How to better prepare for the Web Summit – the small things I wish I knew

We exhibited Covve as a Beta start-up in the Web Summit in 2014 and, with so many detailed comms, we were thoroughly prepared for the event. There were however many small things that I wish we knew before we went. This is a collection of lessons learnt and also hacks and tricks to help you get the most out of it.

Setup your meetings beforehand.

This is the one advice you should not ignore! Reaching out to people during the summit was too late. Identify who you want to meet and send them a very short email on what you do, why you should meet and try and schedule a meeting beforehand; if that doesn’t work, invite them to pass by your stand. People do not pay too much attention to the stands, there are just too many of them; you need one to one meetings, and the summit offers the perfect excuse.

Prepare your stand to stand out and get ready to hustle!

There are endless rows of startups, one after the other making it really difficult to stand out.

  1. rent a big screen, and not the summit ones; we rented a 27″ iMac from an external provider and it did help a great deal to stand out, since most startups rent the same screens;
  2. bring a mini projector and point a moving image (logo/product video) on your banner, the movement makes your banner stand-out from afar, Rewordly had this ingenious idea and they were also kind enough to lend us their projector after my continuous pestering;
  3. use an ipad/iphone in your pitch, if possible, so you can run a presentation straight from the corridor and not necessarily at your stand;
  4. if your product can be used by attendees, then offer a summit discount offer; Blrt had some great discount cards printed out and they ran a great iPad demo which asked for the person’s email address and sent them a blrt example;
  5. try and get a corner stand as it is very difficult to grab attention in the middle of the corridor; we also saw some startups put up a free standing banner, something I believe is not allowed but many did it anyway and it works;
  6. print many many business cards and ensure they stand-out; we also printed flyers but I can’t say they worked very well, if at all, there just too many and they are thrown away or left in piles on coffee tables;
  7. make sure you bring an ethernet switch and a multiplug if you intend to connect many devices;
  8. with so many people at the summit you need to prepare for potential internet connections issues; wireless was touch and go and the 4G not always great; the wired internet at our stand worked well but I would suggest you have a backup, such as an offline version or screenshots;
  9. show-up early on your exhibiting day as many investors showed up first thing in the morning, before it got too crowded; practice how you engage them, you will need to hustle and the faster you get the hang of it the better; prepare to hear many “no”s, but don’t accept them, “I will only take a minute of your time; ok how about 30 seconds!”;
  10. choose who you approach as each time you grab someone’s attention you will need to spend 10min with them, during which time you will miss many other pitch opportunities; you can quickly check their badges but note that investors and some press hid their tags to avoid getting pestered; so after a while I was going after the people with no badge;
  11. if you pitch right you will receive too many business cards; jot down notes right there on the spot so you remember details for following-up afterwards; your memory will fail you I promise; write notes on the cards!

Be savvy to maximize your experience.

  1. access to investor area is limited just for investors but we did manage to get invited for a talk and then spent some time socializing in the area;
  2. despite many workshops and talks getting booked-out very quickly, we did manage to get in by showing up a few minutes before the talk;
  3. some startups managed to talk their way into additional exhibiting days, and one founder we met hung up his banner in empty/no show spaces, getting to exhibit all three days, not saying you should, just sharing!
  4. night summit starts early, so make sure you dine early; if you want to attend the invite only parties held by the likes of Twitter, Braintree, Salesforce etc., note that different startups get invited to different parties, so you can ask people to forward you the invites.

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Overall we had a great experience: it gave us a good feel for the industry and the latest trends, a chance to meet and interact with a global, pre-selected group of start-ups and the feedback and reactions gave us great confidence in what we are building.

If you have attended in the past I would love to hear of your experience and any advice you may wish to share in our comments section below.

Wishing you all a productive and fun Web Summit 2015!