Slush has grown to such a large conference that in order to be memorable, you need to stand out. To help our Arctic Startups succeed and we republished our Hacking Conferences article by Dmitri Sarle, who took on Dublin Web Summit this year like a pro. Yet we still see a wide gap in the degree to which startups are prepared for #Slush14 and are successful at getting their word out.

We know that relevant examples work best, so we’ve walked around hunting down some #Slush14 conference hack ideas to share with you.

Attract attention

The app that most #Slush14 attendees must have heard about isBestPrivacyApp.com from F-Secure. Yes, they are the key partner of Slush and their name is written on your wristband. But their team has absolutely hacked the conference to promote themselves:

1. Visibility in the most visited spot – their stickers are over #Slush14 toilets – the ultimate spot where every single attendee goes, no matter how otherwise unreachable and busy he or she is.

2. Relevant visibility. They have their stickers tied to the place where they are. The same stickers would not work if they were not in the toilet. Random startup company stickers don’t really draw into the s.

3. Human support. They actually have a put people in the restroom, next to the ads and telling people more about BestPrivacyApp.com.

Stand/banner must invite to start a conversation

The worst thing you can do with your stand is to have a banner with a big name of your (yet) unknown startup and a general byline like ‘best developer collaboration app’. Investors are at #Slush14 hunting down unique investment targets. Media is at #Slush14 hunting down interesting stories. The people here bought the ticket to talk to you. But: only if you are interesting.

The reason why they pass by your stand is because it looks boring and has nothing unique to spark the curiosity leading to a conversation – with so much ground to cover we skipped a few for this reason. But we stopped, e.g., at Agendium because their banner designer actually took the time to think what is going on in the mind of people passing by. It invites for a conversation and tells me they understand that I don’t want to waste my time on another boring pitch.

Yes, we have advised numerous times to dress memorably. However, if you just have a bright animal costume that does not relate to your business whatsoever, it is disappointing. We’ve used the appearance and stands as a topic and asked whether it was just to atttract attention. Then we cut out those who said ‘yes’. It sure is easier for hardware startups like Hanson RoboticsSoilScout and SharperShape but it is possible for software companies too. Just take the stand of Agilefant that was full of elephants meant to demonstrate the shape of Agile development iteration process.

Handouts/banners must be relevant

It is disappointing to have so many leaflets go to waste and so many empty lunch tables have no merchandise on them. Yes, we recommended to spread your leaflets, but unless your message is relevant to everyone, just printing a bunch of them and handing them out to everyone without any context pretty much brings it down to spam.

We’ve been to a dinner and took this picture of merchandise lying around and people dining at empty tables. Stunning inefficiency.

It is a trouble that attendees do not receive a #Slush14 bag. But it is also an opportunity for you. A kind Finnish startup Jalo Helsinki has offered us their bag first thing in the morning and we’ve been walking around Slush with it both days. Needless to say it has been a conversation topic several times and has been to all the places and lounges a startup usually does not get to.  And now it also shows up in this article.

Use the disadvantages of Slush to your advantage

Don’t use the long lines at food places as an opening line. Everyone does it and everyone is annoyed about it by now. Try using them to your advantage instead. Take your food with you or eat before the majority gets hungry, then go to the lines and hunt down interesting people. Introduce yourself and offer them something valuable, give them an apple or offer to have a meeting with you while your teammate stands in line for them. You can also hand out snacks with your sticker or throw an alternative lunch nearby and invite the people you care to meet.

Easy fixes

Last but not least, it is amazing how many of people we met still don’t have a twitter account or an easy, memorable name. Avoid using unknown words with hard spelling in your startup name and twitter account. If anyone wants to spread the word about you, they want to do it fast & easy.

Top photo by Jussi Hellsten