Startup Conferences: What’s the point? (Slush 2017)
With Slush coming up in about a month, it’s a good time ponder the purpose of large startup conferences. Many entrepreneurs head to conferences, like Slush, around the world and throughout the year looking for investments from venture capitalists and angel investors, yet there’s a lot more to gain from startup conferences. Think about it: there will be over 17,000 motivated and creative people in one place at one time. Get creative and gain as much as you can out of the experience.
Start with a plan and prepare.
The first thing you should do before an event like Slush (or do anything that you do for that matter,) is create a plan. Come up with your goal then work backwards. What do you want to get out of the event? If it’s investors, are you ready to sell your concept, the people on your team, and what you’ve accomplished so far (like a proof of concept or current sales?) Are you trying to gain potential customers or partners? If yes, what’s the business case? Are you there for public relations and marketing? Well, what are you going to showcase; what’s your story?
You’ll notice that regardless of your goal, you’ll need to do some form of selling. So bring someone with you that has a skillset in selling and prepare your conversations.
Depending on your goal, you’ll need to do some things before the day of the event. Here’s a potential checklist:
Get a booth.
Yes, there’s a cost and there’s often a selection process (Slush has an application process,) but this is the best way to get exposure regardless of your goal.
Let people know you’re going.
Promote your presence on social platforms, post on forums, write blogs, tell people in emails, etc. Try to get people talking to you before the event, then meet them at the event.
If you don’t have any yet, simply get shirts and have a printing company print your logo on them. You can do more if you’d like to stand out, but shirts are a minimum. It will be cold in Helsinki, so I highly suggest another branded layer as well (like a hoodie.)
Practice your pitch.
If you’re looking for an investor, be ready to sell. If you’re looking for customers, be ready to sell. If you’re seeking partnerships, be ready to sell. Remember that there are thousands of people at these events and regardless of the relationships you’re seeking to make, people have options, so be ready to sell.
Seek out others who’ll be at the event.
Browse social and startup communities on the web to see who’ll be there. Make connections and schedule meetings in advance.
Download the app.
If the event has an app (Slush does,) download it. At the very least, the app helps you navigate the venue and schedule the events you’d like to attend. Better apps provide a roster of companies at the event, a list of attendees and their titles, and ways to communicate, allowing you to book face-to-face meetings on the fly.
Bring business cards!!!!
For goodness sake, bring cards. Yes, we have social media and can connect on LinkedIn, but do you remember the last time you connected with someone using your mobile phone? “Oh, the wifi isn’t working, will you write your name down on this random piece of paper?” “My LinkedIn is so out of date, don’t pay attention to what’s written there.” “Do you remember the name of the person we just met? I’m trying to find the connection on LinkedIn.” Nothing beats physical cards that are placed in one’s pocket as a reminder of the conversation, with the name, number, email, and organizations clearly printed on it.
And don’t forget to have fun.
You’re with people. Thousands of people. Meet people, make friends, and create cool things together.
It’ll be our fourth time going to Slush and we’re looking forward to seeing what this year brings. We’ve done quite a bit over the last year and we’re excited to share our story with everyone we talk to. If you’d like to meet with any of us, drop me a note –email@example.com. Oh, and if I missed anything on the prep list, let me know.