Try these 5 Hacks to Get More from Startup Events

TED. Pirate Summit. Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Web Summit. STEP. SLUSH. The amount of conferences, summits and initiatives that are out there is vast and the opportunities are endless, especially for entrepreneurs within the tech startup scene. Going to an event is one of the most effective ways to expand your network, be introduced to interesting new tech — and perhaps meet your future investor or co-founder.

However, with some events breaking into the tens of thousands, it is not always easy to navigate around the mass of opportunities and workshops and actually get something out of the events themselves. Approach them right and you can pick up new skills and make valuable networking contacts. Approach them wrong and they can end up merely being long, boring days away from home and a waste of money. Here are some tips on how to cut through the confusion and make the most out of the next event that you will be attending:

Make a Battle Plan and Prioritize Your Time

Many business events are legitimately awesome — but many of them are quite costly. If the budget is tight, do some research before buying a ticket. Research some of the events that you find interesting and read the reviews of others who have attended them. Almost all major events get coverage from press and personal bloggers — so look into their feedback.

Events tend to be hectic and stressful with a very tight agenda. However, never forget why you are attending the event first place:you must ultimately make sure that it serves your needs as best as it can. Prioritise your time accordingly and therefore decide on your end goals before the event. Do you wish to raise money, secure market access, or gain media attention? Whatever it is, make sure you know it. After you are clear, make a battle plan by prioritizing your goals.

For example if you are raising money to go develop your startup in another market then it may help to have your CEO spend his time in meetings with potential investors, while your CMO attends a session on growth-hacking and scaling in new markets. Make sure that you discuss these goals and allocate responsibilities within your team.

Lend a Hand

If it is possible to apply as a speaker, facilitator, mentor or volunteer (and you have the time) — do it. Getting “behind the scenes” and having a more active role within these events have multiple positive attributes. First, you will be able to actually stand out from those 1000 other entrepreneurs that are attending the event. Second, you will be able to build much closer relationships during the event as you will purposefully be collaborating and being in touch with other people.

Last, being proactive often brings a lot of perks: free tickets, gala invitations, lunches, a wider network, and more. For those working on a limited budget — this your chance. Additionally do not underestimate the social events that sometimes are being arranged outside the official agenda — they’re a great opportunity to connect with people in a more relaxed setting.

Study the Content and the Speakers

Scroll through the speakers and the participants if possible in advance — and make an overview of who you would like to meet during the event. Also if there are some people that are attending who you would like to reconnect with — shoot them a message in advance and plan a coffee/meal/drink so you can catch up.

Also check the relevant Twitter hashtag regularly to see who else is coming and if they are in line with your goals. When joining the conference conversation on Twitter, use a relevant picture, add the conference hashtag, company Twitter handle and a call to action, an example could be “Team behind X has arrived! Drop us a message if you want meet up!”.

Organizer Business Cards — and Bring Your Own!

During the conference you can gather quite a lot, so, it is important that you create an overview that easily can work with in the aftermath of the event. I really enjoyed reading the suggestions by Scott Belsky from 99U regarding making concrete Action Steps. Remember to follow up with everyone after the event. It doesn’t have to be a long text if you do not need anything specific from them. It can be a short message stating that you enjoyed meeting them and are looking forward seeing them again.

Find One Takeaway in Every Session

Probably your agenda will be packed, however, in order to remember what actually was being said during the sessions that you were attending, write down the main points that were mentioned. It could either be a specific tip, a quote, or something you should look up — writing it down right away will help you in remembering at the end of the day.

Also, do not hesitate to ask the speakers questions during their session — they are most likely experts within their fields and people that you should connect with. If you are planning to Tweet quotes then do not overdo it — there is a fine balance to everything. If the quote is good the official Twitter account of the event may retweet it, which can lead to traffic to your profile — on the other side if you Tweet too much your account may look desperate for attention.

Enjoy Yourself!

Ultimately conferences are to connect with likeminded people, exchange ideas, and have a good time. No point in wasting time and money on something that you cannot commit to or like. Enjoy!

This article was originally posted in Startup Grind.