessions
- Booth design and swag
- Prepare your pitch deck
- Prospect lists
- Social Media activation
- Side events to cover
- Follow up emails
- Lessons learned
Make sure it is clear who from your team is in charge of the separate tasks and what are the deadlines for them. By creating such a list you don’t leave much space for improvisation or omitting any important thing.
Before The Conference
Use Social Media to Spread the Word
The moment you receive approval for your booth, it is time to put your social media account into good use. Let everyone know that you are going to be at the conference and try to join in on the trending conversations regarding the event itself. Start by saying when and where can people find you, use the official hashtags of the conference to join the conversation, facebook groups can as well be one of the means to connect with like-minded attendees.
Social media is a great way to spread the word. Depending on your budget, you might want to consider running a small social media campaign to spread the word of your presence at the conference. This is how you will gain brand recognition and reach the target audience to plan a visit to your booth or finding your booth during the days of the conference.
Example: It was a real pleasure to learn about Cookly.me platform before the conference kicked off. The team really did their best in reaching the attendees and running a great retargeting campaign on social media for all of those who visited their website at least once.
Schedule Meetings in Advance
Most of the large scale conferences have their own apps and websites where you can find a lot of information about the event itself. The list of attendees is one of the common features. Make sure to dedicate some of your time before the event to do the research on who is going to be there.
Find the people you want to have a conversation with and make sure to approach them beforehand. A simple message on social media, or a direct message on the app, if the conference has one, will do the trick.
Present yourself, your company and how you think that person can benefit from knowing you, and then ask for a meeting during the event days. Don’t be discouraged if some people don’t respond or are not interested in your proposal. Approach as many people as possible and pay attention to your booking system. Make sure to use an online scheduling tool to leave an impression of a true professional you are.
Example: The guys from GoPlant.me have used the information provided within the official Web Summit app in order to invite potential investors and partners to meetings. The end result was getting to talk to some of the very influential people from their industry.
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Work on Your Design
You will be competing for the attention of visitors with thousands of other startups at the conference. On the large scale conferences like Web Summit, you usually get a small space for yourself, and oftentimes bringing your roll-ups or extra furniture is not allowed. So, think hard about what can set you apart from the rest. What added element do you bring to the table?
If you are a service startup, consider some special giveaways or swag to hand over to people you talk to. This doesn’t have to be anything huge – a simple sticker pack might do the trick. Make shirts that you are going to wear during the days of the conference so that people could easily recognize you. If you have a slightly bigger budget you might want to make a dozen other t-shirts or bags as a giveaway for special visitors.
If you are a startup revolutionizing a certain industry with a specific product, you might want to consider bringing the prototype or the final product to the booth so visitors can see firsthand what you are all about. This is how the guys from nuka.me drew our attention at the Web Summit 2019:
Just remember, people are all about being visual, so as long as you add some eye-catching element to your booth you are on a good track. 🙂
During the Event
Pitch, Pitch, Pitch!
This is where your design, swag and pitch deck come into play along with your charisma and wit. Leave your inner introvert at home.
Events like Web Summit require you to be talkative and PROACTIVE in a search of the clients and investors. Don’t let the attendees just pass you by because you seemed not approachable. Put a smile on your face and be the first one to say “Hey”. There is no place for being shy or doubtful.
People love when the attention shifts to themselves. This is why you should incorporate some personal questions into the conversation. Start with what industry they work in, what position they cover, what are the obstacles they face in the work they do. This will not only say “you are important” to the person you talk to, but also give you answers on how to approach them with your pitch. It will help you know what things you should emphasize in your presentation or what should you skip mentioning.
You should also pay attention to is the length of your presentation. Depending on a person’s interest in your product or service, you should prepare pitches with different length – a minute, 4min and 20min speeches. And make sure to practice them beforehand.
If you need a bit more guidance on how to pitch your startup, we have broken down the formula of a successful pitch for you. Keep in mind that at the end all depends on how you implement it. 🙂
Example: Cheerful spirit and openness did pay off in the case of MyVestiaire.me. CEO of the company was one of the most welcoming people we have met at the Web Summit conference this year. Her knowledge of all the things regarding the industry and all the specific details about the service was just amazing. On top of that, she didn’t forget to have fun along the way – and that did attract people to her small booth!
Social Media Coverage
Don’t forget to share all of your experiences and connect with other attendees during the conference itself. Keep in mind that people use Twitter a lot when attending conferences. This is why you would want to brush up your knowledge on tweeting and use the right hashtags. Also, don’t neglect other social media platforms – especially Instagram since it gives an opportunity to reach more people by using hashtags on stories and posts.
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To save some time, you would want to schedule some of the posts in advance i.e. information about the place of your booth, explanation of your startup or the info about the giveaway if you make one. If you have a bigger team, you can employ them to monitor social media accounts, help you out with answering messages and comments, but also collecting the leads that you can later use as a base for campaigns or newsletters.
Example: Hayatech.me team did an amazing job by sharing all the interesting moments from the conference with their followers. By doing this they made sure to show how they were prospering, learning, having fun while meeting new people. By using the relevant hashtags they were also able to reach not only their current followers base but a wider audience from the conference as well!
Cover the Conference Grounds, Not Just the Booth
It’s awesome that you got a chance to have a booth during one or all of the days of the conference. But you know what would be more awesome? Boosting your reach by using a slightly different approach. The fact is, you usually get only a small space so overcrowding it with people from your company might have a contra effect on the attendees. One person is usually enough to pitch your story to the visitors of the booth. The rest of you could use the time to meet other people on the conference grounds and directing them to your booth, website or app, or simply connecting with them on social media etc.
Example: During the Web Summit hire.me team was richer for a mascot – the spaceman – who went around and talked to the crowd. Attendees reacted with the curiosity of attendees. Their bold move made a lot of people turn heads and approach the spaceman with a willingness to find out more. From that point on, it got quite easy to direct them to the actual booth.
Utilize Side Events
There are usually a lot of side events happening during the week of the conference. Such events are smaller, more intimate and give an opportunity to have longer conversations with almost all people present. Do the research before the conference about the available side events and book your place at those you find most beneficial. You can go one step further and organize a smaller event of your own. If you decide to do so, make sure to plan everything in advance, use all the means you can invite people you mark as important to attendees.
In addition, events like Web Summit often feature night parties providing you with an amazing opportunity to transfer the business talk to the more relaxed and informal places. This could be your opportunity to work your networking magic and meet some of the people who would otherwise be unavailable to approach. In any case, make sure to bring some of those business cards with you, it’s guaranteed that you are going to need them here. 🙂
Example: One of the most interesting encounters we had at the Web Summit was during the Night Summit event. In the place full of people we managed to meet the guys from Modaris who mingled in the crowd talking to people and just dominating the networking side of the conference. This international startup that connects students to home tutors in their city made sure to cover all the aspects of the event and not to miss the opportunity to present their service to different audiences.
After the Event
Having in mind the cut-throat competition you face on the events such as Web Summit, you need to secure that the few minutes you had with the visitors of your booth were well remembered. So make sure to remind them about the cool features you have on your platform, app or as a product. A great feature you get with the Web Summit app you get the contact list of all people you scanned using the official app. Make sure to go through it with attention to all of the people listed. You might want to consider separating them in smaller lists or maybe social media account you want to use to reach each of them.
To give you an idea of how it should be done, here is an example by a person we met on the second day of Web Summit this year:
Make Sure to be Reachable on your Online Address
One of the mistakes that first-timers make is setting up a website just for the sake of the event they are about to attend and forgetting all about it afterwards. It’s so NOT cool to try to reach for a startup you got to meet only to end up on a 404 page. If you’ve invested time, energy and money to present yourselves at the conference like Web Summit you should at least keep a one-page website giving more info about your product or service.
We are going to leave this beautiful example for you to have in mind what a good online presence should look like. Artrights.me is a startup from Italy that allows you to manage, protect and enhance your art. Make sure your website is in a top-notch state, even in the days following the conference.
Takeaways from this experience
Attending a conference as a startup can be quite demanding. Especially if you are still a newbie at this. It’s normal and quite all right to make mistakes and for some things to be unforeseen. Therefore, it is very important that you find the time to look back on your past events and try to grasp all of the things you have learned in the process. By doing so you will have a good starting point when the next conference comes around. You will already know what to pay attention to and what is not really that important that you don’t dedicate much time to it or just skip it altogether.
One Last Thing Before You Go
Being a part of big conferences or tech festivals can be very beneficial for your startup, no matter the stage the startup is at. Let these tips be your starting point in preparing all you can in advance. Also, be mindful that unpredictable situations happen terribly often. Your ability to adapt to changes is one of the skills you should own if you want to have a fruitful event. Use your wits and talents, and go get what you came in for!
Good luck! 🙂