Web Summit Portugal is going to shake up the entrepreneurial world from November 6 to 9 with more than 60,000 attendees from 160 countries. The 'Davos for geeks' is followed by Slush (November 30th, December 1st). Providing a great foundation for mentorship and access to capital and talent, Slush brings some of the leading actors of the global tech scene to Helsinki, where investors, customers and media will have the opportunity to reach and engage with the global tech community. 

It is crucial that before you go to such larger-than-life tech events, you have to make sure you apply the following ten ways to make the most out of your attendance. They will prevent you from ending up roaming from speaker to speaker, getting overwhelmed by the abundance of opportunities and information, with business cards spilling out of your pocket, and without having made a single meaningful connection.

1) Have clear goals and KPIs

Are there going to be founders and investors who inspire you? Why do you want to meet them? With 17,500 tech-heads at Slush and more than 60,000 at Web Summit, there will certainly be some! Then take the time to make a list of the influencers you want to talk to and why and target them during the event. If you have clear goals and KPIs, it so much easier to decide who you want to talk to. Try to schedule an appointment before. Make connections via email, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Keep it short and straight to the point. You never know where your future clients, investors, or business partners can turn out to be.

2) Be fully prepared

Follow Prince of the Netherlands and chairman of the Dutch Startup Delta Constantijn van Oranje‘s advice: “Be fully prepared to talk with investors, make sure you understand the investors’ landscape and the different business cultures. Formulate your internationalization strategy and make sure you get access to a database with market information.”

3) Networking and more networking

It is common knowledge that large-scale tech events, such as Web Summit Portugal and Slush Helsinki, are all about networking and making connections. But do you actually know how to network in a way that will be most beneficial to you? It is crucial that you talk with as many people as possible, engage in spontaneous encounters, and do not ignore the media – talk with journalists, you never know where you will get the most important information or your future partner/investor. When you connect your focus should be on learning and gaining feedback. Focus on listening and asking questions. You should certainly pitch yourself, your company, and product but make sure you listen so you can learn something new.

4) What all investors want to know

When preparing to talk with investors, these golden rules should be stuck in your mind:

  1. Investors do not invest in a big idea, they invest in the team that will bring that idea, hence they look for kick-ass execution teams that can pivot and execute their way to success.
  2. Investors do not look for a big idea but for at least 10x return and an opportunity tomorrow – they focus on long-term market dynamics.
  3. Investors are most interested when the team has already started building something and there have “paying” customers.
  4. Investors have specific areas of focus and stages by which they invest, hence you should concentrate your time on those investors that you have a fit with.

5) Practice and carefully prepare your pitch

One of the worst things you can do at big tech events is waste someone’s time with a bad pitch. Have your pitch 101% prepared! Make sure you can explain what you do in two simple sentences. Be very specific about your why and know your numbers. Not knowing your numbers is an immediate sign that you are not prepared and this can certainly drove your future investors back. Give some thought on how a new foreign customer can get involved with your product or how much funding exactly you look for from investors. Also stay open for new insights; listen to others and ask open questions.

6) It’s like dating

Meeting investors is remarkably similar to dating. “You have to find the right click”, Erwin Koenraads, co-founder of Get in the Ring Foundation, adds. “You might have the perfect fit on paper, but if the person across the table doesn’t have a shred of interest in your story, or, vice versa, you are not sincerely interested in what the investor has to offer, the whole deal will go south.”

7) Make one point stick

Big tech events are like beehives. Hence, it’s hard for everyone to stay focused and keep your attention spike. Even for investors, who are humans after all as well. Koenraads: “Investors hear so many similar solutions in such a short time, that it’s impossible to fully grasp how yours differ from others. You should make one point crystal clear as to why they should remember, in order to make it stick.” This helps tremendously with the next point, Koenraads concludes.

8) Follow-up

Always follow up within 24-48 hours afterward by sending an email with the one point you have discussed with that particular investor/client/customer. Do not directly ask for a follow-up meeting but rather inquire if they know someone else who will be interested to hear more about this. It’s not per sea friendlier, less direct way to start the conversation about meeting again; it could also lead to great introductions to others as well!

9) Enjoy

In the end, don’t forget to enjoy! Huge tech events like Web Summit and Slush where one can meet thousands of “tech’s high priests” among which representatives of the world’s leading blue chip companies Toyota, Coca-Cola, Shell, Allianz, some of the world’s leading new companies Uber, Slack, Dropbox, Airbnb, Spotify, and some of the world’s prominent investors Tiger, 500, SoftBank, can quickly transform into frittering away.

10) Pre-select speakers

Lastly, take the time to pre-select the speakers that are right for you. The principle “Quality over quantity” works at full power here – five inspiring speakers is always better than 25 crammed in your schedule for two days. Take your time to prepare before the event, follow these essential tips, and enjoy your time.


This text was initially published by our Dutch partner Silicon Canals