Over 70.400 participants were counted at this year's Web Summit. As a BETA Startup, we were proud to be a part of it. Everything happened quite fast and in short notice. We applied for the ALPHA program only about four weeks before the event. That was our chance to show the platform to a broader audience.
So we had less than four weeks to prepare for the event, our showcase on stage, and our platform to demo it on our booth. While it was the first time I was attending Web Summit, it wasn't the first time I was attending a big convention like this. In the last eight years, I was attending even bigger shows regularly, like the Mobile World Congress, with about 110.000 attendees. Back then, I was always attending as a tech journalist, while this time, I was on the other side, participating as an exhibitor.
Based on my experiences, I am going to share some tips based on what we did and what we learned.
Preparation as a first-time exhibitor
The most important thing is that you are very clear about what your goals are at the Web Summit. This was the most common advice I was reading ahead of the event, and we can confirm this. Web Summit became so big that you can get lost very fast.
For me, it was clear that we were looking for first users and awareness. Due to this, we needed to somehow get the platform out to the people before time, and I need to work on my pitch so I can explain what trustedd is in 60 seconds.
Keeping focused during this preparation time is critical. Many micro-tasks need to get handled. You should prioritize them according to your primary goals.
For proper preparation, it is also good to have a picture of how the event will be. The team behind Web Summit does an excellent job and answers most questions through a useful QA and even tips e.g. for preparing pitchdecks.
You can expect masses of people, a lot of 'competition' from whom you have to stand out. The fact is you will only reach a tiny number of people. A lot of the participants are, e.g., attending different talks on more multiple stages or various workshops that are happening in different areas simultaneously. It also means you will have to walk from one meeting to another, so make sure you have comfortable shoes.
Create a unique t-shirt for your whole team - be creative and make one for every day. I printed the mobile view of a trustedd profile in front of my shirt. A lot of people even made pictures of me and the shirt. It was just super to show anybody how trustedd works in seconds even without getting my phone out of the pocket.
Choose wisely about in which category you submit your startup. Your booth will be placed in an area related to this topic. Download the official Web Summit app and create a profile, with all details and interests. Check well in advance if you can find your target group and contact them personally.
In the time when you get your booth, be prepared and active. I saw many exhibitors just standing around. The best would be when you have at least two team members at the booth. Try to talk to every passenger who goes by. You never know who is walking by. Prepare yourself for critical questions that interested persons might have. It ensures that you are clear with your message.
If you have a prototype, make it offline accessible. At least make a demo video, or better use a local environment. Try to stand out with your booth. If you are an ALPHA-Startup and you have the budget, ask your mentor if you can get upgraded BETA. It gives you more credibility. Another way to stand out is to get a monitor to present your product. You can rent it either from the Web Summit organization or even better try to organize one locally. The rental fees for one day are as high as the monitor costs in a shop.
Last but not least, if you make everything right, you should be talking the whole day. So bring your food and enough water for you and your teammates. It will give you the energy you need for the entire day.
Attend the night events
The day is not over yet. Every night during the Web Summit, you can find official events and multiple side events. It all starts with the Night Summit event on the first day. All attendees meet at the Center Stage for the big "Welcome Ceremony." This year (2019), even Edward Snowden made an appearance on stage - at least virtually. Once the ceremony ends, all attendees get invited to the Night Summit. You can meet people from different verticals and countries. It is your chance to connect while just getting a drink at the bar, walking on the street, or even dancing. All people are like-minded, so it is easy to start an exciting conversation. Take the chance.
Prepare for going on stage
After you got registered at Web Summit, you can apply for some programs where you can PITCH your project. No matter if you get accepted or not, you should prepare for a 2min pitch. It again helps you to be clear about your message. Practice while you are on the way to your office, in front of your family and friends, take every opportunity, and don't be nervous, be excited, as Simon Sinek said.
This was my showcase on stage during the startup showcase with the theme 'the future of content':
Don't forget notes and follow-ups
Prepare some business cards and prepare a fast way how you can make notes when you run into somebody and exchange contacts. After the event is over, make a followup. You should also use the official Web Summit app to scan people and connect during it. Once the Web Summit is over, you can export and download the contacts.
Congratulations. You made it. I am excited about the experiences and connections I made during the Web Summit. It was an exciting and successful event, and for sure, not the last time I will attend.