The big bang of Toronto’s innovation
Toronto is currently ranked the number one city in the world for new startups and entrepreneurs and was chosen to host one of the largest global tech conferences: Collision.
The international tech community flocked to Toronto last week to attend what is considered the industry’s fastest-growing mega gathering. Collision Conference quickly became the hottest story in town, and nobody wanted to miss the party.
Startup founders, tech executives, venture capitalist, silicon valley giants, actors, musicians, and professional athletes all came together for three days of networking, captivating lectures, interviews, and late night partying. The attendance numbers were indeed impressive: More than 25,000 conference attendees from roughly 125 countries. Participating in such a conference can be a game changer for every new startup.
For marketing professionals, Collision was a colourful PR and branding celebration and an amazing opportunity to use all the available channels and maximize the incredible potential of the conference. Knowing how to leverage the opportunity can shoot your marketing and brand awareness through the roof.
But all that glitters is not gold. It’s very easy to get lost in the sheer size of the event and waste precious resources and energy on the wrong things. It is very important to stay focused, clearly define your goals, and keep your eyes on the prize.
Here are the top 10 things I learned at collision that can help any marketing professional, freelancer, or entrepreneur prepare for their moment to shine:
It starts way before the conference
Do your homework; find out who is attending, why they are there, and what you have in common. Start riding social media trend in advance and maximize your social media channels a month in advance, let everybody know you will be there.Create a countdown clock for your audience and build expectation, let your followers know that you are attending and you are preparing something valuable for them.
Strategize in advance
Take the top-down approach: make a plan for day, event, or talk, set clear goals for what you want to achieve, who you want to meet and what you plan to discuss with them. Decide in advance with your team what you consider to be a successful day and aim to achieve one. Another important lesson I have learned is: don't trust your memory. You will be excited, the energy levels are high and you are speaking with so many new and interesting people that at the end of the day there is a good probability you will not remember many of the interactions. Close to the final hour of the conference take 15 minutes to write down who you met, what they are doing, and rank the importance of the interaction for you. Write bullet points about lessons learned from speakers and panels and write a short email draft to people you want to connect with. Trust me you will thank yourself later for doing this.
- Maximize conference resources
Many conferences provide opportunities and features you may not be aware of. Stay updated with conference newsletters and don’t be afraid to reach out to the conference organizers with any questions you have - it’s likely others have the same questions. Offer to help or contribute. Remember they are always looking for good entrepreneurs, they need you as much as you need them. Try and attend all the events possible and volunteer to speak at every opportunity, this is the time to get out of your comfort zone. QUID’s CEO, Mohit Cheppudira, got to speak at the opening night and our exposure was amazing. Sharing the stage with Justin Trudeau and Seth Rogen can make every startup shine with stardust. After any appearance, be available, open, and welcoming with anybody who wants to speak with you. Take the time to speak with everyone and answer all their questions - people will appreciate your time and you can never know which conversation will turn into great opportunities.
- Every penny counts
Think how you can turn any company resource into a marketing and awareness opportunity. We used our entire QUID team as brand ambassadors - your developers know your product better than anybody and can be the best people to promote it. Slick sales pitches and reps work but can also create distance while your team members bring their unique character to the conversation, making you look more human, down to earth, and approachable. Don't forget the obvious; invest in swag that will make you stand out and attract visitors, try to find a catchy twist to it. QUID is a micropayments processing platform, so we made chocolate pennies with our logo, no one says no to chocolate, even at 8 AM, and it also gave us an awesome opening line: “A penny for your thoughts.”
Your booth is more than a physical space
Try and leave your embarrassment at home, think as if you are invited to a great party of like-minded people where everyone is excited and eager to learn and connect, use it. Think of the entire conference as your company booth, be creative with your physical space and don't stay grounded around your both. In QUID’s case, we handed out our promotion postcards at the entrance on the morning we had our booth. When the organizers came and notified us we weren’t allowed to do it (which we were not aware of, I swear) we had already given away a thousand cards! Guerilla marketing rules! At lunchtime, our team put our promotion cards on all the dining tables. I know it sounds pushy but it's not, it's a great utilization of the space.
Offline becomes online
Have a constant connection with your social media team. Ride the social trends using the right # and @ and lots of photos to capitalize on the conference buzz and create engagement with potential customers and attending companies. Maintain a constant stream of updates to your social media channels, increase brand awareness and make it as engaging as possible. If you are managing your social media by yourself, set an alarm for every half an hour and take a 5 minutes social media update brake. Don't forget to tag companies and influencers that are attending the conference.
You’re all in the trenches together - unify your team around one common goal. There is no better way to do this and lift the team's motivation than spending three high-intensity days together, wearing the same company t-shirts, and promoting your company in any way possible. Gatherings like Collision are a great opportunity to brainstorm and come up with innovative ideas to improve your product or your marketing efforts.
Two ears and one mouth
When speaking with potential clients, investors, or colleagues from different industries try to ask the right questions and listen more. Tech conferences are a great opportunity to get to know the local community and understand market trends and future developments.In addition, the best way to feel comfortable in a conversation is to genuinely ask people for their opinion and feedback. I have found that people truly want to help and are willing to share their knowledge and experience. It's not all about you, this is a good opportunity to interview your potential customers, get feedback, and learn what they need and want, so sharpen your listening skills.
- Don't forget to breathe
I know it may sound like a cliche, but sometimes it can be overwhelming: the people, the noise, the vibe. Don't forget to take a minute for yourself take a deep breath and get right back to work.You’ll want to grab everything and not miss a bit, but sooner or later biology kicks in and you will notice you are drained of energy and just not as sharp. It is very important to take small breaks throughout the day. If the weather is good, go outside for a 10 minutes walk, listen to some music, or just enjoy the fresh air, it really makes a difference.While you’re relaxing, don't give in to the temptation to check emails or social media, put your phone on flight mode and relax.
- Hit it while it's hot
Plan a follow-up marketing strategy in advance. Think about how you will leverage the conference when it's over but still trending. Send out email marketing, thank conference participants on social media, or even write a blog post like this one to share the lessons you have learned.