You should make meaningful connections at startup events; Here are 5 things I learned manning a conference booth
Earlier last week, I had the great pleasure of exhibiting a booth in the Accelerator Zone in the Seamless Asia conference. Thanks to e27’s generosity, I was able to showcase my startup fundMyLife to the conference attendees.
As it was my very first time exhibiting a booth in a conference, I thought it would be good to share some learnings with the e27 community. More so when it’s conference season nowadays and first-timers like myself would benefit from what my team and myself experienced.
1. Smile and pitch
Expect a lot of people to be standoffish at first. There’s this observation I made where semi-interested people will stand a distance away and try to grok what your booth is all about. A simple measure I found effective was to flash my flashiest smile and greet them. Every encounter is a mini-pitching session, so make sure you get that one-liner down pat. It’s important to engage the visitor, and you must be constantly on the lookout for that glazed look. Energy is infectious! If you’re all pumped up your visitor will feel it too.
The upside of being pumped can have unexpected returns. We were pitching to someone who looked sceptical the entire time during the first day, and on the second day he returned with a friend who might be a promising lead for our startup. Hurray!
2. Pace yourself
While being pumped is good and all, the conference ran the entire day and standing around talking to people can be surprisingly exhausting. I’m an introvert, so it got tiring after a while and it was challenging to resist the urge to retreat to my booth and just hide.
If you’re coming with your team, make sure there’s rotation of booth duty. A good bonus in doing this is that your members get to practise their pitching as well.
3. Decorate your booth + give out free swag
We started off with plain pods. To spruce things up, we brought an LED monitor to play slide shows for visitors. Having a screen helps since we observed visitors stopping and staring at the screen (catch them when that happens and practise point #1!).
Being the scrappy startup that we were, we got Daiso mints and pasted our company logos over it – it worked out surprisingly pretty well as our entire bowl of sweets disappeared during lunch time, and in turn was filled with business cards.
Two noteworthy booths that I enjoyed a lot were from Boxgreen and Cafebond. Boxgreen had amazingly cute illustrations in pastel colours and they were giving out yummy samples to try. On the other hand, Cafebond had a well decorated booth set up with tubes of fragrant coffee beans and live plants. LIVE PLANTS.
4. Friendship is magic
Make new friends, and reconnect with old ones! Don’t forget the other people exhibiting around you are on similar journeys as yourself. I recall having a good time talking to surrounding founders, and it was inspiring listening to their respective stories on why they started up. In addition, my team works remotely, so it was extra bonding time for the three of us.
5. Follow up
It sounds like a very obvious thing to say, but following up is surprisingly hard. Apparently, on average it takes seven days for companies to follow up on leads from a conference. People have short-lived memories, and they probably would have met tons of other people during the conference which further diminishes their impression of you.
Make sure you scribble something on the name cards after your interaction with the visitors so at least you can write a more personalised email after the conference. The mountain of business cards might seem daunting at first, but personally I found it delightful to recall the interactions and weave it into the email.
That’s it folks! Truly, I couldn’t have done it without the company of my co-founders Matt and Wesley. Finally, a huge shout out to e27 for extending the chance for us to be in the Accelerator Zone in Seamless. All this would not have been possible without you guys (besides Seamless of course).
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