Context

We were at ICT Spring the 19-20th June, and at EYIF Unconvention last week, and had a really great time (as you may have heard). As those were our first events, we used the experience to learn and get yet even more from the next one. Here is our very simple and quick list.

The problem

You’ve secured a booth at an event (or you have the chance to participate to one actually offering booths to startup - thanks ICT Spring!). Now, even if it will be passage (and hopefully some of your target customer segment), you’ve still some problems:

  • No one have never heard of you or your product
  • Many booths will be there competing for attention

Do not forget that by being there, you already invested quite a lot: one or two days of your precious time, so spending a little more (either in time or money) is actually just being consistent (the only alternative is not to go at all).

Our quick list

Use any opportunity to get appointment before the event

Browse the list of companies present (as sponsor, exhibitor, visitor), check all that are of interest to you (we did split them between customers, partners, providers), see if you can contact them beforehand to schedule an appointment. 15 minutes is probably enough, and any place will do.

Bring something to draw attention to your booth

In our case, it was simply Sybil “advertising”. What are the key elements:

  • It sends a simple message
  • It identifies what we do (“something related to developer skills or assessment”)
  • It says who we are talking to (the managers of those companies)
  • It’s funny

The last point is not to underestimate. Most of the people did stop, take a look at the poster, then smile before asking something like “What are you doing exactly?”. Which is the question you want.

Baseline: you may have an amazing product or solution, it won’t attract people by itself (online or offline), so find something that will do.

Give away goodies, ideally edible ones

This one we forgot. Food and/or beverage are an incredibly cheap way of attracting people and get a positive first impression. It does not need to be expensive either, just try to find something “different”. As an example, many booths were offering coffee, but our neighbor (a nice Luxembourg based startup) had granita. In a very crowded and hot room, it was a really good idea.

Being from Belgium, we have some ideas about what to bring next time.

Give a demo

Looks like a no brainer: you have an IT product, whatever stage you’re in, you need to be able to show something that is not a power point. As a side note, be prepared for the Wi-Fi to fail. It will (roughly at eleven the first day, when the event will begin to be crowded). Either have your own connection with you (smartphone), or get a demo that does not require one.

T-Shirts

Another one we could have done. Wearing T-Shirt with your company or product make you identifiable even when you are not at your booth, allowing people to reach you for any question or feedback, which is pretty useful.

Be great at follow-up

Be sure to take some notes with each business card, so that you remember the person and the context (trust me, if you do not, you’ll forget awfully fast). Tell them you’ll send them a follow up in any case and DO IT. Startup are known to be lousy at follow-ups. Don’t.

Conclusion

Events are great opportunities to show your product to many people, and generally raise awareness about your problem/solution/company, but they are also costly (time-consuming), so use them at their best. They are most probably the cheapest type of PR you can do, and one of the only you can actually afford.