Making the most of start-up tech conferences - as a start-up

Guest writer, winner of PwC’s Innovation Night powered by Slush 2019 and Chief Commercial Officer of T-Mining Frederik Van Outryve offers his top five tips from getting the most out of a tech conference like Slush.

Slush, that takes place in Helsinki each year, is undoubtedly THE happening for the global start-up and scale-up community. This year, it welcomed over 25,000 people of which I was lucky enough to be one. And I was lucky enough to be forewarned about what to expect and how to maximise my time there.

I’ll be honest, when you first walk into the venue, it’s overwhelming. It took me a good hour or more to settle into the atmosphere and get my bearings. Now a Slush veteran, I’ve gathered my top five tips to help any start-up optimise the value for their business from such an event.

Tip 1: Preparation is key

I can’t overstate how important it is to prepare and plan your schedule in advance. I would say about 8o% of my work was done upfront. In the weeks before the event opens, Slush offers access to an online matching platform where you can see who’s attending.

You can search by industry, key word, category (investor, corporate, scale-up, etc.) and more to easily find contacts you might like to meet. And you can contact them to arrange appointments. At the event itself, around 200 small tables are positioned for quick one-to-one meetings to facilitate interactions as much as possible.

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Tip 2: Go with a goal in mind

It’s important to know upfront what you’re looking for. Is it for investment or to look for business partners? To learn about new technologies? To access a greater client base? All these and more are possible.

If you’re not really sure what it is your business needs, you can spend a lot of time getting suboptimal results. For T-Mining, we knew that we were there to better understand the needs of potential investors.

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Tip 3: Create a schedule and stick to it

Besides your meetings and visiting the booths where people showcase their businesses and offerings, there are a whole host of other activities to get involved in; keynote presentations, community gatherings, small Slush talks, a hackathon and much more. You need to be highly disciplined with your schedule to make sure you accommodate everything you want to do and gain the greatest value from your time.

It’s easy to think you’ll just reschedule a meeting, but that may mean missing a contact all together. Presentations and talks of course you can’t reschedule, that’s why upfront planning is so important. I managed my time in 30-minute chunks to fit in as much as I could.

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Tip 4: Follow up on contacts

There’s little point going to a tech conference, meeting lots of new people and making interesting leads and doing nothing with them after. Even four or five weeks later, it’s really too late to get back in touch. Although, it’s easy to get home and get back into the day-to-day and work to catch up on what you missed, you’ll be missing a lot more if you don’t act soon.

Before you go, plan in time on your return to process the mountains of business cards you’ll collect and connect via LinkedIn, send emails, slides or whatever to show the people you met that they’re important to you as a new business relation. If you don’t, you’ve just wasted two days of your time.

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Tip 5: Don’t use up all your energy on day one

As tempting as it may be to get into the party mode from the minute you arrive - in the case of Slush, think indoor Tomorrowland, with the same vibe and party atmosphere - take it easy at the start to make sure you maximise your time and still have energy left for the closing event.

At Slush, you’re not just busy during the day, but it continues well into the night. I had at least three separate activities to attend each evening, including a PwC event, a happening just for participants from Belgium and more.

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I’m incredibly grateful to PwC for the opportunity to attend Slush 2019 as a guest. More than just paying my way as a reward for winning PwC Innovation Night powered by Slush 2019, PwC experts were on hand to help me throughout the experience. From encouraging me to plan adequately, to making introductions, to arranging additional meetings, etc. all to make sure I got the most out of Slush for T-Mining that I could. It’s been one of the most valuable steps our firm could take. 

My final and possibly most important tip is to have fun and enjoy every moment of the experience.

Contact us

Griet Helsen

Griet Helsen

Managing Partner, Entrepreneurial Business, Culture & Innovation, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 475 89 16 21

Elise Carton

Elise Carton

Manager, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 488 80 94 09

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