Boosting Startup Events In A Small Region

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Getting people to come to your startup events is not always easy, especially in a small region. Check out our tips for boosting your event and make it a success!

“Startup” is a big hype nowadays: in Italy “Shark Tank”, the TV show based on startups pitches, went on prime time and generated lots of interest. And Italians don’t tend to speak about business after work! Also, due to recent economic dynamics, Universities and governments are stressing on the importance of facilitating the growth of new businesses in order to reduce unemployment rate and create new wealth.

Why Startup Events

Big talks, investments, funds and the likes generate interest and room for local events. In the digital era, some might think that everything can happen online but that’s not the case: talking about business face to face is invaluable as witnessed by Silicon Valley case. Of course, this happens more easily in big cities: large concentration of business educated people help to fill the rooms and facilitate the scouting process. That said, also smaller ecosystems can be receptive especially when events bring some “fresh air”.

One year ago, I launched a local chapter of Startup Grind in Venice with my colleague. The city is known worldwide but for other reasons than business. At first, offering paid events looked something like a “mission impossible”. After one year, with over 200 paying attendees, there is some advice I can share. In this first article I want to outline how to get people to your event.

Doing Things That Don’t Scale

First of all, unless you have a relevant budget don’t focus on paid advertisement and try doing things that don’t scale: focus on single leads, personal contacts and try to leverage from there. Convincing someone that you already know is much easier than trying to fish massive attendees online. Specifically, your own contacts are the first to be contacted: they will tend to give you a chance and create a sort of “sheep effect” that is required in this activity. Of course, you’ll need to show commitment and appreciations! For the ones, intending to run paid events remember that free invitations are the key to bring influencers that are likely to multiply attendees in following events.

Create The Right Mix

You want to be the star among startups community but remember: every startupper, every company generally benefits from an open minded community! If your event is a collection of would-be entrepreneurs, they will be able to share some experience or common troubles but will hardly learn much. Try to invite consultants, students communities, experienced entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants, business developers from SMEs or even large enterprises. Those people will be delighted to enter a new and full of energy community. Of course, it’ll be up to you to facilitate the knowledge transfer and put together people with similar interests. Nothing worse, than seeing 50 people wandering the room with no scope!

Tools At Your Favor

Use the right tools to track attendees and follow-up with them: remember compounding is a well-known finance secret in finance but not only there! Securing a few attendees and creating a solid base can help to spare time on filling the rooms for following events and using most of your energy to find sponsorships and new business opportunities. In my experience with Startup Grind, I used a combination of Eventbrite, Mailchimp, WordPress; in my daily experience as a SAP consultant I also use more complex tools but my take is: stay simple as much as you can! Try some tools, test them and make a choice: don’t let tools steal time from meeting and inviting people.

Are People Showing Up?

Least but not last, believe in what you do and don’t panic if people are not coming 10 minutes after your event is online. We live in a busy world and you must be convincing when explaining the cost opportunities to take part in the event. Unless some marketing tricks (giving the idea of a few places still available, early birding perks, etc.) people will tend to show up later than sooner and only your determination will help to fill the room. In addition, don’t be too trustful for promises: on Facebook (in my experience, the confirmation rate is close to 5%) or even directly via email people will confirm presence but never count on them until you see them at the door. Don’t overestimate your ability and keep pushing promotion till the last second.

Stay tuned – next month I’ll explain how to use LinkedIn and Twitter to add relevant influencers or payers to your event and how to involve stakeholders like Business Schools in the process.



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