Every two weeks, I send out a list of over 30+ upcoming startup events in the Bay Area; there’s usually an event every night, with many days having even more. But your time is valuable: you have a product to build and customers to attract. So how do you know which are really worth your time? Here’s a few quick tips to help you decide:
Know Your Audience, and The Event’s
Most startup and technology events will make their attendee list public. Review this and make sure there are people you want to meet! Events are an incredible place to make personal and powerful relationships with potential partners and clients, but only if you do your homework first. Reach out to people ahead of time and plan meetings, to get the most out of an event. Also, look at the event’s target audience. If you want Music – check out the SF MusicTech Summit; for Geo-Location, you need to see Geo-Loco. For Early Stage Startups & Business, FailCon is a great place to start:
FailCon attracts 500 mostly early-stage founders of online technology and services. We also get a decent footprint of designers, investors, and press who want to work with those founders. If you want to make an impression with that crowd, sign up now and reach out to others.
Learning Vs. Networking
Also, be sure you know why you are going. If you are just starting off, you probably need to be attending events to learn. You’ll be able to network at things like FailCon, too (we have over 3 hours dedicated to networking, including themed lunches, workshops, and coffee breaks), but you’ll also get a chance to learn from those who have done this dozens of times, and make less mistakes yourself.
If you have an established business model and product, you need to be networking – meeting clients, investors, and partners. You may look at demo opportunities at events like FailCon, TechCrunch Disrupt, or Pitch; but you really want to be attending more shorter and cheaper events.
Review The Reputation
Finally, always have a good understanding of the reputation of an event: who is producing and how often has it been running. A first-time conference from a first-time producer may be worth just tuning into on twitter or their live-stream. But for something like SMASH Summit (produced by industry-star Dave McClure) or FailCon (running for 3 years by veteran producer Cass Phillipps), there is a much higher chance of bumping into that investor you needed to meet, or that big-company rep you wanted to have acquire your startup. Veterans know what you need to do business at an event, and are more likely to structure their conference appropriately.
Events are certainly not a waste of time; they can be a huge value add for your own reputation and the growth of your business. But you need to focus your efforts and come prepared, and know how to skim my lists and pick out the best. Hopefully this helps!