How to get the best out of your next (business) festival

The Shaker
Tue 21 May

Super-sized startups/tech events such as LAUNCH FEST present unique opportunities for growing businesses in terms of both organisational and professional development. 

While they may not be to the scale of SXSW, the Australian innovation scene is beginning to heat up.  With at least one festival or conference happening each month it’s a great excuse – I mean opportunity to organise a market-research trip. 

So, whether it’s your first tech conference, or you’re a veteran looking for new ways to make the most of your experience (and the investment), these tips will ensure optimal results. 

1. Focus on one key goal 

Having a focused goal for large-scale conferences helps you to refine your direction and make tough decisions about what to include and exclude from your itinerary. Those attending events such as LAUNCH FEST, Pause Fest, Spark Fest or Startcon, with over 15,000 – 20,000 attendees, over a few days one needs to take a proactive approach to maximise opportunities. 

Identifying smart goals — like what relationship you need to establish or build and how to get your brand in front of the right people — helps you to plan and adjust your schedule to include the activities with the most value potential. 


2. Find your niche and plan ahead 

While the scope of large tech events is incredibly broad, planning based on your key goals and target audiences is critical. Don’t leave meetings to chance encounters – begin stalking early to identify the key companies and individuals you want to meet. 

If the companies you are hoping to connect with are attending the conference too, you should consider presenting.  Opportunities to build brand awareness and recognition don’t get much better. You can get your name out in front of hundreds of people in that session alone! 

More importantly, the presentation may encourage potential partners from the audience to approach you afterwards — relationships you can continue to build on once the initial connection has been established. 


3. Send the right team 

A divide-and-conquer approach allows you to cover  more of the program, attend more sessions and take up more opportunities to connect. 

Of course, with events of this scale, there’s so much going on at any one time that you have to leave room for ambiguity as things will pop up and you’ll find yourself rushing off to explore a meet-up or smaller session on the basis of word-of-mouth or on a whim. Having multiple representatives at a large-scale event ensures you can explore these types of opportunities — which are the real magic parts of the experience. 


4. Build your program out around the central event 

The final but critical piece that will transform a conference visit into a business-development opportunity is to connect with organisations with established networks on the ground who can help you leverage the opportunity. 

Building out your program via the expertise of major on-the-ground organisations not only gives you clout and opens doors, but it also provides an immediate cohort of peers with whom you can share the experience.