Participating in an event is increasingly important moment for a startup.
Depending on what phase you are at it could be your first contact with the public, the first time in front of investors, the first opportunity time to win a prestigious award and an indispensable opportunity to speak with your customers and start getting traction.
But be careful! It could also be an enormous waste of time, energy and money.
In the last year we participated in lots of events with AdEspresso but not all were successful. We made innumerable errors and we learnt a lot about how to get the most form every event we participate in.
Here are 11 key tips to make the most of the events you participate in:
1) Define your objectives
Define your objectives and evaluate if the specific target of the event is more or less indicated to achieving different objectives.
2) Choose the right event
Today whatever the sector you do business in there are lots of events to choose from. Take your time and make the choice where to go on the basis of the objectives you want to achieve.
For example startup events are great for finding early adopters, for networking and getting feedback on your product. If you are looking for wealthier and more specialised customers for your sector these events might not be the best for you.
3) Position is everything
Just like the real estate market the position of your stand at an event is fundamental for its success. Before you sign up (do this well in advance because first come first served) always ask if you can choose where to put your stand.
The strategic points are usually near the entrance, near the dining areas, on the main corridors from the entrance and in the shade for open air events in the summer.
4) Go beyond the logo
Not everybody knows you and your logo. Inserting a short text underneath your logo can make a big difference. Not only will more people stop and read it but you will only attract those who are really interested in your product.
5) Get people’s attention
At events where there are many exhibitors it is fundamental to get noticed. All you need is a bit of imagination: for example at an event where there was no Internet or electricity we emptied an LCD television and put a 5m sales pitch printed on paper which was turned around using motors controlled by Arduino and a remote control. The cost was minimal but the return was enormous, also from the press.
My personal point of view is that they are not so important. The more specialised the event the more people are interested in doing business and not in gadgets. Personally I noticed that the people who want the gadgets are not always interested in the product.
If you do decide to have them however think about what users would like and not what you like. Don’t be afraid to ask for something in return for the gadget. A tweet for example so that even the gadget-hunters can be useful. They may have a friend who is interested and learns about you thanks to their tweet.
7) Offer yourself as a speaker
At many events there are sessions on particular themes for the public. If you participate in a niche event in your sector talk to the organisers and offer yourself as a speaker for one of these sessions. The audience maybe limited yet very specialised. Don’t sell them your product; explain useful things that can help them in their business. They will identify you as experts in the sector and will be very willing to stop and talk to you after the event to learn about your product and even buy it. Remember it is the quality not the quantity that counts.
8) Prepare for the worst
Here are some practical examples: divide the material if there is a group of people travelling, consider that the internet may not work and find out about shops near the event to print or replace things.
9) Business cards
Visitors often receive dozens if not hundreds of business cards. Putting your photo on the business card could have an incredible impact. People remember faces better than names.
Use the back of the business card to remind people what the company does and why not insert discount voucher which will help you to trace the real return on the event.
10) Listen before speaking
Before presenting your product and delivering the standard sales pitch to all those who approach your stand we suggest you ask who you are talking to and what sector they do business in. You could therefore adapt the explanation of the product to the needs of the listener and understand immediately if they are really interested or just curious.
11) Follow-up after the event
Put all the contacts you collect into a CRM or Email Marketing system (e.g. MailChimp), wait a few days and send everyone a follow-up email to thank them for their interest in the event, remind them who you are and invite them to contact you if they need any help or have any problems when testing your product.
Do you have any other tips?