How to Hack an Event Like the Web Summit? Our Thoughts and First Hand Experiences

A sincere blog post from our CEO.

DebugMe has been attending the Web Summit this year and it has been the first truly big event we attended – Web Summit had about 42.000 visitors this year and hundreds of start-ups.

So how do you stand out from the crowd?

The event had flashy photos, videos from previous years designed to impress  – but hey, we are talking about a marketing / sales / business development conference! So I didn’t really know what to expect. I was attending the Adobe Marketing Summit in 2014 which had over 6000 attendees, so this was my only comparison.

I must say that Web Summit exceeded all my expectation in terms of size. The event location was huge, and crowded all the time. Immense centre stage, well thought out distribution of startups organised around topics (Big Data, IOT, HR, Software, etc.)

sweb summit 2015

However, I was expecting higher quality. It seems like the organizers were focused on quantity rather than quality. Talking to some of the VC-s, they confirmed that it was almost impossible to find the most promising companies. One of them went as far as saying that he hasn’t found a single start-up he would be happy to invest in. I don’t think that is good for anyone. As a result VC-s may start to ignore the event which then in turn will drive away startups who come here in the hope of getting funded.

We made a few mistakes, hope you can avoid them

 

  1. Attend with 3-4 people at minimum!

We were only present with two team members and this was absolutely not enough. I would say three person is minimum, but better if you use all four tickets the organizers provide. Here is why:

  • You need two people at the stand – one of them will be talking all the time and the other one should grab more and more people to listen in
  • Depending on your target group you will need one person to screen the other start-ups who are exhibiting. Our product supports communication during web development projects, so we were relevant to lot of other start-ups. Equally important: you can look for partnerships and see your competitors.
  • You probably want to attend some of the workshops
  • You want to spread the news: tweets, blog posts, Instagram photos, Facebook updates – whatever your channels are. If you are talking to people 24/7 at the event you won’t have time for creating social buzz.
  • Your two-men team won’t have energy left for the evening to participate in the parties and networking with others.
  1. Apply to the programs as soon as they are communicated

Do you want to benefit from mentoring? Have fun attending the pub crawls?  Attend fun workshops? Apply immediately as soon as you get the email from the organizers. I was unfortunately sick in bed when most of the emails from the organizers came around and by the time I had the energy to deal with the emails all places were taken…

  1. Get in touch with the organizers before the event

Another guy told me that he got in touch with the organizers before the event to make sure he gets the best spot possible. Yes, all stands are just one meter wide but it can make a real difference where you are located, like close to the entrance of the hall (on the last day, I actually did not look at all the stands because some rows were so crowded that I did not want to enter).

We also got a few things right

 

  1. Leverage the buzz to generate traffic

We wrote a blog post about all the Hungarian start-ups attending the event, which got into the official Twitter feed of the event driving some solid traffic to our site.

  1. Want to talk to investors? Reach out before the event and do your research!

Now, I’m not saying we got this completely right. We were a bit late. Still, a few idea that might also help you for next year:

  • We visited the website’s investors section where all the investors attending were listed. They were about 250. We used a tool to get them into an excel file with contact details like Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, etc.
  • We sent out a tweet to all of them with a personalized image that showed to the investors what our product is doing.

web summit 2015

  • Than we visited their LinkedIn profiles and company websites to find out if we fall within their target group and identify the ones that we really should be talking to (DebugMe is a SaaS B2B product, and we are early stage, so that narrowed down the interesting investors to 20 or so) Unfortunately we did this already at the event – you should be doing this 2-3 weeks before to be able to schedule meetings with them.
  1. Don’t use your logo, have a message instead!

When you are filling out the online application, the organizers will ask you for a logo (I think it was ~60*60 cms) and a one liner that will be put on your stand. Now, don’t upload a logo. That does not tell anything. And the one liner? It is too small to read from a distance, and I often found that a lot of companies’ was too general to get the general idea.

At DebugMe, we believe in the power of visuals. So when we saw all the stands on the first day, it became clear to us that the logo won’t cut through the marketing clutter, and we had to do something different. So we ended up calling our designer, asking for a visual design with a call-to-action and ended up in a print shop 10 minutes before it closed… As a result this is how our stand looked like.

web summit 2015

Test your message

You will hopefully talk to hundreds of people. If you are early stage, you probably have 3-4 ways you have formulated your one liner before. Now you have the chance to test all versions on bunch of people and see their reaction. For us, the text we had on our board really worked: Have you ever felt that developers and business people just don’t speak the same language? We believe they do. The language of visuals.

Validate, fine tune your roadmap

I do hope you have a product roadmap. If not, create one before you go to Web Summit. You can engage in conversations and find out what people really want in your product and that how many ask for certain features over others. Here is a good article how to prioritize your roadmap and get user input.

Get input for your buyer persona, pricing tiers

Prepare with 3-4 questions you want to get answered, and ask them from everyone you have qualified as a potential customer. For us it was important to know how many web projects they are working on in parallel, and how many developers they have.

Have a look at this article from Price Intelligently.

Final thoughts

It was a great, fun and very useful event for us, the kind of we learned a lot from. We are definitely going to Lisbon next year and we will be a lot more prepared, arriving to the venue with a lot of new tricks fully planned.

 

UPDATE

This is how another Hungarian start-up, Story2Go experienced the Web Summit 2015:

Web Summit was a huge opportunity, and no doubt will be a lasting memory for all participants. Exhibiting as an ALPHA was an honor but a great challenge as well. All of our team will probably be able to recite our elevator pitch for the rest of our lives. Being a part of the same eco-system as Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR, Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter, Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram (not to talk about our childhood hero, Edwin van der Sar) was a wonderful gift.
What we did realise is that Story2Go is just a step away from the ‘rising star” status, and that inspired us to develop more, giving our users a much greater experience than they would ever expect. Thanks for the organizers and thanks for Dublin – not only for serving us with an unlimited number of cold Guinnesses, but also for hosting such a wonderful event. Be prepared Lisbon, we’re coming in 2016!
You are reading the DebugMe blog. We are developing a visual feedback, bug tracking & project management tool which saves time and frustration for web developers, project managers & designers. Give it a try, it’s free forever! Or purchase one of the professional packages now and save 50% in the first three months.
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