How to stand out at a conference — 6 creative ways guaranteed to get you noticed
You’ve taken the plunge. Your tickets in one hand, your business cards in the other. You’re ready to dominate this conference. You’re not going home without a major deal under your arm, because why come this far with nothing to show for it, right?
But then you get there, one person in the throngs of the crowd, each person seemingly going about their own agenda, and everyone seems so much more on top of it than you! No one is going out of their way to stop and ask you about your project, and you just stand there, alone in the crowd.
We’ve been there. But there’s good news, there are easy ways to crack the code to getting noticed at a big conference, and you don’t even have to be super extroverted to be a winner.
We went to WebSummit 2017, the biggest tech conference in Europe with over 57,000 attendees (but rumours swirling around that the true attendee amount was more around 100k), where getting notices is quite the feat. With so many people around, it’s easy to get lost in the crowds.
Here are some ways to stand out above the rest and get people to stop and talk to you:
1. Use your head — creative headpieces help you stand out “above” the rest
This was our tactic, and it proved to be immensely successful. But we weren’t the only ones!
French team SpeakShake donned ethnic headdresses to attract attention to their startup booth. It certainly worked, as photographers and people alike were flocking to their booth to see what they hype (and hats) were about.
SpeakShake connects people who want to learn a language with “native speakers” (get it?) from around the world.
Pro tip: Be ready to explain the relevance of your outfit to your business. The more logical the connection, the better you’ll stick in people’s minds.
2. Dress for success — wear head-to-toe outfits that stand out
Some startups wear tees that say “Talk to me about my startup” on the back, while others just induce wanting to get to know these personalities.
Take the Marketing Madheads, for example, and their colourful suits. While in the office, these guys develop tools that help companies meet their basic online marketing needs. When at Web Summit, the Marketing Madheads steal the crowd’s attention with their colourful suits.
They expertly coupled their presence at WebSummit with a corresponding Facebook ad, targeting those that are at WebSummit. The ad invites people to come and talk to them, and that they can be recognized by their suits. (You can watch the video they used in their ad here.)
The suits, coupled with the dudes’ exuberant personalities, guaranteed that throughout the conference they were constantly chatting with all sorts of different people — always in sales mode.
Pro tip: Having multiple members of your team present helps keep energy high — as conferences can be energy-draining, having a team back you up when you’re down, and vice versa, is the best way to guarantee results.
3) When signage costs an arm and a leg, be your own beacon
This guy from goin.events was brainstorming with his friend about how they could get more out of the WebSummit tickets they had won for their startup and get more people to their stand. They thought there must be a cost-efficient way of driving foot traffic. This is what they came up with:
Goin.events is a phone app that makes it easy to discover events, get tickets, and plan your event schedule. Dressing up as a signage for sure made people discover the app, get to know the team behind it, and plan their visit to the app store.
4) Create a path to your stand…out of money
Hansel and Gretel, move over — there’s a new story in town!
My Basic Income, is a startup from Germany that hands out basic income of 1,000 eur/month to over 100 complete strangers. The hope is that it will liberate them to pursue their passions. At WebSummit they startup literally dropped 5 euro bills onto the floor (like breadcrumbs), that lead to their stand.
Needless to say, the crowds went crazy.
Each bill had a sticker on it, describing the stunt and, of course, with a URL to find out more.
Pro tip: to attract more attention, start your “bread crumb” money trail from further away from the booth, that way bringing attention from not only those that are close, but from throughout the hall, and who were on their way in a completely different direction.
5) Play the superhero card — capes are in this season
One trend that was observed was the trend of the red cape.
Several teams had arrived with red capes, and it has to be said, they were much more visible than teams without capes. If your goal is to stand out, then using 1) the colour red, which is the colour that provokes the strongest response in humans and 2), capes, a garment that’s unusual to be wearing in this day and age, you’re bound to get more looks your way.
If you’re not ready to go full-cape, take a lesson from they play book, and at least go with full red.
Botsfactory has built an open-source chatbot platform, and their team showed up to WebSummit in their brand colour — red.
Pro tip: Stay true to your brand colours — by having your physical presence be on-brand with your web presence, you create a consistency that your visitor will be able to remember better.
6) Crowns with glowy lights
We discovered it on our own skin, having performed an A/B test of our own — how attractive are we when left to our natural abilities, and does that change when we add a glowing element?
The answer is — yes.
Just take this photographer's enthusiasm for our crowns as an example:
Without the crowns (made by artist Brigita Stroda), we were just one of the many people in the crowd. As soon as we had the crown on, we were show-stoppers and photographer magnets (actually), and interesting talking partners to investors (sorry, not interested at the moment).
The crowns offered passers by, who are likely as hesitant as we were to go up to complete strangers, a talking point, an icebreaker.
We got to explain that we’re from Latvia (the crowns are inspired by Latvian ethnic costumes as seen here), and that if content is king (as the popular adage decrees), then we most certainly are the queens.
Everyone enjoyed the puns, and the built-in lights made sure that we stood out in an otherwise dark conference hall, as well as the Night Summit after parties.
Because not standing out is too risky
In the end, when you're putting in the effort to have a presence at a major conference and trade show, you might as well do everything in your power to make the most of it. If that's by sprucing up your exterior to stand out, by using smartly targeted Facebook ads, or impressive PR stunts, every bit of attention can bring your dream customer/partner/investor a bit closer.
These are just a few of the incredible ideas we saw at WebSummit, but we're sure that there were even more. If you saw something worth mentioning, leave it in a comment below!
And if you liked any of these ideas, give us a clap, we'll appreciate it :)