Preparing for the summit is not a simple and fast task, especially for first-time participants, but even experienced teams aren’t insured against mistakes and lack of planning.
We, the Deskle team, have pooled our experiences and the suggestions of companies that have repeatedly attended WebSummit, and present these 90+ lifehacks that may help you prepare for the next summit in Lisbon or another large conference.
Before the conference
1. Be prepared – you must prepare no later than 3 months ahead. If you can, form a team that will be tasked with conference preparation – and that’s just for setting up meetings with partners and investors that interest you.
2. Do everything well in advance – register and pay for your tickets as soon as possible, and there will be a chance that investors, funds and partners will add you to their shortlists.
3. If you are astartup – apply for the Alpha, Beta or Growth programs. This allows for up to 3 tickets for the price of one, as well as a stand for one full day.
4. Be smart in planning – during the planning and preparation phase, use tools specifically designed for such. We used Deskle.com to visually and structurally assign all tasks and responsibilities and plan our preparation. Here is an example of a board that we used in our preparation for the summit: https://deskle.com/d0GTnBv. This way you won’t miss anything and will be able to track down the mistakes and points of failure.
5. Team roles – assign roles to your team members and be specific in assigning tasks for each of the 3 days of the summit. For example, someone should be forming partnerships with growth, alpha or beta companies, establishing contacts with large companies such as Amazon or Google, someone will attend meetings and someone else could be distributing promotional materials or presenting the company in the walking spaces.
6. Promotional materials – if you plan on distributing promo materials in large quantities, you have to plan ahead the logistics of bringing them to the event, so their volume and weight are not a surprise.
Always bring part of your materials in the cabin luggage, to avoid letting your sellotaped brochures be stranded in the airport on a transfer flight, which happened to one of the participants.
7. Web Summit App – learn how to use the app ahead of time, how to scan and accept people, search by criteria. The app has some useful filters –by project name, country and nature of activity, which will allow you to easily find the people that interest you and set up a meeting. If for some reason the person does not respond in the WebSummit app, you may add them in linkedIn and suggest a meeting.
8. Scheduling – use the Web Summit app to create a schedule of event that you want to attend. Your time must be planned to the minute. Another idea is to skip events altogether and rather engage in sales–whatever it means: present yourself and the company, attract investments and talent, etc.
9. Tickets are always available, maybe even cheaper – even if everything is sold out on the website (or only the most expensive tickets remain), you can still write to the organizers viaemail, the mobile app, or the Intercom chat and ask for a cheaper option. Describe your situation, tell them that you are an early stage startup and you have little money to work with. They might work with you on a solution. Also you can ask in the Summit community on Facebook and Telegram and you may be able to find tickets there.
10. Communication channels – before the conference, there are always chat groups formed to discuss the summit. There are such groups in Portugal, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries (add groups you know in the comments!) for any taste. Examples of such groups include Websummitua, ruwebsummit and websummit18.
11. Useful and unforgettable gifts – prepare some special presents to giveaway to especially interested customers and investors. For example –phone power banks, stickers for notebook cameras or stylized pins given away by this years’ teams.
12. Plan meetings ahead of time – remember that in the period before the summit, people want to see interesting projects, so just write to the companies you are interested in and set up a meeting.
13. Your itinerary – think of your itinerary ahead of time and in great detail, as missing something can get you in trouble. Make a list of the top 10 places you’d like to visit. Also, if on your way to the summit you cross into another country, make sure to take care of the corresponding visa to avoid spending the day in an airport.
14. Plan meetings with investors – it has been shown that setting up meetings ahead of time guarantees that you will meet with interested investors. Otherwise you will have to grab passersby. Always speak with conviction, but learn to agree with what you’re told. The rule here is: “the investor is always right”. But try to complement their point of view with your experience.
15. Beta package – The main advantage of Beta projects is that there’s less of them and they stand out in the crowd of Alpha stands. Therefore our suggestion to future participants is to accept the Beta package if it is offered by the organizer, and if you are Alpha, try pitching for a Beta.
16. Make a prototype, even if it does not look like a final product – your pitch has two goals: to sell your product and to sell an investmentopportunity. If you have an excellent product, the investment opportunity must be obvious. The easiest way to sell a product is to show how it will look. The showing of an excellent prototype helps transmit the story of your product with an additional advantage, proving that you have a capable team behind it. You’re saying “Hey, look, I have a great idea,here is how it works, and I have a team to build it, here’s the impressive prototype we made”.
17. Create a business plan – it sounds obvious, but many pitches did not have a business plan. You don’t need to take a 20-page document with detailed financial analysis and a complicated financing model; but you must at least know who your customers are, how many of them are there and what share you can get. Most investors do not expect you to give them a ROI, but you must provide them with enough information to prove that you’ve done your homework, know your market, etc. Here is a simple example of how to do it on YCOMBINATOR: https://blog.ycombinator.com/intro-to-the-yc-seed-deck/
18. Easy advertising campaign for the summit audience – Instead of trying to fish all the directors, investors and partners through social-demographic-geo-interest targeting, simply set up an advertising campaign in Facebook at the Altice Arena location. Gather this audience for future reference.
19. Practice and meet people before the summit – before the summit, every country has local meetings for summit attendees, both newcomers and veterans are welcome. In Kyiv, you can join the UTEW Facebook group for many interesting recommendations. Here are pictures from their last meeting:
20. Productive morning – attend the summit in the morning, while you are still fresh. Your day will be much more productive.
21. Phone charger – bring a charger or a power bank. Web Summit has charging points for phones but they are quickly filled up during lunch time. During most of your interactions you will be using your phone.
22. Hygiene – we suggest taking an antibacterial hand gel, as you will be shaking hands with a lot of people, who will also have contact with a lot ofother people. During the event, it’s flu time in Lisbon and the weather is quite cold, so you don’t want to get sick. Medicine in Lisbon can be expensive without insurance so it could be a good idea to take flu or headache tablets from home, just in case.
23. Footwear – to newcomers, the scale of the summit can be surprising. Whatever you are imagining right now, double it! Make sure you wear comfortable footwear.
24. Weather – average temperature in Lisbon is around 18ºC (63ºF) during the day, and can fall to 11ºC (52ºF) at night (bring a jacket) https://www.accuweather.com/en/pt/lisbon/274087/november-weather/274087
25. Waterproof clothing – Lisbon is sunny 300 days a year, unfortunately some of the 65 wet days occur during November. Rain is very strong in Lisbon during this time, so waterproof clothing and an umbrella are a must.
26. Time Management – there are 70 000 people along with you trying to move between pavilions and that can provoke foot traffic jams, try to allow for some time between your meetings and talks, so that you make your next meeting on time. Usually you need 15-30 minutes for a meeting.
27. Food – bring food with you, because even though there are food points in the venue, you will not want to waste time during the summit, as it is catastrophically lacking already.
28. Living situation – if you decide to book near Altice Arena, you will be in a comfortable place to attend the venue in the morning, but the night events occur in the center of the city, so it is easier to return to the center after such events. You have to make a choice: either take the long way to night events, or to the summit in the morning.
29. Come ahead of time – if you want to attend events, such as the Startup University lectures, come ahead of time to take a place because they tend to get overcrowded and lack seating for everyone. Come ahead of time and take a comfortable seat.
30. Watch your belongings – do not forget your things in the centr alarena, because it’s nearly impossible to come back the same way you came out. We had to spend more than 30 minutes with security to resolve this issue.
31. Sober mind – don’t indulge too much in alcoholic drinks during the night, it will interfere with productive work.
32. Know the area – study the Summit map ahead of time, learn the location of the startups, the startup university, sections that interest you, the investor lounge, offices, etc.
During the conference
33. Airport – the registration in the airport begins 2 days before the start of the summit, right by the exit of the terminal, so that you can enter freely on the day of the summit. However even if you arrive before that, you will not have trouble with queues. The organization was competent and there were no queues for registration in the arena itself.
34. Translator – if your English is poor, find yourself a translator ahead of time (English, Portuguese, French). The lack of a translator is not the end of the world but it’s worth having one. During the summit you will be able to ask for a free translator to come to your meeting table, however it’s better to find a language carrier specialized in public speaking that can help you prepare.
35. Ahead of time – register for Web Summit Opening Night. The founder of Web Summit – Paddy Cosgrave – will tell you about the rules, trends, news and will give you tips on how to spend your time. The amount of places is limited. You will not be able to get a ticket on the day ofthe event. This opening night is attended by everyone who takes the summit seriously and plans things ahead.
36. Business cards – the Web Summit app can fail at the most inopportune times. It is then important to carry around good old business cards and hand them to everyone you meet. Our personal request to the organizers isto add a feature that would scan business cards, recognize text and add them to your contacts.
37. Visit everywhere – visit all pavillions, you might stumble upon an unforeseen opportunity.
38. Streams and video – stream to Facebook, record video and publish them on Youtube. The theme of the video can be current events, interviews, funny and interesting moments you might have caught and want to share with your audience. Be current and opportune! You might not have time for it otherwise. Examples:
39. Private events – talk to your investors. They know how to get into private parties and can invite you with them, like for example this one:
40. It’s okay if you didn’t make a list of events – a comprehensive list of events and parties is published on medium.com, and if even if you didn’t have time to make your plans outside of the daytime events, check this link to see if there is anything for you:
41. B2B meetings – if you want real B2B meetings, plan them no later than 3 months ahead, or you might only get 3 minutes of the other person’s time.
42. Meeting room – set up meetings at specially designated Meeting Rooms ahead of time. This demonstrates professionalism and it’s convenient to have your own meeting point at the arena.
43. Stands – for those who had a stand in the first or second day, you must take your banner back with you. On the next day, bring it with you near the stand and find a place to hang it up, that way you can have all days as stand days. Be careful though, if you are spotted by the organizers, you didn’t hear this from us.
44. Maximum profit from meetings – you have little time to make an impression: show your best cases during the meeting. Record the results of your meetings immediately (for example on the business card), this will help you identify the person later – there’s a lot of traffic during the summit, there’s a fair chance you will mix up a lot of people by the end of the day. Write a follow-up on the same day – this will demonstrate your willingness to work with the potential partner.
45. Solidify your connections – try to make connections with interesting people during the Night Summit. Give them a call, invite them for a drink or to an interesting place to visit and get to know each other more closely.
46. Exclusive parties – Web Summit and its partners publish a list of side events that occur alongside the conferences. A lot of them are private. You cannot simply register for such an event, very few people are let in. Alongside the registration we recommend writing to the organizer of the event through the app and tell them why you want to attend their event and how you can be useful. Not all exclusive parties are on the public list, you certainly want to attend one of them. For example, a rooftop party hosted by a world-renowned DJ who is also a speaker at the summit. Or an auction for elite real estate in Lisbon. Such events are an opportunity to meet top-level managers of major companies and leading speakers at the summit. You could be invited simply for looking good, and yes, it happened.
47. Have a bright appearance – it’s a great way to attract attention. You are allowed to leave promotional materials on the chairs in the conference halls. Obviously a simple business card or a flyer are not the best way to make an impression. For example, one participant recalls keeping an XY Bid business card stylized as a plane ticket on his desk. The product might be irrelevant to him, but he kept the business card and remembers wherehe got it from.
48. Free advertising – you are allowed to bring a banner, promotional materials, and set up in a free space. This hack is not known to new participants, but experienced startuppers use it all the time. The participants enjoy the interest of the audience and can be set up for all three days, not just one like Alpha and Beta.
49. Know your product – you must prepare 30 and 60 second pitches and be ready to present your business in a short and clear manner. Nowadays investors do not buy into an idea. The first questions you will hear will concern market validation, core market, customer feedback, traction, and user acquisition strategies.
50. Do not miss meetings – many companies set up meetings for startups from specific countries. For example, the Google HQ conducted a meeting for Russian startups.
51. Pub Crawl – the pub crawl begins one day before the summit. You will get a map of the pubs and departure points. You will be able to meet other entrepreneurs. This is where the networking magic begins. But you shouldn’t forget that you have the summit itself in the morning.
52. NDA – Sanjay Singal, a partner of the Canadian office of 500 Startups, has excellently described how startups are supposed to communicate with investors: “Every time I am asked to sign an NDA, the kindest answer becomes “f*ck off”. We have hundreds of proposals every day, do you really think we are going to steal your ideas?”. The conclusion is that an NDA is useless, don’t waste your time on it.
53. Badge – if you aren’t aninvestor, don’t take off your badge. With the badge on, you might find a potential customer even so far as on the subway on your way to your hotel.
54. Establishing contacts – as the app has a low response rate, try to find an organic way of establishing contacts with the people that interest you. Perhaps find common acquaintances, ask for an intro, study their profiles, etc.
55. More on business cards – bring some business cards in all your pockets (jacket, pants, bags). They might come in handy at any moment!
56. Save your contacts – either input all the contacts you make into a database yourself (business cards and notes), or take pictures of the contacts and send them to a colleague at the office for processing.
57. Remind others of yourself – when you have time, send a short follow-up by email or linkedIn to the contact: who you are, where you met and what you talked about. Or have a colleague back at the office do it for you.
58. Use cases – prepare at least 3 use cases for your product and rehearse them. This will be useful when talking with investors.
59. Train your language – if your English is not very good, plan the first day for talking to people at stands rather than meeting with potential clients. This will allow you to train talking about yourself and improve your language, as well as understand what questions are asked of you, and will let you prepare better for the more significant meetings.
60. Show a finished product – even if your product is in MVP stage, try to make it look as finished as possible. Investors appreciate a finished product a lot more.
61. How to communicate with investors – set up your meetings ahead of time, as far ahead as possible. The Web summit app was published about 2 weeks before the event. Our team divided our priorities and we set to writing. Suggestion: send a short and clear idea in one paragraph. Speak as equals. Ignite the other person’s interest. People will read and reply in LinkedIn, especially if you have an impressive profile (also worth working on).
62. Questions from investors – full list of questions here:
63. Organize your place yourself – Summit participants are divided into categories not only by activity, but also by scale, attracted investments and other metrics. In your communication with the organizers, you will be under the impression that they have a strong grip on everything and that your project will be displayed in an appropriate space. However do not forget that the organizer’s goal is to sell tickets and stands, and they will not assume responsibility for your project. So don’t be shy to double-check and triple-check things with the organizers.
64. Hunger is your friend – there is little time to eat at the summit. Some smart participants made a hundred pieces of unique candy: wholly transparent with black abstract designs andicons. They were gone in moments!
65. Use your life experience – ask yourself: do I have an interesting personal story worthy of being told? Share it. People invest inpeople.
66. Match-making – Web Summit is indeed big. Even having three people on the stand we had a hard time dealing with all the visitors. A company credits match-making for bringing in a client that covered over 1,5x the costs of the conference for them. Use match-making tools and apps to your advantage.
67. Find Partners – most projects that come to Web Summit are aimed at finding investors, but not everyone can impress large brands and venture capitalists. Between pitches you can try for a different, no less useful, format – partnerships. The display space is filled to the brim with ideas that could be useful to your project. There are two main strategies for establishing partnerships during Web Summit. The first one is to find projects similar to yours. The second is to find projects that you can bring to your country, becoming a local partner to an already working foreign project.
68. Some booked media interviews may not happen – there is a possibility to book an interview with speakers, partners and inventors. The interview can be booked through the WebSummit website. That’s great! However some journalists complained that the booked interviewee did not show up. Even those that had confirmed. Do not tease your readers ahead of time about an interview that might get canceled without warning. Definitely use your opportunity to appear in the media – this is your chance.
69. It’s not a big deal if the project isn’t launched – Even though your project hasn’t been lauched yet, don’t let it stop you from looking for investors and partners, however you need to prepare properly. You must give a clear answer to what problem is your project the solution to. This information must be displayed on every noticeable surface of your stand: the display, main slide of thepresentation, your brochures.
70. Show the product – if you have a product, you must show it, whatever the stage of completion it is in. During the conference we had feedback on our product and we have ideas on how to improve it.
71. Investors during the conference – investors are a category of their own. Many ofthem will try to hide or flip over their orange badges in order to avoid excess attention from startups. If you made a succesful presentation of your product, one of such participants may come out – flip over their badge and introduce themselves officially. It’s interesting to note that many such investors and business angels have very simple business cards, containing only the name and contact information with email on a personal domain.
72. Main goal – your main objective on the stand is to gather a database of contacts as large as possible for future followups. About 88% of business cards are thrown away in the first week after the meeting. It is more effective to have a database of contacts yourself than to expect to be contacted.
73. Again on language – Europeans, who make up the majority of the attendees, are usually very friendly. But if they are willing to ignore your pauses and misspellings during the official portion, at night their patience will not last as long. So the friendly Trello CEO will turn his back on you to go chat with someone who can maintain a casual conversation.
74. Badges and bracelets – there is a substantial fine for losing the badge or bracelet.
75. Adding a contact through the app – another apparent problem is that scanning through the app does not always work, because the Wi-Fi can be unstable. But there are other ways:
a) the easiest is to snap a picture of the badge and do everything at home later.
b) ask the other person to scan your badge, and they will show up in your contacts.
c) find them by first and last name, add them to your favorites and write something to them immediately to help you identify them later.
d) again, find them through search, look at their social media and send a request.
e) you might justfind them by their first and last name on popular social media (this does not always work)
f) if you remember their company, you can search by that name or by the skills they listed on their profile.
76. Attract attention – think how to attract attention to the stand. The ALPHA format forbids the use of roll-ups or, for example, a bunch of inflated balloons. Some people try to do this with inventive clothing, some have toys and souvenirs on their desks. You can book a plasma panel, they attract attention and help presenting the project. It’s important to remember that you cannot use audio, so add subtitles if the presentation so requires. The cost for this service is 240 euros.
Here’sthe case of an accelerator:
77. Pitches on stage – every section is heard by about 50-80 people. The judges select projects based on the presentation and not viability or profitability, so if you are trying to win, aim for a presentation that wows.
78. Working in Shifts – designate time for meetings and lunch within the team. It’s important to keep at least 2 people at the stand.
79. Lines – there are lines for everything, including restrooms. Keep that in mind!
80. Luggage – large bags and suitcases are not permitted, only laptop bags or smaller. There are dressing rooms but you will have to stand in line, so only take large pieces of luggage if absolutely necessary.
81. Be smart in attracting customers – the smartest way of having people interact with your product is to appeal to their basic senses: touch, smell, taste, sound and visual effects. Depending on what your startup specializes in, you have to build a marketing campaign that appeals to these senses. If you are for example building an eCommerce, you can make impressive visual models to attract an audience to your clothing line, or if your business involves high-level technological software, you can make an AR-demo. This appeal to the senses can help getting an audience interested and the return on this interest will be immeasurable.
82. Use technologies – as mentioned before, the use of technologies is a smart way to communicate with people and interacting with their senses of vision and hearing. Web Summit is a tech conference, so the best way to begin a marketing campaign for your business is to is to integrate smart technologies and attract people to participate in your brand. Use augmented reality to complement your presentations, or virtual reality to demonstrate the product, or install touchpads at your stand to aid with the presentation. The inclusion of technologies in the marketing campaign of your business will not only help attract an audience but will show that your brand is on the cutting edge of technology.
83. Get to know the staff and organizers of the event – spend some time to establish relations with the people that you interact with at the conference. Send them your swag, try to read them! They know all the ins and outs. They will know which parties or dinners occur in the evening and who is going where. Just by talking with them, you will learn the best place to be that evening. Additionally they might involve you in the filling out additional material such as office hours or investor intros.
84. Breaks – Web Summit will always surprise you with the amount of visitors no matter how many times you’ve attended. All these crowds trying to get around get mixed up with the constant influx of information and can sap your sense of inspiration, and the long kilometers you walk will take a toll on your energy. Try to maintain a productive state by taking a few short breaks to see the sunlight (or rain) outside, check your notifications in a quiet corner or walk to the ocean, it’s only 5 minutes away.
85. Be flexible – be ready for a change in direction for your idea in order to satisfy the current needs of the market. You might have an excellent idea, but as you enter the market you understand that you will be facing tougher competition than expected. If you are flexible in your process, you will be ready to turn around and adapt your idea to the needs of the consumer. Many companies at Web Summit told how they were unsuccessful in their first iteration and continued development while learning from their mistakes.
86. Focus on your value proposition and differentiation – you have to focus on what your product represents and how you show it to the market. The Lisbon Web Summit was filled with companies working with virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Who will succeed? One can only assume that it will be those who sell their product, differentiate it and clearly position them relative to their competitors’ products.
87. Ask questions – prepare 3 or 4 questions that you want to know the answers to and ask these questions to anyone you would qualify as a potential customer.
88. Free merch – during he conference a lot of companies give away free merch, so make sure to have some empty space in the suitcase and consider bringing a backpack.
89. Professional approach – you can find a cameraman and film a video, interview, or overview at the event. For example, we filmed a video with lifehacks from other participants.
After the conference
90. Work fast – after the summit, process your new contacts as soon as possible, prepare proposals, send follow-ups. You will lose these contacts otherwise.
91. Use the summit “buzz” to generate your own traffic – you have a chance to get a lot of traffic to your website after writing an article or posting some material about the summit.
92. Registration for next year – if you are participating in the conference, you can sign up for next year’s event during the event itself. You will receive a “Pre-register for 2019” notification on your phone, which we recommend using.
You can view all our pictures form Web Summit 2018 here.
We hope our lifehacks can help you and we will see you at the next Web Summit. Right now you can buy two tickets for the price of one here! Good Luck!
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