Should I be (Net)Working?
Poll of founders on the value of events and networking relative to spending more time working on your business.
There is debate among the entrepreneurial community around the value of attending events, pitching your startup and networking. Time that could otherwise be spent building your startup. There is no obvious answer and some businesses are better suited to events and networking than others, but hopefully this post makes you think about the value of your time and if you’re getting the most value out of the startup event culture.
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It’s easy to fall into the allure of the travelling entrepreneur. Attending startup events and other functions where you’re repeating your intro pitch to every person who will listen. It seems like you’re getting your message out there, but it’s important to discern quality from quantity of introductions. Because if everyone is attending events to spread their brand, is your message getting heard and more importantly, is it translating into real value for your business?
Corl polled 33 founders on whether attending events was of net value and our small sample size determined…events are worth the effort.
“There is no better way to build your business then through networking. Going to events and networking creates a type of visibility that you cannot create any other way. As a founder, you are in a unique position to talk about your business, your goals, and your needs.”
Damian Birkel, Founder and Executive Director of Professionals In Transition
But how do you ensure you’re getting the most value out of these events? Are there strategies around maximizing value of your time? In conversation with founders, we received a lot of input on how to maximize the value of attending events. Some of those findings are here:
- Find out whom you’d like to meet with and schedule time during the conference to have a conversation.
“Most of my business comes from networking. You can meet prospective clients/customers, employers, employees, thought leaders, etc.
Start by looking to see if they have a ‘look who’s coming/see who’s registered’ link on the website so you can look up who is attending and conduct due diligence on them through Google, LinkedIn, etc.”
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls
- Depending on your industry, it is important to stay on top of latest trends and being up to date in your respective industry.
- Learning from experts who have been down your road before can provide invaluable insight.
- Learning from competitors and understanding what is out in the market.
“My business is tech-related, a very dynamic industry so it’s imperative that I’m always learning to keep up. By interacting with others in my field I’m acquiring as much relevant information as possible to assist with making beneficial decisions for the future of my business.”
Steve Foley, Hardware Technician. & CEO of Bulk Memory Cards
“The conferences I’ve found invaluable are the ones where I can learn from other attendees and the speakers want to be there. Learning from your mistakes is a must but learning from other people’s mistakes is even better.”
Tyler Rooney, CPO and Co-Founder at Format.
What are (our) competitors doing? We were able to see the competitors we had in the space, and hear their pitches. It helped form our go to market messaging.
Bobby Reed, CEO of Capitol Tech Solutions
Testing New Content or Messaging
- Certain conferences or events have roomfuls of potential customers/investors/partners, etc. This is an optimal environment for testing or curating new messaging, brand decisions, sales strategies etc.
“It provides me places to test out messaging and make connections… This has been helpful as I focus on carving out my market niche.”
- This is an obvious one, executed better by some than others. Normally a difficult process to get one on one time with investors. Certain events and conferences provide a more intimate setting to build relationships with potential investors in your company.
“Leveraging your professional network is how you raise investment capital. Very few startups are reached out to by angel investors or VCs.
You have to already know a potential investor in most cases, or at least know someone who can put you in touch with one.”
Calloway Cook, Founder of Illuminate Labs
If you’re selling general services (consulting, marketing, etc…), your best bet is to network with professionals at the provided for happy hours and “after-hours” events.
The bulk of our finalized deals have been a result of after-hour networking events. It’s far more casual and people don’t feel like you’re “trying to sell them something… I got far more out of a private 10 person chat with a blockchain project co-founder over pizza, than I ever did with industry titans at a 2,000 person conference.
Owen Cook, Principal and Founder of BlockchainSEO
Make time in your schedule to attend mixers, join chats or even research different icebreakers to expand your skills. These connections don’t happen overnight. It takes time to build an authentic relationship that is beneficial to both parties.
Jordan Wan, Founder and CEO of CloserIQ
I have found that the networking and events provide long-tail value in terms of developing business, potential hires, and investors. I’d say it takes about 9 months from initial contact to maybe something comes from it. If you’re in B2B (like LSS), the personal relationship is the way we do business. Without meeting folks, you’ll never get the warm intros that will drive your business success.
Jarie Bolander Co-founder and COO of Lab Sensor Solutions
“…one of the benefits of conferences/events is access to journalists/media. It can be a great opportunity to meet and talk to the media and create relationships.”
Molly Spiers, Marketing Manager CoinCorner.
A number of entrepreneurs were firmly in the against camp of attending startup events and conferences. It is easy to get lost in the noise of a roomful of people pitching, and there are some cases where it is beneficial to stay at the office and work through those events. Especially as a startup founder when you’re juggling 1001 things to complete on any given day.
It’s almost always better to be working than attending conferences. Unless you know exactly what you are going to get out of it or who you are trying to meet and what that meeting will lead to.
Daniel Chan, Magician at Dan Chan Magic
The type of conference should certainly be considered. The more generalist conferences may not have the audience you’re looking for, as compared to a very specific type of conference with your target audience. It’s best to do some background research into what types of professionals will be attending.
If it’s an event for startups or “networking”, don’t bother. Although these are meant to be helpful, there’s such variety at the event that you’ll get very little for your time. People go to these events for different reasons and that means you can’t be sure you’ll find anything specifically useful for your reason.
Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful
What are your thoughts? Do you find events and conferences useful? Let us know in the comments.