How to Get the Most Out of SOCAP
Reflections on nine years at the conference.
In this post, we share his wisdom plus a few more nuggets from the team about making the most of the conference (special shout-out to Teju for his insights).
Before the conference
Have clarity about what you want to get out of the conference. What are your priorities? If you were to walk away saying, “Wow, we absolutely crushed SOCAP”, what would you have accomplished? For our team, we divide and conquer between building relationships with funders, locking up new mentors, forging strategic partnerships, and supporting our portfolio of ventures.
Identify 10 meaningful connections or relationships that would move the needle on your priorities. Doing research is a vital component here. A deep connection with fewer people is better than 200 business cards or dozens of 10-minute meetings.
Schedule meetings early and grab phone numbers. Reaching out to relevant folks via Pathable to schedule meetings is the easiest way to get ahold of them, but make sure to grab their phone number after you’ve scheduled a meeting, so you can find them amidst the sea of people wherever you meet.
Have clarity about how you can be of service to people. What can you offer? If you can’t directly meet a need of someone you’re talking to, don’t drop them. Instead, try to intro them to others at the conference and outside of the conference who can help.
Pro-tip: Be of service to others, even when you can’t directly meet the need yourself.
During the conference
Get outside of the main pavilion or conference hall. Changing the environment is a big part of having a more genuine experience. It allows you to pay closer attention to the conversation, rather than being interrupted or being tempted to check the name badge of the person who is walking by while you’re in the middle of a meeting.
Never start by pitching. One of our co-founders, Teju Ravilochan, has observed conferences to be a place where people are really eager to hear about what someone else does so they can figure out what they can extract from them. Taking turns pitching each other, then deciding if it’s valuable. Instead, commit to never pitching your venture, but always tailoring your message by asking questions first.
Focus on planting seeds. In our experience, SOCAP is best used to “plant seeds” and build relationships instead of locking in partnerships or trying to get firm commitments for investment. You will likely be unable to determine how successful and productive your SOCAP experience was until months later. Take the pressure off of getting to a place of commitment. Relax, you have plenty of time. Build the relationship, commit to following up, actually follow up, and continue the conversation in the next few weeks.
Pro-tip: Make sure you spend the last five minutes of each meeting looking at your calendars to find a workable time for you both to have the first post-SOCAP call/follow-up.
Embrace the randomness of it. Treat the person next to you as the most important person in the world. If you’re standing in the lunch line, be willing to connect with someone next to you. Some of the best connections at Uncharted came out of those situations — our first mentor, for example!
Pro-tip: Take pictures of business cards on your phone, and then recycle them. It’s easier than lugging those things around.
Talk to us! We can guarantee we have something to talk about. Our team is constantly connecting with potential new mentors, partners, and team members. We’d love to spend some time with you to help you have a great experience.
After the conference
Follow up when the dust settles. People are away from their offices, often have autoresponders on, and will return to their office to tons of emails. It might make sense to follow up within two weeks when the dust has settled. If you said you’d do something, do it! If someone else said they’d do something for you, remind them what they said and make it as easy as possible for them to do it. For example, if someone said they’d make an intro for you, remind them of that and send them an email template so they can simply copy and paste. Don’t expect people to answer immediately, but stay on them if they don’t respond.
Keep in touch and continue to add value. If you see an article that reminds you of a person you met, send it to them and let them know you’re thinking of them. If a valuable outcome happened because of an intro someone made, send them a note to thank them and let them know.