This is a guest post written by Erik Anderson from Startup Wise Guys. Erik is an entrepreneur from from Los Angeles who moved to Tallinn to focus on life equity.
Over the last 18 months, I had the privilege to discover amazing startups from all over the world while scouting for Startup Wise Guys. This means I have been to many conferences which most of the time consist of the cluster fuck that is “networking” (with people on one side of the red rope or the other) followed by a night with too much alcohol, and culminating with a pitch contest.
While this is a recipe that works for conference organization, it is fundamentally broken for startups seeking exposure due to a few reasons:
1. Everyone is after the same few people.
2. Everyone is after the same few things.
3. Everyone is chasing something that hardly, if ever, will be found at a conference.
The number one thing startups have on their side is controlling their communication. While pitching is completely overrated, an effective delivery is not. This is where practice makes perfect. You may spend 10,000 hours on your company but everyone at these conferences judges you and your startups within the first seconds of meeting or by your 1, 3, or 5-minute pitch on stage.
Meanwhile, 99% of pitching is not done on stage but in conversation. The amount of startups that struggle with this is alarming, but also a result of the situation. This is because many founders feel they have one magical moment to grab the person of interest, deliver a rapid pitch, spill some love potion, and walk away with a check or a new customer.
Interactions like this are all too common and puts the founder in an unfair light, most of the time resulting in one side quickly and politely asking for a card to “definitely” follow up with after the conference.
My 3 tips for startups attending a conference are simple:
1. Have measurable and attainable goals
In a spreadsheet, list what you hope to get out of the conference.
o How many investor contacts
o How many potential customers
o Speaking opportunities
o What ever metric works for you and your team
2. Only attend conferences that will add value based on your goals.
Don’t spend a lot of money chasing big name events. Plenty of quality relationships can be built in regional events. Use these to get introductions elsewhere.
3. Nail your pitch. Tips below and in no particular order.
o Value Prop: Fundamentally, what do you do?
o Problem/ Opportunity:
o Quantify, quantify, quantify.
- Show your product in a few easy steps – mockups are great.
- Any intriguing metrics
- What is your initial market?
- If you initial market is a success, what are some global trends and
- Don’t speak badly about them.
o Business model:
- What does your customer value most?
- Everyone has an “awesome team”, what makes you special?
- Great place to show # of users/ customers and quantify their ROI.
- Forget projections. What is your monthly burn? If I invest, how long will last?
- Why are you here? If you want nothing, make something up, the audience will be happier.
In conclusion, beneath is a quote that can be applied to every aspect of life and have found it very valuable in human interaction. Especially at conferences.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou