Standing out in business can be difficult, especially when you're trying to make a quick impression. As the 2014 Web Summit in Dublin nears closer, The Open University has taken a look through the advice and recommendations provided by previous attendees - including investors, start-ups, and journalists - to provide a list of tips from personal experience to help you stand out from the crowd.
The Web Summit has been referred to as "the best technology conference on the planet", and with over 20,000 attendees expected in 2014, it's going to be bigger than ever.
1. Be excited about what you're doing, and have something exciting to say
Ben Byford visited the Web Summit in 2013 with his start-up Eulergy, and explained how tough it is if you'd have to stand around all day "talking about something you're not interested in".
In business you have to be enthusiastic and genuinely interested in what you're doing. Despite how great your product or service might be, it may not seem that way to others if you don't get excited about it. Ben recommends telling people a story.
"Spin a yarn and turn your latest pitfalls and successes into a story"
2. Explain what you do in simple terms
At the Web Summit, and like many other gatherings of this nature, time is limited and you have to be able to get your key messages across quickly, and in straight-forward terms. Think the 'elevator pitch', however this should flow through to your branding wherever possible too.
As Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh explains from last year's event, your business should ideally have a strap line or one-liner that explains what you do in simple terms - i.e. "we help X do Y".
At a glance, people should be able to understand what you do. While networking, it's difficult to find the time to meet and greet everybody, so your logo, branding, or materials should make it clear.
3. Set measureable goals
Russell Banks shared some of his advice ahead of the 2013 Web Summit, having attended "approximately 100 tech conference and major shows around the world", including getting an investor for his 6 week old start-up in 2012.
Russell makes it clear that preparation is critical, and you only get what you put in from a global event such as this. A key piece of advice however is to set measurable goals.
Are you attending to gain investment? Do you plan on having x number of meetings?
Nick Trusty explained his key goals from attending the 2013 Summit:
"As a year-old Brooklyn-based start-up, we went into the conference with four primary objectives: to hone our pitch, meet start-ups of all levels from around the world, take in what information was disseminated in panels/workshops and forge relationships with potential investors and advisors who we might not otherwise have had the chance to meet."
Defining goals is key in any business. You need a way of measuring yourself and your performance, so setting targets beforehand will be a strong motivator.
4. Perfect your pitch (and make it snappy)
"You only have 8 hours in the day to talk to as many people as possible. It's reasonable to allow 1-2 minutes per person that you meet. Get your pitch spot on in advance so that it doesn't matter what industry they're in as the same pitch will be suitable for every person in this quick fire way to break the ice."
5. Follow up after the initial contact
Events like the Web Summit are a fantastic way of meeting new people who are relevant to your business, and can potentially help you in the future.
Making a good first impression and establishing first contact is key in such a crowded environment, but you must remember to follow up, as Paul Savage suggested last year.
"After you've met some people, send them a Tweet or a LinkedIn connection request. Don't leave it for another year to get in touch with them. You never know who will reply to you."
As with all business connections, forming a relationship can be very beneficial long-term, even if there isn't an immediate opportunity. Establish contact, then build a relationship from there.
6. Explain the problem you're solving
On Quora, advice was asked for tips on pitching at the Web Summit in Dublin. Niall McKeown responded with his own experience of attending.
While many businesses focus on statistics in terms of market size or potential opportunity, Niall suggests simply explaining the problem that exists.
"Just state the problem that exists and how you know it exists"
Businesses are often built around solutions to problems, and if you have that at the heart of your pitch, it can be much more appealing to a would-be investor.
7. Manage the little time you will have available
Irish Times journalist Jim Carroll attended the Web Summit in 2013, and made it clear how important time management is for the event and attendees.
With a packed programme of speakers, time management is key to ensuring you get the most out of the event. Whether you're attending as a start-up or a keen observer, there is so much going on that it's important that you stay on track (and ideally hit your targets - see tip #3).
Make sure you prepare in advance and understand the different talks and sessions that you hope to attend. Have a rough idea of people you would like to meet, and where you plan on being throughout the course of the Summit. Time is scarce; use it wisely.
8. Showcase your innovation
Niall Harbison noted that the lack of innovation surprised him from some of the start-ups attending last year's Summit. With over 800 start-up companies at last year's event - and more planned this year - there will undoubtedly be some similarities in the types of products and solutions.
Your pitch and the way you promote your business is key to showcasing your innovation. There are a lot of similar online tools and platforms that are launched continuously across the web, so understanding how yours is different is vitally important.
What do you do in simple terms? (see point #2), and what problem are you solving? (see point #6)
Focus on how you are different, and how you are solving a problem better than anyone else.
9. Arrange meetings in advance
One of the benefits of an event such as the Web Summit is that there is so much public information available in terms of what companies will be there, and who is attending.
CEO of Copper.io Ed Byrne suggests arranging meetings 'NOW'. Identify the people you want to meet and talk to in advance, then find them on the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn to establish connections. This is a great way of setting up a potential meeting or at least a chat when the Web Summit comes around, as you will already have a shortlist of people to meet.
"There's going to be 10,000 people at this [20,000+ in 2014!]– you'll surely meet lots of interesting folks – but don't leave it to chance!"
10. Don't rush into investment
The CEO of Hootsuite Ryan Holmes has some wise words for entrepreneurs looking to gain investment from attending Web Summit. Ryan explains that most of the people who have great ideas often have limited finances, and so have to jump through hoops to attract funding. Although investment is an ultimate goal for many start-up companies, you should be wary about rushing into anything before you dive in.
Ryan's tips include:
- Get to know your investors before you sign on the dotted line
- Make sure you and your investor have the same long-term vision
- Don't overlook investment alternatives
- Get to profitability
- To investors: play nice!
Read more about Ryan's journey with Hootsuite, and the $165m investment they secured.
BONUS tips for dealing with journalists
As a business trying to make a name for yourself, journalists in your sector offer a very relevant opportunity to gain coverage. It isn't as simple as giving away all of your details in the hope that they want to write a story about you however.
Michael Acton, the CEO of Moshi Monsters, shares the same recommendation as Ben Byford:
"Want the press to take notice of your company? Communicate and share an emotional story, a human angle."
Irish Times journalist Una Mullally - who attended the 2013 Summit - also has some advice:
"Don't aggressively pitch to journalists. Please. It's rude. We’re not VCs and you're not going to get someone to write about you by chugging or acting the buffoon. [...] If your idea is good, then let's talk. Politely."
Last but not least...
And finally, perhaps the most relevant tip from Paddy Cosgrave last year:
Tip to all: Bring an umbrella to #websummit
— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) October 25, 2013
Read the original post from The Open University website here.