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Before, during, and after: how a startup can get the most out of conference participation (Part 2)

Leads and Business Communication

So, you have made an important decision and arrived at the conference to present your startup. Now the most productive and interesting phase begins: communication with attendees and networking. In the second part of the article, we have collected the opinions of repeated participants of large startup events that will help you build effective communication and keep focus in the whirlwind of events. 

How to get leads at a conference 

Each conference is not only about new technologies and new contacts, it’s also about leads that can help you grow your startup. We asked Alina Pendeshchuk, Business Development Lead at Datrics, a portfolio startup of Sigma Software Labs, about her experience in preparing for conferences. She shared the secrets of successful lead acquisition from a team that has traveled halfway around the world and attended such conferences as JICA conference in Japan, Nordic Fintech Week, Ukrainian delegation to London Tech Week, and European Blockchain Convention.

Preparing for a conference is probably the most important thing to plan. We choose only those events that are relevant to our track record, i.e., that will bring us the most benefit, or events where we are more likely to meet the right people. We don’t rule out the possibility of attending Web Summit, but specialized conferences are often more relevant to us.

Alina Pendeshchuk, Business Development Lead at Datrics

Let’s go through the most important steps: 

  1. Book meetings in advance with interesting people, who will be attending the conference, through a special event app or direct contact via social media. The hottest time is 2–3 days before the conference. This way, you will get a plan of action & meetings and will be able to confidently follow it throughout the trip.
  2. Put away your work and spend all your free time during the conference days communicating with people at the stands or in specially designated areas. However, remember that the main communication boom will take place at side events. Don’t forget that this is a big component of communication, albeit in a more informal style.
  3. If you have a booth at the conference or are working as part of a delegation at a joint booth, make sure that your brand is well covered. Your startup’s identity, logo, and video should be visible everywhere. 
  4. Instead of using paper business cards, merchandise, and handouts, use QR codes with a direct link to LinkedIn, your website, or a form to connect with visitors and all stakeholders you communicate with. 
  5. Choose the relevant side events you want to attend, where you can establish personal communication with future clients, partners, and market players. 
  6. Keep a record of each useful conversation in a special working chat or document that is available to your team for quick lead processing. After each important conversation, write down the main points: 
  • the contact’s LinkedIn profile; 
  • a brief description of the meeting;
  • a photo of the person you’re talking to or a photo of you together; 
  • next steps for communication.
  1. Get involved with the local community. When planning a visit to another country or city, schedule meetings with local clients or partners. This will help you adapt more easily to the city where the event is taking place and possibly get involved in the local community.

Business communication at conferences

To get the most out of a conference, you need not only to attend the event itself, but also to plan business meetings with participants. We talked to Daria Yaniieva, Investment Director at Sigma Software Labs, about business communication during events. Daria attended about 10 top international and many Ukrainian events last year alone. She participated as a member of Ukrainian delegations, as a speaker, and as a jury member in numerous startup pitches in many countries around the world. We asked Daria how proper communication affects the results of business trips.

The geography of our events is incredible — from a major summit in Lisbon to a technology conference in the heart of Morocco, from a VC event in Warsaw to a Ukrainian delegation in London. Over the year, we visited numerous locations for completely different types of events, and each one brought its results.

Today, it is even more important than ever to maintain existing contacts and create new global opportunities. This opens up new horizons for business and great prospects for our portfolio companies. But it is not enough to be present at the heart of technology events. In addition to all the tips on how to prepare, we clearly got that learning about cross-cultural nuances is another major success factor. For example, the casual dress code for most European events should be set aside when you are packing a suitcase for a tech conference in Marrakech. Your personal agenda is also important. It’s better to check the locations, format, and invitees for the side events in advance. Ignoring the accepted formats will not add success points.

The optimal timing of follow-up business communications requires special attention. From our personal experience, it is not always effective to follow up with potential contacts the day after the meeting, and sometimes a delay of a day can, on the contrary, make a negative impression. The first rule applies to large-scale events like Web Summit. Where the schedule of official and additional events takes a full day, except for a few hours of sleep. Firstly, in such a schedule, it is quite difficult to process all contacts effectively here and now, not to mention personal follow-ups. Besides, there’s a pretty high risk of losing emails among hundreds of notifications from networking apps, organizer emails, calendar reminders, and regular mail that never stops during your travels. Of course, you shouldn’t postpone communication in a super long box, but it seems optimal to process contacts within a business week after returning. At the same time, after more small events for 70–100 people, it is highly recommended to send follow-ups the very next day. Be sure that the number of emails will be ten times smaller and, with a high degree of probability, the scale of the event allows you to agree on more specific points to include in further communication. And in this case, there is no need to lose time and interest to continue the conversation in detail.”

says Daria Yanieva, Investment Director at Sigma Software Labs.