Ingredients for a great startup technology conference
Having just returned from Under The Radar where we (VMTurbo) were a presenting company, I have startup tech conference best practices on the brain (and some minor jetlag). I swear that the people at Dealmaker Media are not paying me to say this stuff, but this was one of the best conferences I have been to in a long time. So, I thought it would be worth a post.
BTW you can count on all of the below ingredients being in the stew when we organize the first VMTurbo World (inaugural conference in 2013, if all goes well ;)
Ingredients for a great startup tech conference
Plenty of time for networking: There were multiple 30 minute breaks, as well as lunch and breakfast, giving attendees plenty of time to network. Also, the presenters, panelists, and judges were invited to come one day earlier for additional networking opportunities. And for those who were hard to get out of their shells, the Dealmaker Media folks made a point of brokering introductions with others in the room to grease the skids. This was a nice touch and something I’ve not seen done at other conferences.
Diversity of attendees: The conference had a nice balance of investors, companies, and end users. Honestly I was a little concerned after signing up that it was going to be very VC heavy (there are a bunch of big name VCs who sponsor), with few potential customers but I was pleasantly surprised with the mix, and especially the number of customers. One of the VCs in attendance even commented to me that this is the one startup conference he always tries to attend because of the high quality of the companies and attendees.
Short presentations: Presenting companies were limited to 6 minutes each plus a couple of minutes for panelist questions afterwards. It was the perfect length and gave just enough time to make the key points.
Audience participation: For each group of presenting companies, there was SMS voting by the audience for ‘Best Presentation’. Fun for the audience, and bragging rights for the winning companies. I haven’t looked into it but I have to think running something like this is pretty cheap. Surprised more people don’t do it.
Short duration: The conference was 1 day, with the day before being devoted to panelist and participant networking as well as an opening reception. This was the perfect length, and although I left very tired, I felt it was a productive use of our company time and money. Contrast this with some of the longer tech conferences. Sure, I love going to VMworld and I do get a good deal out of it, but 4+ days of conferencing and associated social activities is a little much and by the end I’m ready for a Star Trek style teleporter back to New York.
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