How to squeeze every last drop out of an event
September is synonymous with back-to-school, but it also kicks off the beginning of event season! So if you notice your calendar starting to fill up once again with evening events, you’re not alone.
As an already busy startup founder, it can feel daunting to see your fall pipeline start to get packed with networking events, pitch events, and conferences – but we’re here to tell you that if you’re prepared, these events can be instrumental for you and your business. It’s all about making the most of them and making them work for you.
Let’s dive into some actionable tips and tricks on how you can squeeze every last drop out of your event experience – because when life hands you lemons (or in this case, when life hands you a jam-packed fall schedule…)
Do your homework
Events have a lot of moving parts, and it’s easy to miss some of the great sessions and opportunities that an event has to offer. Really take time to get to know the event you’re thinking about attending, and who else will be there – it’ll help you get the most out of your experience and connect with the right people while you have them in the same room.
- Website + apps: The event website + app are your best friends. Spend time looking at everything the event has to offer so you don’t miss out on any of the great opportunities. Capitalize on this hub of information and use it to help you plan how you’ll attack each event you plan to attend, to get the most out of it.
- Social Media. Follow the event organizer on social (ahem..@SAASNORTH). You’ll get the inside scoop on speakers, networking events, prizes, and all the fun stuff you might otherwise miss. Plus, you’ll be the first to hear about discounted ticket sales for next year! It also gives you a chance to connect with other attendees and speakers. After all, this is an entire group of likeminded people who are interested in the same things you are, so take advantage of the fact that the community exists.. which leads us to our next point.
- Lean on your community. It’s become the norm for people to post “I’m thinking of attending XX event, who else plans to be there?” on their social channels, and for good reason! This gives you the opportunity to make plans to connect with certain people, before the chaos of event day takes over. Being prepared is always a good idea, but we’ll get into that later on.
Know your ‘WHY’
FOMO is very real, but we don’t recommend making decisions based on that sinking feeling that you’re missing out. When it comes to accepting invites to events, we suggest really focusing on your ‘WHY’, the reason you’d say yes at all. The more clear your understanding of why you want to attend something, the easier it is to cut through the noise and really focus on putting your energy towards those goals.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself when trying to determine your why, and whether or not an event aligns with it:
- What’s the best possible outcome for me attending an event like this? (is it to gain mentorship, to meet an investor, to find a founder support system of like-minded people? The list goes on, but the key is to think about where you’re at, where you want to be, and how this event can help you bridge the gap)
- Is your best possible outcome likely to happen based on the nature of the event?
- How can I set myself up for success in making my best possible outcome a reality through attending this event?
This last question leads us to our next point…
Set yourself up for success
So you’ve decided that the event is worth your energy based on your ‘why’, now let’s make that best possible outcome a reality.
- See step one: do your homework – but now through the lens of an attendee. You’re no longer trying to determine IF you should attend an event, but what to do with your time now that you’ve purchased your ticket.
- Don’t overbook yourself. It’s easy to sign yourself up for every single talk, panel, etc, but the reality is you need to leave a bit of time in your day for those organic connections. This is why knowing your ‘Why’ can be so important, it allows you to build your day around that. So if connecting with investors is a goal you have, you’ll want to plan your day accordingly and then leave yourself time to make those connections and have those conversations.
- Don’t underestimate the power of food. Events are busy, we know this. Some of the best conversations we’ve had with founders and community has been over an impromptu lunch or coffee. It can be tempting to step away over lunch and get a bit of work done, take a call, or just gather yourself and your thoughts – which we understand, but we also suggest making the most of these organic conversations. People really tend to be at their most authentic and approachable when there’s food on the table! So if connection is your goal, that time is critical.
- Manage your time, before it manages you. One of our best tips is that when you purchase your event tickets, also schedule time in your calendar *right away* to prepare before and to debrief after. That way you won’t accidentally book a day of meetings after the conference, losing out on that valuable time to de-brief and follow up (more on this below). You’ll thank yourself later.
Master the art of the ‘Follow Up’
So you had a bunch of great conversations with potential investors or customers, now what?
What makes those connections lasting and impactful is when you take the time to follow up, make the LinkedIn connection, or reach out via email. You want to reap the rewards of attending this event and the time and effort that you put into it.
Our biggest tips for making the most of your follow up:
- Pay attention, and care. Try to learn something about the people you’re connecting with, so you can add that thoughtful detail to your follow up. Ex. “Hi Joe, it was great connecting with you the other day – love that we share the same enthusiasm for Starbucks Blonde Roast!”. When you show that you listened, cared, and remembered, it can have a big impact.
- Don’t wait too long. Strike while the iron is hot! As mentioned above, give yourself dedicated time after the event to send these follow-ups, so you don’t get lost as a distant memory. Reach out while the memory is fresh for both of you.
- Follow through. If you said you’d share a resource, make an intro, or perform an action – do it. Follow through on the promises you make, and it’ll create a lasting impact on your connection.
- Propose a next step. Try not to ask too much right away, but propose a next step. This might be a call or a coffee, something to keep the momentum going.
Last but not least, have fun.
When the weight of a busy calendar starts to weigh you down, try to remember that while it’s important to make the most of these events, it’s also important to enjoy yourself along the way. Once upon a time we were locked at home, dreaming of in-person events and face-to-face conversations – so when all feels lost, ask yourself:
“What would 2020 me want me to do?”
Will we see you at SAAS NORTH this year? Grab your tickets and join us on November 15 + 16, 2023