Making the most of a tech conference
This year we had a booth at TNW — The Next Web technology festival that takes place every year in Amsterdam. Since 2006 it has been bringing together tech industry leaders, investors, journalists and rising stars — promising startups. More than 17 000 techies gather together to discuss insights, trends, and upcoming challenges of the tech world.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of conferences for your startup, based on our Kaizo experience at TNW.
Set clear goals
TNW holds plenty of opportunities for startups — you can find everyone and anyone there. Once you’ve decided to participate, start by setting clear goals for each person attending to achieve. It will help you survive the conference by focusing your people and their time.
Our goals for TNW were:
Drive brand awareness for our company
- Evaluate our ideas and validate the biggest USP of our product Kaizo by approaching people with different opening sentences
- Gather feedback
- Make valuable connections. This goal was specified for each role — our CEO was meeting with investors, Head of Business development — with potential prospects and Head of Marketing — with journalists and potential partners.
While setting our goals, we kept in mind that they should correlate with company priorities for that month and be achievable within two conference days, which brings us to the next tip.
Do your research
Before the conference spend some time to prepare for it and set up meetings. There is always a chance for a “happy coincidence” but a well-prepared plan gives you a better chance at success.
Here are some tools you can use:
- TNW Matchmaking platform and a networking app
- Google participants from the last year and check #tnw hashtag in social media
- Sign up for side networking events
- See who is attending from your contacts
- Check the list of speakers
Meetings with the speakers can be difficult to get and require a more personal and creative approach. We were happy to meet one of TNW speakers, Toke Nygaard, Chief Creative Officer at Zendesk, who we approached right after listening to his speech on Zendesk rebranding. It was cool to show him the demo and discuss how Kaizo and Zendesk can rock the world of customer service.
Your booth should catch people’s attention and draw them in. Use colors, monitors with nicely designed slides, have a demo/prototype ready on a tablet, use swag to pimp up the booth. Come up with a short and easy-to-understand sign for your stand — no one reads the long ones. People should get what your startup is doing in a few seconds.
In our product, we use gamification to boost productivity and engagement of customer service experts. So we decided to develop a game specially for TNW. People could play it when stopped by our booth and win a Master Ninja t-shirt.
Don’t be afraid to say: ‘Hey? How are you?’
Having a booth at a tech conference doesn’t mean people will want to talk to you 🙂 They are attending talks, joining meetings and making the most of their time. No one will start a conversation with you if you are leaning on your table staring at your phone.
Go ahead and start a conversation. A simple “Hey! How are you doing?” always works. We had 3–4 people always present at the booth and all of them were constantly busy talking to people. You never know who is going to stop by your booth. You’ve decided to dedicate time and resources, so be present for the two full days and be proactive.
One of the best connections we made at TNW was on Friday at 5 pm — when most of the startup booths were already empty and wrapped up. Check when the last talk ends in your area to better understand until when it is best to stay.
Prepare a short pitch, be authentic, be friendly. And don’t forget to smile 😉
Be active on social media
Let people know that your team is at the conference! We posted on our company profiles and engaged the team to post on their professional profiles as well, using our hashtag #kaizo
Having a social media presence will let people know your company is attending and will bring you into contact with other attendees.
Tech conferences are all about building relationships and seizing opportunities. So be brave and go get what you want.