As an early-stage startup, we attend a lot of events and conferences to meet valuable contacts and make our mark on the world. We know from experience that emails and Skype calls are never enough – you need to get out there and make a splash. As we get ready for Collision Conference – the first foray into the US ecosystem by the team behind WebSummit – we decided to share our preparation process to get the most value out of startup tech conferences.

Since you’re going to spend your valuable time and a pretty penny to attend these things – flying 4 people from Spain to Las Vegas, hotels, cars, meals and conference tickets, not to mention t-shirts, business cards, demos, schwag and other miscellaneous gear – you should probably start thinking about the return on your investment. Here are 5 tips to out hustle everyone at your next tech conference:

First, establish your metrics.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Startups need to carefully manage their few precious resources, namely time and money, and in Las Vegas those two things will literally disappear right before your eyes. So if you’re going to drop $5-10k to attend an event, you should have some clear objectives based on your calculated analysis.

For example, if you’re going into the conference with the objective of meeting investors for an upcoming financing round, place a dollar value on each new contact you interact with (exchange business cards or get an intro) and a higher value on 1-to-1 meetings. Do the same for business development opportunities and potential new hires. This way you can calculate an effective after-event analysis.

Second, be selective and stalk your prey.

Even with multiple teammates on site, many events are just too large for an ad-hoc approach. The 2015 Mobile World Congress had almost 90,000 attendees and Web Summit hit 20,000 people last year. That’s simply unmanageable and it’s too easy to get swept up in the energy of the event and not really take away any substantial new relationships. Instead ask the organisers for a comprehensive list of attendees, organisations and a map of the convention space. Split up the list among your team and identify your highest priority people and companies with which to connect. Also, watch the videos from the year before and track the hashtag in the weeks leading up to the event. 

Collision Conference 2015

Armed with your target list, channel your inner high school self and start tracking these people on social media. Get to know their names and faces and other background information that will make your cold introduction more friendly. You’ll undoubtedly meet people you didn’t plan on and miss people that were top priorities, but this way you have a game plan and the crowd of strangers becomes a little more identifiable.

Third, be present and prepared.

Remember that faithful boy scout promise? Always be prepared. The conference, with it’s celebrity speakers, workshops, pitch contests, late night afterparties will be distracting enough on its own. You don’t want to be dealing with some emergency back at the office or trying to stay on top of emails while you’re gone.

A week before the event, make your travel checklist and pack the day before your flight. During the event, each morning before leaving the hotel, make sure you have plenty of business cards, your pitch deck, extra shirt, backup charger, and a toothbrush – you may not be back to your room until the wee hours. However, that does not give you carte blanche to party all night. DO NOT BE HUNGOVER ON DAY 2! 

How To Stand Out At Tech Conferences

Appy Hotel knows how to dress the part @WebSummit

Fourth, be the guy or girl that everyone wants to meet.

Your number one job at a tech conference is to be a walking talking PR machine. Every single person that sees you or talks to you should remember your name and be able to explain what you do. This is your chance to exponentially raise awareness for your brand, close new clients and set the foundation for upcoming rounds of financing, but you can’t make any of that possible unless you get out there and be the life of the party.

Set a goal to meet 40 new people each day, ideally from your target list. Collect as many business cards as you can and never discount someone based on their name, company or appearance – you never know who they’re connected with. Be friendly, outgoing and ask them about their business – even offer to help. Don’t be afraid to go one step further and do something out of the ordinary, like wearing costumes or kidnapping Britney Spears. 

Fifth, don’t mess up the end game.

If you’ve done your homework and hustled your ass off during the event you’re going to leave the event feeling like pure gold. The buzz and adreneline of the event is still coursing through everyone’s veins and you’ll be convinced you’re building the next billion dollar unicorn.  Guess what? That drug wears off quick and a week after the event everyone goes back to their busy lives. Don’t waste the opportunity to follow up with key prospects within 24 hours of the event with a simple email:

“Hi Bill, It was great meeting you at Web Summit! As we discussed, {your startup name} does X and we think there might be some valuable points of collaboration between us. I’ll follow up with you next week for a Skype call. Have a safe trip home!”

Then, remember to do what you say and follow through. If you promised to send a demo or introduce someone to one of your contacts back home, be sure to do so immediately after the event when you’re still top of mind. It’s also a nice touch to shoot the event organisers a personal email (or even a few tweets) thanking them for their hard work and offering to return the favour next time they’re in your home city. 

The good news here is that less than 10% of the other attendees and startups will complete the aforementioned steps so this your opportunity to stand apart from the crowd. We call this ‘going the extra mile’ and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how few cars are sharing the road with you. Success happens when preparation meets opportunity so setup your email autoresponder, pack in advance, get a good night sleep and walk into Day 1 ready kick ass and take names!

Collision Conference Las Vegas 2015

Kompyte will be at Collision Conference in Las Vegas on May 5-6th. If you’ll be there too, ask us to dig up the dirt on your competition