Lessons learned from attending the WebSummit for the past 4 years
It is true that pixels will never replace face to face, therefore how can you effectively network with people at an event that has over +70,000 people attending, +650 lectures with world references and +100 startups displaying their products? Understanding how to network at a conference can be a gamechanger for your business or career.
Us at the Web Summit last year
The undeniable truth is, the future belongs to those who plan ahead. Networking is not something you only do during an event. Networking is a process you must take part in before, during, and after an event. Therefore if you want to have a successful networking experience, here is a list of things you should do to plan for the WebSummit 2019 if you haven’t already done so.
Decide on what your goals and intentions are before going to the WebSummit. Do you want to increase your network, learn new technologies, or build partnerships or perhaps you’re looking for an investor?
Read the Web Summit blog, the blog gives you hints and tips on what to expect during the event. From the blog you will learn what are the trending topics in tech right now are. https://websummit.com/blog. Do you know what the latest is in Machine Learning & AI, Cloud Computing, 5G, Internet of Things and AR&VR? Understanding these topics will help you to understand what a lot of the speakers will be talking about and it can be a starting point for a dialogue with other attendees during the event.
WebSummit schedule is now available on https://websummit.com/schedule . Identify clear objectives of sessions to attend, what will you learn and how will it help you in your career or business? Who are you hoping to meet, if you did meet them how will you start the conversation? Do you know what they tweet about, have you read their latest book, watched their interviews, read their blog posts or do you know the latests news about their company? Whatever your motive is, do your homework.
Follow WebSummit on Twitter, Facebook and Medium. This helps you keep updated of any new information. I highly recommend you follow Paddy Cosgrave, he is the CEO of Web Summit, https://twitter.com/paddycosgrave. Paddy always has instore some surprise updates and announcements about the WebSummit plus he is also a really cool person to follow. Engage with other attendees using the hashtag beforehand, during and after the .#WebSummit2019. Tag people you’ve met, or hope to meet, and make complimentary, positive comments about their session, session topic, panels and the conference itself. Try to use the conference hashtags as much as possible #WebSummit2019, #Lisbon , #ar, #websummit, #womenintech , #tech etc.
Practice your elevator pitch , you will be speaking to a lot of people. Make sure you know what you want them to remember about you. Focus on what sets you apart as this is what people will remember about you more than the facts you give them.
Download the Web Summit app https://websummit.com/app beforehand as you will also need it for registration. Registration is mandatory for all attendees. You can register either at the venue or the airport). Registering at the airport will save you a lot of time than at the venue. Airport registration starts on the 2nd of November. The app is now available in the app stores. The app will also make it easier for you to plan and manage your schedule. It also has a map of the venue, making it easier to move between talks.
Once you install the app, make sure to create an engaging profile that will make it easy for people to understand what your interests are and if you are worth them getting in touch you. This is such a selling point that many people overlook. An interesting and engaging profile will make people want to set up appointments with you in advance. It will also help other attendees know if they should accept a meeting invite from you or not. It is an easy way of increasing the probability of meeting people you want to network with.
Show up early to the conference to avoid queues. Not only that, when you first arrive, solo attendees will especially be seeking a friendly connection. This is a great time to make great connections and people are still fresh and impressionable. As the day goes by, many people will be tired and suffering from information overload.
Show up early to any talks so you get a seat. This is also gives you the opportunity to network with people sitting next to you This is great as people attending the same talks as you are likely to share the same interests as you. Tip, sit on separate rows from your colleagues or friends, this will make you more approachable.
Rethink your breaks. Most people spend the time in between speakers running to the ladies’/men's room or checking in with their office. But this is actually the best time to approach people to connect. Leave one of the sessions early to take care of other business and spend your breaks connecting with new folks instead. Bonus tip: Don't attend every session. Select one session to skip altogether and spend that time in the common area, lounge, or lobby opening a dialogue with other attendees.
When networking with others, express an interest in them by asking them questions. Demonstrate to people that you are actively listening to their answers by paraphrasing their responses. This will show people that you are interested in them. Use a person’s first name several times as you are speaking to help you remember it. Have a mini notepad and pen with you at all times. Use this to take notes about the person you have exchanged contact details with to refer to later.
Whilst it is great to meet the speakers, authors and other VIP’s at the Web Summit, I would encourage you not to spend your entire time trying to connect with them. Most of them will be in and out and won’t stay to talk to people. Instead, spend your time listening, learning and connecting with others that have similar interests and objectives as you. Your time at the conference will be a much more worthwhile investment.
Always have an exit strategy for leaving situations or conversations you wish you had never started. If you find yourself in this situation, be prepared to politely and gracefully excuse yourself. This is more of a “how not” to meet someone at a conference. There are several ways to do this, but always be polite. Thank the person for their time and politely excuse yourself.
Never retreat. A whole day of information is exhausting. You might also have work to catch up on at night when the day sessions are over. However, try to avoid skipping the Night Summit. From my experience people are more relaxed at night and therefore you are most likely to make more connections in the early evening. If you are staying at a hotel, avoid going back to your room and ordering room service. You will be missing out on prime networking opportunities. Most attendees will be staying in hotels, a “chance” meeting in the lobby, gym, hotel bar, or elsewhere can help “break the ice” and lead to additional opportunities for a conversation later in the conference. Sit in the hotel restaurant/bar and order dinner there. I guarantee others from the conference will do the same and you will still be able to meet new people. If you go out, don’t stay out too late and don’t overdrink. You want to get enough sleep so you are alert and engaged at the conference.
Staying connected is the most crucial part of networking. Follow up with people you are interested in during the conference and after it. Some networks you will be able to make off-site lunches or dinners. Some networks you won’t be able to see again during the conference. Whatever the situation, send an email, LinkedIn invite or an in Web Summit app message summarizing an interesting point from the conversation and suggest whatever follow-up is appropriate (phone call, coffee/lunch, or simply “let’s keep in touch”).
There will be 70000+ attendees at the conferences. Keep in mind that most people at this conference are in the same situation as you, looking to connect and learn something new. Be open and be yourself and you will have a successful event. Remember, the Web Summit is on all day and all night for 3 days. Have breath mints, gum, eyedrops, a comb or brush, cologne or perfume, portable charger at hand. Last but not least, I would advise some antibacterial hand gel as you’ll be shaking hands with a lot of people, who will also be in contact with a lot of people. Cold/flu season is in the air, and you want to stay in tip top health so you can make the most of the whole conference.