How to make the most of Startup Conferences

Like everyone else, I enjoy attending conferences. They're a chance to get out of the office, take a break from regular work, and meet lots of exciting like-minded people. At startup conferences , you hang out with founders and investors and swap war stories. If you are an entrepreneur, you can let your hair down and complain about how hostile the funding environment is , and how unsupportive investors are . If you are a funder, you can gripe about the immaturity of founders, and how unrealistic their expectations about their valuations are . It's great to hang out with people who understand the volatility of a startup system is, and who can empathise with your ups and downs

Of course, you also attend the lectures and the panel discussions and the debates, and hopefully you learn some stuff during the conference. However, the truth is that the content in these conferences leaves a lot to be desired. Usually, you hear the same old tired stuff , because it's the same old familiar faces who speak on the conference circuit. The truth is that you could find these pearls of wisdom much more efficiently by reading a blog or a book. 

This is why you need to ask yourself, "How much value does a conference add to your life? Is it really a good idea to attend? Shouldn't you be spending more time in your office, improving your product and finding customers , so you can actually make money?" 

I agree that listening to successful founders at these startup conferences can inspire you, but unfortunately the motivation is very short-lived. 

Please be honest with me and tell me how much you benefited from the last conference you attended ? Did it have any lasting impact on the way you run your company ? The reality is that while you will be on a high while attending the conference , most of these offer very little tangible outcome . You swap visiting cards and promise to remain in touch, and when you return to work, you send out email invites and LInkedIn invitations. However, most people don't bother to respond and you never hear back from them, and you wonder whether it was really worth all that time and energy you spent.

I think it's a good idea to attend conferences when you are starting off . It's helpful to develop a network of friends , peers , mentors and coaches - people who've been there and done that. However, your return on investment on the second and the third and the fourth conference is going to become progressively less , so that over time, you need to learn to become picky and choosy. Don't forget that your time is your most valuable asset , and you cannot afford to fritter it away at a conference. Even if the attractively produced sales brochure may promise you a whole lot, most of it is froth . There are few insights you will get which will help you increase your revenue .

The biggest value these conferences provide is that they help you to expand your network, for which face-to-face meetings are invaluable. They give you a chance to meet people you would never be able to connect with otherwise. If you are lucky , you may bump into an enthusiastic investor by serendipity, but if you want to increase your chances of success, you cannot afford to rely on chance alone, because everyone forgets whom they met as they get sucked into their daily routine once the conference is over. This is why you need to work hard before the conference to set up these meetings, and this needs a lot of preplanning. 

-By Dr. Aniruddha Malpani

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