web-summit-logoAfter unbelievable growth from a few hundred people in a pub in 2010, 42,000 people from 134 countries came to Dublin for 2015’s Web Summit. It’s one of the biggest tech conferences in the world, attracting people from all walks of the tech world.

So, as someone who runs a software business myself, I was keen to go along.

“I believe the real benefit of events like this is finding people who can help your business”

 

My objectives were to learn as much as possible about what’s going on as well as general business development. I believe the real benefit of events like this is finding people who can help your business.  And I wasn’t alone.

I chatted with a number of startups of various sizes, from idea stage in search of investors to much larger growth stages businesses, as well as some venture capitalists (VCs) and investors, and then collated their advice:

Stay out late. Every night.

If you’re back before midnight, you’re missing one of the most important aspects of the web summit (or any conference for that matter) – the nighttime.

paul-acher-web-summit3

Stay out late: Open-networking at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin

Social, relaxed and informal networking is where all the important relationships happen and develop, plus it’s fun!

Don’t stay out until 3.30am

You may get up at the same time, bosh a berocca, down 3 coffees and be raring to go. However, ultimately it will result in you being dopey all day and falling asleep some time mid-afternoon in a talk you genuinely care about.

Go to conferences

Conferences are one of the best ways of meeting the people that normally take months to get an email for.  The delegate and speaker list, combined with an app that allows you to contact them is perfect.  Send a message, be polite and make it relevant to the person that you’re talking to.

Say hello, insert a reference to them or their business that shows you’ve done your research, tell them what you do (a one sentence taster- nothing more!) and then say why it’s relevant to them. Easy.

Book meetings during the summit

At a talk and see someone you would like to speak to?  There were 1000 speakers at the Summit this year, so there’s bound to be a few. Send them a message. In fact, even better, get on their radar by tweeting a quote of something sage and wise that they’ve said and @mention them in it.  Nothing is more powerful than a person’s ego, especially when they are on stage…

Don’t try and meet the big guns

paul-archr-web-summit2 (1)Elon Musk or Marc Andreessen aren’t going to take a meeting with you, so don’t even try.  Ignore the rubbish that says if you hustle enough they will take the time and maybe invest in your startup/get you that killer deal/marry you.

The amount of time it takes to try and get in front of these ‘whales’ is vast and your time is far better spent catching huge fish (and lots of them) instead.  If you’re trying to raise investment, it’s the hungry associates at VC firms who are more likely to champion your cause up to the top anyway.

Drink in the Four Seasons

If you do want to meet the big guns, the best place to do it is in the bar of the most expensive and closest hotel to the conference.  It’s where the big speakers will be staying and you may ‘accidentally’ bump into them and say hi…

Drink lots…

…of water.  18 hours days on your feet will wear you out.  Drink litres of water where possible.  At the very least it will offset all the free booze you will inevitably be throwing down you (and the coffee you’ll be drinking to offset the booze from the night before).

paul-archer-web-summut5Don’t plan too much during the evenings.

If you do, you’ll end up missing things.  Flexibility is key – fitting in three parties in an evening often means three times as many people you meet.

Go around in a pair

Buddy up with someone whose objectives and rough industries align with yours, but don’t compete.  You can mutually promote each other’s businesses and give credibility. By having a second person saying how wonderful you/your business is whilst you do an elevator pitch makes it’s far more convincing.  Plus it makes awkward networking events much easier and less lonely.

Don’t go around as a pair.

If you have a co-founder, don’t spend the entire conference together.  Ideally you should barely see each other, as you will double the number of people you get to meet.

YOU DIDN’T WIN A STAND!

Just won the opportunity to exhibit? Been selected out of millions to have a ‘FREE’ stand?  All you have to do is buy delicate passes for you and three others and you get one free pass and an entire stand to exhibit with. Totally FREE! Bargain, right?

“Female entrepreneurs go free next year, so apply”

 

It’s an age-old conference con to get you to buy more tickets.  If you only need one person at the conference, just send one.  They will be twice as mobile and get to meet far more people if they aren’t stuck on a stand.

Don’t launch a product at the conference

Conferences are noisy, crowded environments that are incredibly difficult to get attention at.  Nobody cares that you launched ‘today’!  You’re not Twitter at SXSW.  Save the money spent on stands and tickets and throw a big party some other time where you are the only people who matter.

Go for free

Female entrepreneurs go free next year, so apply.  If you don’t run your own company, apply anyway.  Say you’re a freelancer, C level/ whatever/lie – who cares.  There’s 10,000 free tickets going and it will certainly help to split up the sea of white-middle-class-males-in-blazers-with-shoulder-pads who introduce themselves as co-founders and CEO of their app.

Conferences can be incredibly effective for your business, but you have to work them to your advantage. I hope that was helpful. If it was, drop me a line @paul_k_archer.