Over the years I’ve attended more events and conferences than I can remember, but none really compare to my experience at Web Summit in Lisbon last week.
In talking to other attendees, I was interested to find that many fellow first-time visitors shared very similar perspectives, especially that of being slightly overwhelmed. So, now that the dust has settled (and I’ve had a couple of good nights sleep) I wanted to summarise some of my thoughts as well as some of the feedback I picked up as an aid for anyone attending an event like Web Summit, Collision or any other large scale tech conference.
Go with a clear objective!
When I say Web Summit is overwhelming, it’s not due to the scale or volume of attendees, it’s the sheer breadth of content and areas of interest. Web Summit covers every aspect of technology and innovation, from political and social impact to pop culture, music, entertainment and everything in between. With such an abundance of topics and perspectives It’s easy to get distracted but try not to lose sight of your core reason for attending. For us it was a wealth of pre arranged client meetings and contacts as well as the regional / country inward investment teams who can offer great support for businesses expanding cross border. Having a stand and some travel-led merchandise certainly helped us reach another audience and explain how we might be able to help them. So, whether it’s to expand your knowledge in a certain area, hear from a particular expert or make certain connections - make sure you’re clear what you want to get from the event!
Understand the value you can obtain
Web Summit can be a great event for a number of companies for a number of reasons but the biggest value can probably be derived from the following:
- Start-Ups looking for investment
- Innovators / Technologists looking at latest trends
- VCs / Investors
- Developed businesses looking for technology-related talent
If you’re not one of the ‘core target audience’, be clear on which parts of the conference are not for you and give them a miss.
Put the effort in beforehand
This is true for any event, but with such a broad subject base, this is an especially relevant for Web Summit. If your objective relates to Tech and Innovation there will likely be people and entities attending relevant to you. The challenge is finding them, contacting them and pre arranging those 15-30 min discussions that might otherwise prove difficult to arrange. In such a harried environment I was glad I had put the work in prior to secure meetings on as well as off-site.
Take advantage of every bit of advice
If you’re involved in the Alpha or Beta Start-up streams, as we were, Web Summit provides access to a number of different ‘services’. Take every advantage of these! Take feedback from pitching opportunities, from ‘office hours’, from mentoring sessions, speaker sessions and from talking to the other businesses. Being in an environment with so many other start-ups and new innovative businesses, provides a great opportunity to understand how others might view your positioning and narrative.
People are there to talk, but get to the point!
Introduce yourself and ask questions. People are at the event to make connections and either further their knowledge base or more likely, find business opportunities, so there’s no excuse for not making an introduction. That being said, until you’ve made a brief intro neither of you will know whether a discussion would be beneficial, so be succinct and be honest about who you are, what you do, who you’re looking to speak to and why. If it’s not relevant grab a business card or a scan and move on
Get what you need to do, done early
The one aspect where Web Summit was familiar to other large events was ‘fatigue’. The energy levels and enthusiasm on day 3 is vastly lower than day 1 (I’d love to see a stat on the volume of last minute meeting cancellations on the last day), so get what you to need to achieve done early.
All that aside, take time to Enjoy Lisbon, or wherever the event is being held, after all travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.