Full respect to Paddy Cosgrave and his team for building Web Summit into the great event it is today but, with more than 30,000 attendees, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd there.We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to us. Here’s how we used the event to generate nearly 500 new leads for our company, growing the number of companies signed up to our platform by 60%.
Before the event, we analysed the entire list of startups and speakers that would be attending Web Summit. By doing this, we could figure out who we wanted to speak to during the event and prioritise contacts.
We narrowed down startups that were relevant for us to talk to and excluded competitors, as well as figuring out which regions to target. We also pitched relevant startups in advance of the event, giving them a touchpoint for our brand before we met them in person. This led many people to recognise us at the event and meant that we weren’t meeting them completely cold. This is especially important when considering the widely-accepted truth that it takes multiple contacts to penetrate your audience’s consciousness.
Web Summit is a meat market, not to put too fine a point on it. There are a lot of voices competing to be heard and the exhibitors are tightly-packed. When we really wanted to talk to someone, we waited for a chance to get their attention and made sure to take it.
At the same time, we also made sure not to waste time by waiting too long but instead worked in cycles, so that we could come back to people who were occupied the first time we passed.
As well as the list of attendees, we also analysed the event map and allocated specific areas for our team members to cover. By doing this, we made sure we could cover all the ground and avoid double-pitching anyone.
We created a Whatsapp group just for Web Summit. Our team used it to communicate in real-time, sharing important information, tips or requests. For example, if a particular area wasn’t worth visiting, we could tell the whole team.As a bonus, we could also use it to talk about which parties to go to and where to get free food.
Additionally, we had a Slack group where we could share documents and communicate with the rest of the team in Berlin.
With so many potential leads at the event, it was vital to use our time efficiently. One of our team members had the idea to set a three-minute timer on his phone every time he pitched. When it vibrated in his pocket, he knew it was time to bring the conversation to a natural close and move on.
Whenever we visited a booth, it was natural for them to start pitching to us, so we also had to find a way to turn the conversation around. To do this, we asked them to tell us in a single sentence what their business was about. If they can’t do that, they probably can’t do it in 15 minutes either. After that, we gave our own one-liner.
We also attended a talk on the first day but decided that, while interesting, it was less valuable than spending our time pitching (and hopefully closing) new companies for our platform. We didn’t attend any more talks. Although the speakers can offer some fantastic insights, listening to them just didn’t fit with our goals for the event. You can always read the same content on the web.
Another of our team members decided to become “Taledo Man” for the duration of the event. He put together a costume (he’s a dab hand with needle and thread) and wore it at the event. It may not have closed any new business directly but it got people talking, taking photographs, interviewing him and posting online - building word-of-mouth for our brand.
We also took a variety of promotional materials with us, including tshirts, flyers of different sizes and gummy bears. Rather than just distributing these from our stand, we looked for any opportunity we could get. We handed things out in front of the lunchroom, in pubs, buses and pretty much everywhere we went. We even pitched someone while sitting in a taxi.
Side note: When we printed the tshirts, we included that fact that we had 500 startups on our platform. By the time we got to Web Summit, it was over 800 so we made some DIY edits to the tshirts to reflect our rapid growth. Now, we definitely need new tshirts.
Tailoring the pitch
We listened to what companies said and replied to it, rather than delivering a set pitch. For example, when we spoke to a growing startup, we emphasised the beneits of hiring through our platform, but when we spoke to someone who wasn’t hiring, we focused on employer branding instead.
What would we do differently?
While Web Summit went really well, nobody’s perfect and we learned some things. So, these are the things we would do next time.
Skip the booth
Although having a booth gives you a presence and a base at the event, we were more productive when we were out and about proactively making connections. Nevertheless, having the booth gave us some visibility before, during and after the event.
Give Taledo Man a new suit
He’s earned it. We didn’t know what to expect but the buzz from the homemade costume was great. Next time, we’ll give him an upgrade.
Get in shape
Walking around from early in the morning until late in the afternoon and talking constantly throughout was more exhausting than we imagined. Coupled with going out at night, it really took its toll.
Get data plans for use abroad
While there was WiFi at the event, the network couldn’t handle the amount of people trying to access it. This meant that everyone had trouble connecting and hindered communication. Next time, we would invest in good data plans in order to be self-reliant on that front.
Those are just some minor thoughts, though. All in all, we are really pleased with how things went.
And if you’re a startup we didn’t meet at Web Summit, you can sign up here. If you’re looking to work at a startup, then you can join here.Images: Flickr / Web Summit
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