How to Prepare for a Tech Conference Like a Pro

Business networking at meetups, conferences, and summits is one of the best ways to meet people and find clients partners for work.

The APP Solutions has been a partner for Collision and Web Summit tech conferences for over three years, as well as a participant at the other meetups.

We're sharing our experience on how to prepare like a pro and make sure you get the most out of the meetings. Also, what to do after the conference is over.

Before the Conference

The APP Solutions has been helping one of our clients, a young marketplace startup, with preparation for the Web Summit. One of their goals was to find investors for the project as well as meet other business people and test the idea. 

If you are a startup or a business person looking for partners and investors, there are several things you should consider making before the event:

Landing Page

If you have a complete website, that’s awesome. If you don’t - start with a landing page, where you include all the necessary information about your product, company, and the team.

Tell visitors about what kind of problems and challenges you’re helping your customers to overcome.

Also, have your contact information on that page, so people know how to write to you in case they have questions or want to work with you.

Facebook Page

In our day and age, being present in the social media is a convenient tool to use for publicity (even though Elon Musk and several others have joined the #deleteFacebook thing, it's still a valid tool). Even if your startup so far is just an idea, don’t give up the opportunity to talk about this idea. Besides, some people might not find your landing page, but it is much easier to search Facebook or LinkedIn.

Create a #hashtag for your business, use it throughout the social media, and encourage employees to use it as well.

Another way to create awareness for your business is to launch Facebook ads targeted at people who are interested in WebSummit. Think of something you can offer your web visitors - whether it’s more information about your product or access to the beta version - and promote that idea among people who are into digital transformation. At the ad's landing page, have a form to set up a meeting with you during the WebSummit.

Leaflets

Leaflets are more of a POS material, but you have to prepare it beforehand as well.

It would be good if all your communication - both offline and online - would be created the same design style and carry the same messages. Therefore, it’s easier to create them at the same time (and preferably, by the same designer as the one who does your website/product/anything.)

Presentation

In case you don’t have a working product yet, consider creating a presentation (whether simple slides with information or fully automated) to have on your computer that describes your idea.

The video presentation can be more helpful than a simple click-through one because you don’t have to navigate through it and visitors can watch it while they are waiting to talk to you.

At the Conference

Get enough sleep the night before

It seems like an obvious advice, but seriously, the more rested you are, the more adequate your day will be. Granted, there’s the allure of the Night Summit, but unless you’re going there to deepen the relationship with the potential client/investor, it’s better to save your strength and pass up on the drinks and party. (At least before your stand day.)

Get ready to talk more than you’ve ever talked in your life. Pretty much all the time at the WebSummit, you’re talking. (Well, or listening.)

Get an elevator speech ready

Be ready to describe your product/ service/goal in 30 seconds. Considering the amount of information that goes through your brain as well as all the other attendees’ brains, the more concise your description is, the better.

First, you get to talk to more people this way (in case someone just wanted to grab a candy at your stand and asked about your business to be polite). Second, people simply want to hear and meet with so many other attendees at that time is extremely precious.

Take turns at the stand

If you came to the WebSummit with your colleagues, you don’t have to crowd the tiny space at the same time all the time. It would be good to walk around as well because you never know where you’ll meet *that* person.

Perhaps the best connection you’ll make will be during the lunch while waiting in line. That said, try to have at least one person at the stand at all times (two is better).

Getting contacts at the WebSummit

[Source: UIMovement]

Getting Contacts

During our preparation stage for the WebSummit, we’ve used a tool called Jupyter Notebooks in the DataScientistWorkbench because digging through the list of thousands of people manually didn’t seem like a good idea. It’s a great tool to explore, clean, and transform data and it helped us to create a shortlist of people who would potentially be interested in what we had to offer.

If we take WebSummit as an example, there are several ways you can get people’s contacts:

Event's mobile app

Most of the tech conferences these days offer a mobile app. For example, WebSummit's mobile app is a convenient tool to scan the QR codes on the badges of attendees you’ve talked to. The information is saved in your phone and you can also opt to send it as an excel file of contacts to your email.

The only drawback is that there is no way (in the current version of the app) to write a note about your contact to remember what exactly you’ve talked about (unless you’ve got perfect memory - then, well, good for you.)

Good old business cards

Even in our online age, traditional business cards are still present.

Drawbacks: it’s easy to lose and it’s not really eco-friendly.

Advantages: you can write notes on the business card to do your follow-up in a more personalized way instead of a generic “Hi, we’ve met at WebSummit, let’s talk.” The response rate to personalized follow-ups is higher (for obvious reasons) therefore aim for it.

Phone's Contacts

If anything, you can always add the person to your contacts on your phone/in a notebook. The option is not preferred since it is quite time-consuming, but hey, it’s an option in case all else fails.

After the Conference: Follow-Ups

Finally, there are follow-up emails. Lots of them.

Three things to remember in following people up after the WebSummit (and other conferences):

  • Most people might still be getting over the jet lag, lack of sleep, and general exhaustion after the conference, so it may make sense to wait a couple of days (up to a week) before writing to your contacts.
  • Remember, again, that personalized follow-ups have a higher response rate, therefore abstain from generalized emails.
  • Put a face to the name. Take a selfie with the person you’ve just discussed business with or simply attach your own photo to the follow-up email so that your contact person will have a chance to remember you.
  • Once you’re done with the personal follow-ups, it’s convenient to use an email marketing automation tool. At the APP Solutions, we use both MailChimp and Reply.io. MailChimp offers colorful drag-and-drop templates, convenient for blog digests. Reply.io, on the other hand, focuses on plain-text emails, helping to create email chains that are simple and yet powerful.

We hope these tips were helpful to you and will be of service next time you buy tickets for a conference.