People attend tech startup events for fundamentally two reasons, these being:
- To learn the subject matter
- To network
During the previous Techcelerate, I ran over 100 tech entrepreneur-centric events in Manchester, London and elsewhere. I believe following is a true reflection of my experience of what makes a great event, based on both running and attending events:
- Speakers and Panelists – Subject matter experts. Ideally builders of tech products and not just advisers and consultants.
- Audience participation – open the floor to Q&A
- Networking – food and drinks not just cheap crisps
- Circulation of attendance list – pre and post event
- Introductions – know the audience and make connections actively
- Keep the events to 35 to 50, but no more than 80.
- It’s not all serious – add humour.
- Punctuality – start and stop as advertised.
Ignoring our own events from the past for a minute, here’s a selection of event series I’ve attended which stood apart from the rest.
- Sci Tech Daresbury breakfasts – When I run events or even when I am attending other’s events, I frequently interrupt conversations to make introductions. Whilst interruption timing needs to be managed, I learnt this trick from Paul Treloar, the master when it comes to introductions.
- KPMG semi-annual Tech Events – Before you attend the event, you get a lovely pdf (with design) with attendee details. This helps greatly to preplan who you like to have conversations with. Whilst there are so many mobile apps out there for increasing event engagement, they do not seem to feature at events of less than 80, which is a shame. Eventbrite allows us to show who is attending our current event format Techcelerate Coffees.
- When it comes to adding humour to events, Chris Maguire of Business Cloud stands apart from the rest.
- I quite enjoyed how Luke Grimes managed Q&A at Founder Insights. There are others who excels at this, but right now, no one comes to my mind.
- Whilst I don’t claim to have run any of our 100+ events professionally, I feel we were damn good at attracting the right speakers and panelists at most events.
Of course, I’ve only commented on small events and I have no experience of running large conferences. My colleague David Bailey has this to say about conferences:
- Curtains do NOT damp down noise enough – white noise leads to sleepy audiences – distortion on audio is very tiresome.
- There can never be enough bandwidth.
- There can never be enough coffee or cakes – snacks should not be time restricted.
- Booths that do not carry the tag line or mission beneath the company logo are a massive waste of time.
- Blue light does not help us write notes.
- “Edgy” cheap space is fun once, after that, it just looks cheap.
- Signposts and timetables really matter.
- Ideas are cool, but business is what matters; shifting the balance towards success and away from “interesting” may help.
- Live video is fine, but speech to text notes would be searchable.
Do add your own observations in comments below.