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How to Make the Most of Startup Events

This week, we’re back with another post in partnership from our friends at Startup League.

There are a few certainties when you begin your startup journey; death, taxes, and late nights come to mind for starters. One you might not think about—at least not in the beginning—is the deluge of startup events. There are mixers, mingles, soirees, and parties. Hundreds of events around the world every week where someone extends a hand, passes a card, and asks “so, what do you do?”

A robust network is imperative to the success of your startup. Getting from point A to point B almost always requires a contact. Showcasing your startup at an event can give you access to potential investors, media, customers and influencers in your field. However, do bear in mind that the events world can be a bit daunting, so have a look at these tips so you can make the most out of each one.

  1. Have an agenda
    Just like jumping out of an airplane, have a plan. Why are you here? What do you hope to get out of it? I find it helps to have a few goals at the outset. Maybe it’s 20 business cards, 5 conversations, or 1 lead. Or maybe it’s to strengthen a friendship you already have. Also, make sure you have your pitch down flat. All you need are a couple of sentences that sum up what you do, the simplified version. The simpler, the more memorable.

  2. Identify your cohort
    Serial networkers often see each other at different events and form a friendship based on just that. If there’s an app for your event, why not use it? The more research or networking you can do before the event starts, the better. Often these event apps have information about each attendee. Do your homework and reach out to the ones you really want to talk to beforehand. Also, this helps you find something more interesting to say than “so, what do you do?”

  3. Identify key people
    If an event is worthwhile, there’ll be at least one person there that’s worth connecting with. If you can, by way of using the event app, social media, or asking around, get a sense for who is going and who could give you the most bang for your conversation-buck. Your time and energy is limited, spend it wisely. The more work you can do upfront to identify key targets, the better your time will be spent.

  4. Attend talks, networking events, and workshops
    History is made by those who show up. I can’t remember who said that, but it’s more than true here. No amount of research, emailing, calling, and prep-work will replace actually going to the event. Plan your month out, so you know where you’re at each week. Eventually you’ll get alerts and tips from your serial networking friends. If you’re at a large event, like SXSW, the parties are where most of the networking happens. Don’t miss these. Most large conferences have services that will pre-register you for parties that are worth going to. Remember to have fun, go to things you’ll enjoy. They’re parties remember, not budget meetings.

  5. Follow-up
    This. This is the part everyone seems to forget/not do, but it’s the most critical. Just because you had a great conversation doesn’t mean that they’ll remember you or remember you enough to follow-up. A quick email reminding them of who you are, what you talked about, and what you wanted from them a day or two after the event is the best thing you can do to guarantee value from any conversation. Give everyone enough time to settle in afterwards; the larger the event, the more time you should give. A small networking cocktail hour? An email the next morning would do. But a huge event or conference? I’d wait a week or so after everyone’s returned home.

  6. Remember to
    Take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water, you’ll be talking a lot. Limit the booze. A good rule of thumb is a glass of water for every glass of alcohol. You don’t want to be the networking lush. Get a good night sleep too, and pace yourself. Try going to one or two events a week and then building up to more. Just like anything else, you’ll need to develop that muscle. Listen to your mind and body, if you’re exhausted, skip a night. There’s no point going to an event if you can’t be your best.

  7. Be aware
    Events are tough, even for the most seasoned networker. They can leave you drained, mentally dead, and feeling like you never want to meet another person ever again. Remember, networking is a long game. It may be a few months before you start seeing the real value from your efforts. Get comfortable and try and enjoy the process along the way.

Let us know how these tips worked for you and what events you’re looking forward to trying them out at. What else have you found that’s worked for you? We partnered with our friends at Startup League to do just that.

Do you wish to take your startup to a startup event? Sign up for the Startup League, a unique startup-support program which is designed to provide early-stage startups with a range of benefits including marketing support, event sponsorship & more. For details, visit startupleague.online or write to [email protected].