This week, I am recovering from Web Summit 2015. If you don’t know it, this is an annual event where the tech industry, in particular, startups get together. This was my first event planning and attending as a startup marketer. Here is what I learnt:
It’s all in the prep
I can’t emphasise this enough. During the event, things will get hectic. It’s hard to locate people and convince them to meet. Many will have pre-arranged meetings and won’t have time for quick coffees. This means you have to do your prep prior.
Make a clear list of your goals for the event. Are you looking to meet investors? Close business? Demonstrate thought-leadership? Learn about industry trends? All of the above?
Especially if you are looking to meet new business opportunities or investors, you have to know in beforehand if they are going to be there and arrange your meetings. Not all events will give you full access to lists of attendees and speakers, but you should at a minimum be able to see the speaker list. Use this as a starting point for people you want to meet. Reach out via LinkedIn, Twitter or email to anyone you’d like to meet. And if you are not sure if they are going to be there, ask and tell them why this event is beneficial for them as well as why it’s a good opportunity to meet.
Make sure you set up a time and clear meeting space. Emphasis on the latter...a few years ago, I told clients to meet me at the reception of the centre area. Easy peasy.... until I realised there were two receptions; one at either end.
Plan the events you want to go to early and if you can speak at them. Don’t go straight for the keynote, have a look at the different stages and where you can add value.
A product pitch is, of course, great, but most events won’t allow you to do this. They want speakers who can show insight beyond their own products. Apply for this early. Some events have paid speaking slots, so watch out for this.
The big question, is it worth to pay for a stand? The price tag can be staggering in the startup space and if you invest, you need to know that there is a return. To make the decision, head back to your goals - can a stand help you achieve them?
Make sure you have enough staff, materials and content to show off. Whether this is a video, a brand-spanking new website, demo etc that you have running, or your actual product.
Stands are a great meeting place and certainly, we had a lot of traffic at our stand at Web Summit. Especially after our CTO spoke on the Data Stage.
You don’t need a stand to have a successful event. You are unlikely to hold those all important meetings directly at your stand. It’s generally too busy.
If you are going with a team and there are a number of talks that benefit your organisation, make sure you split up. Discuss prior to the event who is going to watch what. Take notes while you are at the talks and discuss later. This way you make the most out of each track.
I have yet to go to an event where WiFi works. Be ready with data packages for you and your team. You need to communicate with each other whether to catch up on meetings or simply to check where everyone is going for lunch. A Whatsapp group comes in handy.
You also want to make sure that anything you show at your stand or during meetings (demo, website etc) is available offline, too. Just in case.
Before you relax and put your feet up, get ready for your follow up. At the end of each day, go through the business cards, brochures and other materials. Mark those who are important to follow up with straight away, those with potential. Believe me, after a 3-day event and hundreds of conversations, you won’t remember even the all important ones fully.
If you are getting ready for a sales follow-up, know what you want to follow up with. Don’t do a standard. Ideally refer back to your conversation or send a piece of content (blog, case study etc) that shows how you can add value to the business you are reaching out to.
And finally, don’t leave it too long. Follow up within days of the event. We are more likely to still have the buzz from the event in our minds and the office day to day might not have kicked in yet. Take advantage of this!