The conference sprint is pretty exhausting, but can give you more contacts and prospect clients, than you can imagine. If you don’t know how to use the event to the maximum, keep reading. If you do, keep reading anyway. There’s a step-by-step guide for you.
The past editions of Wolves Summit have taught us that complex preparation is no joke, when it comes to startups’ business development. There are two ways: you are either going to leave the conference with real business propositions, or whine about how organizers did a poor job facilitating the networking experience. The fact is, it is only up to you to exploit the resources organizers provide you with.
Try and plan your conferencing schedule even one year ahead. See, when the most important events are, check the attendee list, if available, prepare a list of places where you will meet your potential clients and investors, make sure your business cards are up-to-date. The ROI depends on your activity at the event and the amount of people you meet in person. Don’t let your money (if there’s an admission fee) go to waste.
Below we pointed out key elements you should follow to get the most out of meetings at conferences.
Start with your own company
The most common way to enter a conference as a startup is by registering and filling out a form on the event website. Always write everything it requires. Include information about your startup’s stage (early, seed, growth?), write down the numbers, for example the (expected) revenue, amount of clients you have, money you’ve raised so far plus the money you need for further development.
Describe your company two ways: a short description and long one, where you explain the product, tell about the target group and market you operate on. Specify your competition (there’s always at least one company similar to yours). What’s your development plan? Are you a B2C, B2B? Where do you see your company in one year? Is it still going to be on the market?
You need to have all information about your company, if you’re going to speak to potential investors or partners. There will be no time to ask your colleagues, the pre-scheduled meetings usually stick to a strict time schedule. 15 minutes and everyone’s off to a new prospect. Write it all down and create a short pitch presentation, that’s both easy for you to explain, and for the other person to understand the concept. Predict what questions may be asked and prepare brief answers. After all, you are the expert in your field.
Use the available tools
Next step requires research. See the previous editions of the event to determine, what kind of attendees you can expect. Does it focus on networking or educating on stages? What’s the ratio of startups and investors (or corporates)? Conference organizers often provide you with matchmaking tools or event apps, where you can find your target groups, narrow them to schedule meetings, check the agenda, or see where the networking events take place. The matchmaking tool (we have one at Wolves Summit, with 11886 1:1 meetings planned altogether during 6 editions)) allows you to browse the conference participants according to tags and information they provide (this is why it is essential, that you fill out the form thoroughly – your potential investor might be looking at your profile).
How do you set up a meeting?
- register using an email you use the most often (preferably your company’s email),
- fill out ALL fields, take your time to give the most accurate information about your startup,
- browse the attendee list, send out meeting invites with personalized messages (this point is extremely important, always write directly, refer to the person’s industry and why he/she will benefit from meeting you),
- send as many invitations as you can, so you have a full schedule, if someone, declines or doesn’t respond, you will still have many meetings to attend and you can catch the person of interest during lunch break for example,
- once you have a fixed schedule, find information about people you’re meeting. What’s their industry of interest? How do they establish partnerships, do they have any companies in portfolios already? The meeting cannot be spent on finding out, who the person is. imagine how would you feel after being invited to a meeting and the first question being “so what do you do anyway?”.
Remember, conferences aren’t about having fun, it’s pure business. Arrive at the venue early, walk around it to find out, where the meeting areas are, where to grab lunch, see the stages and partners’ booths. Talk to as many people before the official start as you can. Exchange business cards. You have to have them, as not everyone’s keen on turning to LinkedIn immediately to add you. Print out the cards ahead of time, check the expected number of attending executives, corporates, and investors – anyone you want to hand a business card. Create an eye-catching design, so it doesn’t fade among all others. Visit pages like Pinterest and browse the most interesting cards. It could be minimal, be printed on textured paper or transparent plastic, add a sticker with your logo on it. Get creative. Print out a decent amount, so you don’t run out of them, especially since you’re planning to give out plenty. If, for example, 700 investors and corporates are expected, why not print 700 business cards? You never know who’s going to find your solution worth investing their time in.
Apart from business cards, bring a laptop, but don’t sit in the corner and answer emails, it’s not the right moment for that. Have it near you during 1:1 meetings to showcase your product or service. Make a short presentation (try to avoid plain PowerPoint slides and amp it up), that’s simple, clear, and includes all necessary information, you can talk about the rest. Present how you can implement your solution, give a quick demo, so the other person can have an idea of how it works.
Don’t make your whole meeting about electronic devices though, ask questions, and find out, what the interlocutor is looking for. How can you solve his/her problem? How can your company become an invaluable asset of the investing fund or corporation? What if it turns out, you are not a good match now? Be kind, exchange business cards, save the contact for later. Maintaining good relations pays off long-term and a certain contact may turn out priceless, if not after 3 months, then after 1-2 years. It’s good to know the right people and have a hook (you met in person during a specific conference).
Don’t underestimate the power of follow-up
Once the meeting is over, make notes. How did it go? What are the main areas of interest? How can you help? Human memory is tricky and the details can fade away quickly, especially when you have another meeting ahead. Remember to create a short brief to fill out, so that you don’t omit anything important.
Did you collect the business cards? 4 members of the Wolves Summit team came back from one of the conferences with over 2000 of them, which meant just as many potential clients and partners. You don’t need to outrun the number, but be generous and exchange cards whenever possible. Keep in mind, they’re not collected to be thrown away and forgotten. Either use apps to transfer the information on the cards to digital databases or add the emails to your mailing list. You should follow-up every person you met during the event within 7 days. It’s a clear sign that you acknowledge them and give room for further cooperation. If you believe it can be established quickly, write a longer email with details. If you think the contact won’t benefit now, but in the future, express your gratitude for the time they spent talking to you with hopes for fruitful cooperation, if they ever need your help. Remember to always pay it forward and give more than is expected – it creates an image of a person worth trusting and committed to develop business. After sending out the emails, add those people on LinkedIn to stay in touch and engage in the content they share. Who knows, maybe they’ll open the door for you in their own network?
If you are looking for investors, corporates, and executives, we have launched Woles Gate Matchmaking Platform, where you can find companies tailored to your needs. Visit wolvesmatch.com, set up a startup profile, browse users according to tags and filters and get access to a base of your potential clients, business partners, and investors.
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