Attending a conference is worth your money, but not because of the information.

Narek Gevorgyan
The Startup
Published in
4 min readAug 6, 2019

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Today, finding information is effortless since you are always a button click away from accessing all of the world’s knowledge from the comfort of your office. But information alone is not enough to build a successful venture, find new investors, and develop a desirable product. That’s where the conferences come into play since they offer many direct and indirect educational and professional opportunities for growing your business. However, small business owners have busy schedules, and forking out from $1,000 to $3,000 on a conference might seem both like a waste of time and money. However, underestimating the impact of such events might be a bad call for you and your business, and here is why.

NETWORKING BEATS RAW INFORMATION

My experience shows that networking has always been the most important aspect of attending a conference since most of the presented information is published online after the conference ends. Some people focus only on the informational aspect of conferences since they feel the pressure of approaching new people. But the people who attend such meetings are quite ready and welcoming to meet someone new so don’t feel embarrassed and always focus on the following advantages.

1. Creating real-life relationships allows turning conferences from one-night events into a life of opportunities. If you are interested in someone’s perspective, make sure to exchange contacts and invite them for a quick business lunch. But don’t forget that this meeting is not only about business but also forming a strong relationship with another person. Always follow up with the people you meet a week later. Take your time to make sure that your letter doesn’t get lost in the in-box of the event organizers and speakers who receive hundreds of emails the day after the conference ends. Look at it this way: treat a conference similarly to getting a job, and building new relationships similarly to your actual job responsibilities.

Attending SaaStr and StartupGrind earlier this year.

2. Connecting with investors both directly and indirectly is another great aspect of networking since funding often makes or breaks the business. For instance, When I was attending SaaStr, I was able to land 40+ meetings with investors, founders, and potential clients. At such events, you can also use either Slack channels or conference apps to review the attendees and learn more about the people you want to meet beforehand. The best mindset at the conferences is coming prepared and being open to new at the same time.

3. Meeting your competition is another great aspect of networking at such events. At conferences, your competitors can teach you about the best practices of doing business and even help you attract new customers if you build strong relationships with them. That’s why being open to new ideas is so valuable: you never know where the inspiration could come from.

4. Connecting with such people in another setting is often either impossible or even more expensive and time-consuming. You can always find entrepreneurs from different countries and fields at such events whom you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise. When you think about all the doors one such an evening opens, spending $1,000+ on a conference quickly starts making sense due to the high return on your investment.

To get the most out of networking at conferences, make sure that you follow these tips:

1. Don’t ignore event organizers. They often have valuable advice if you are ready to listen.

2. Don’t approach the speakers immediately after their presentation. They won’t remember you out of 40 other people who ambush them the minute they leave the stage.

3. Don’t treat the meeting as an information transaction. Make every connection personal and valuable for both parties.

4. Don’t be needy. Make sure that you are focusing not only on the benefits you can receive but also the ones you can offer to make the connection authentic. A strong elevator pitch will help you show the attendees both your role and goals at such an event.

LEARNING ABOUT NEW TOOLS

Besides networking, you can learn a great deal about new ways of doing business, regardless of your experience. You can go through the expo floor of any conference and find new tools, applications, or services that can help you elevate your business. Direct demonstrations are also better than reading about the tools online, which is why to be eager to dive deeper into new products and services other companies are offering. Solely focusing on one’s business is important, but it also does not allow you to be exposed to different points of view. Attending a conference is the answer to this problem. New ideas you’ll find there could offer you solutions to something you’ve been struggling with for a long time.

FREE GOODIES AS A BONUS

Of course, the content and networking should be your main reasons behind attending a conference. But such little things as goodie bags, contests, and prizes can make the experience more pleasant and help you justify the price of the conference. Most companies at such conferences give away free gifts for marketing purposes, which is why such things as free books and discount coupons can be quite valuables bonuses. For example, attending such conferences allowed me to receive a coupon from Zoho for $500 USD, a coupon from Amazon AWS for $1,000, and even a coupon for Google API for $20,000 USD.

Most conferences are pricey, but attending one can be a great business investment since meeting all of these people individually can be even more expensive and time-consuming. Conferences are a great way to receive feedback from experts on your work, build new professional relationships, find new marketing opportunities, and check out your competitors. So don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you meet there because experience shows that most of them are open to help.

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Narek Gevorgyan
The Startup

Building teams and products. Interested in HRTech, Sharing economies and SaaS.