Startup conferences are everywhere these days! In my experience though, most attendees primarily want to network and stay in touch with interesting and important people they met before (the reason why I attend as well). They aren’t necessarily coming for the talks and panel discussions, those are usually only secondary. I recently visited another startup conference (probably about my 15th in three years) and took a few learnings away from it:
1. Startup conferences are dead – long live startup conferences
Startup conferences are getting kind of boring. Seriously, we’ve seen most of it, the usual talks, panels, networking areas. Nowadays, everybody involved with startups in every major city is organizing a startup conference or bigger event. They want to promote their community, opportunities and local startups to the outside world. Fair enough! Unfortunately, they often use the same agenda, same ideas, and even the same speakers as everyone else. Nevertheless, attendees are usually not short in numbers as startups as a topic are trendy and more and more people get interested in entrepreneurship (which is definitely a good thing!). So there is still room for new people to discover existing startup events and conferences and the format lives on.
2. Choose your moderators wisely
Bad moderators destroy the best panel discussions and turn the audience attention away from the speakers or panel guests (who should be in the main focus while on stage), usually because everyone is asking him- or herself who the heck this moderator is and why it seems as if he’s doing this job for the first time. Dear organizers, please choose your moderators wisely and not based on friendship, good looks or importance in your network. Choose someone who knows the industry and is not self-promoting himself or herself on stage the whole time!
3. Invite unknown speakers and panelists
Invite entrepreneurs or industry experts who are not necessarily well-known or famous in the startup community. They might surprise you in terms of knowledge, ideas and presence on stage. You’ll definitely learn something new instead of listening to the same talk by the same speaker for the tenth time.
I have to admit that I’m a bit tired of startup conferences although they are a great way to meet cool new people and stay in touch with friends. I’m glad that new event formats are emerging (or already have been in the past), with a completely different approach (networking and getting to know each other during a river kayaking tour, anyone?).
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