How to hack a conference

Web Summit RDS Dublin 2015

Web Summit week is just over, the final one to take place in Dublin, Ireland (next one to take place in Lisbon, just incase you haven’t heard) and it was my favourite one so far, hands down.

I’ve been to 5 at this stage. One as a volunteer, one as an attendee, two working with the Web Summit themselves and now I had the opportunity to return representing Techstars. Firstly, hats off to the whole team for an incredibly well organised, high calibre conference. I personally had a fantastic time and got a lot out of it.

Over the last few days I have formalised an opinion on conferences & I believe there are 3 types of attendees. To keep it simple lets just call them Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 attendees.

  • Tier 1 Attendees — The newbies, the super enthusiastic, optimistic and slightly naive attendees who will look back on the conference and wish they done a few things differently. They don’t know that there are 3 types of attendees.
  • Tier 2 Attendees — They know that there is 3 types of attendees and they know that they are in Tier 2. These attendees know that they need to hustle to get into the parties T3 attendees are invited to. Hustle well and they will have a great time with lots new opportunities.
  • Tier 3 Attendees — The VIPs, top tier investors, partners etc.. who are going to have a great time because most things are tailored towards them — the dinners, the private drinks etc..

Break the rules!!

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re afraid to sneak into the investor lounge or media lounge or somewhere else at a conference, I’m sorry but you’re probably not going to make it.

If you’re afraid to socially engineer your way into guest listed parties how are you going to get that one on one time with the person that can make or break your company. (Pro Tip: Find out someone who is on the guest list, walk to the door and say that name)

One of my favourites — startups who buy investor tickets!! Gets them right into investor dinners and lounges of where they need to be! You need to create a credible story but makes so much sense to pull it together.

Get to know the organising staff

Spend time building a relationship with the people you are in contact with about the conference. Send them swag, tweet them! From experience, I know that they are (used to be me) the most connected people at the conference.

They know who is where, when. They know what parties/dinners are happening on the night and who’s going. By just having a little conversation with them you can find out where the best place to be that night is and in most cases if they like you, they will look after you. Also, any additional stuff that they need to fill like office hours or investor intros, they’re going to think of you!

I really had a great time. I got to come back and experience it from the other side of the table. I spent the last week at speaker dinners, investor dinners, private drinks and parties —some of which were easier to get into than others. I really got to meet some incredible people! You should do the same!

Additional office hours

It was really great to meet so many great startups at Web Summit this week. There was a lot of companies which made it hard to get around to everyone but if I missed you, Techstars Berlin are happy to jump on some online office hours with you.

You can Apply for Office Hours here.
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