Billy Shaw Susanto is the Co-Founder & CEO of The Daily Pundit, a Q&A based news platform that powers discussions around news topics everyday. Our goal is to make news more understandable and raise the standard of content that younger generation read and discuss. He will be graduating from NYU CAS this May with a B.A in Computer Science and Economics, with honors.
Attending conferences is a great way to excel professionally and/or to grow your company. Being a part of tech/startups/media conferences have really helped The Daily Pundit gain exposure to users, advisors and potential investors.
But a lot of the times, conferences can get overwhelming with the large number of events and people that they host. For most organizers, the main goal is to maximize attendance and ticket sales, making these events even more overwhelming (I am often guilty of this myself).
So in light of NYU Entrepreneurs Festival this weekend, I want to gather several thoughts I wish someone told me on how to navigate and win at large conferences/events.
1. FIND OUT WHAT YOU WANT
A lot of people go to conferences and large-scaled events with two problems: 1) Not knowing what specifically they want to get out of the event, and hence, 2) Trying to do as many things as possible under a short period of time.
Conferences can consume a lot of time and be very expensive - so I would encourage attendees to figure out the most important value they want to get out of it.
For all the aspiring founders out there, conferences can be a good way to find your co-founders or even to find inspiration in ideas. For early-stage founders, conferences can be a good way to talk to people already interested in trying out new concepts and validate your idea.
2. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS
But whatever your goal is, focus on getting it. Don't do anything else, don't even think about it.
It is important to realize that you don't have to attend every single event or do everything you can think of at the conference.
If your goal is to find cofounders, there's no need for you to talk to the panel speakers who are more likely to already be later-stage entrepreneurs and not needing anymore cofounder. Be strategic and talk to other attendees during the open bar, who would be more likely to also be searching for cofounders.
As long as you're a step closer to achieving what you came to the conference to do, you win.
3. BE AUDACIOUS, NOT OBNOXIOUS
A key to stand out in the crowd is to be audacious. Remember, everyone is present at the conference to excel professionally. They want to hear from you, hear your stories. So make yourself known.
Approach the speaker that has inspired you the most and introduce yourself. Ask (smart) questions during roundtable or panel discussions. Don't be afraid to make yourself known in the sea of people and make an impression.
That being said, you want to leave a positive impression on people.
You want people to leave the conference thinking, 'hey, I had such a great conversation with XYZ'.
And the key to leaving such great positive impression is simply to be genuine and not being obnoxious.
Nobody is impressed with a person who keeps on talking about himself/herself. Trust me, you will learn so much more by being genuinely interested in other people and wanting to know about their stories.
4. A FEW MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS > HUNDREDS OF UNTOUCHED BUSINESS CARDS
A common misconception held from attending these conferences/ networking events is that 'the more people I meet the better off I will be'.
Wrong. It should be that 'the more people I meet that I will likely form a good professional relationship with, the better I will be'.
Remember, in 6 months, most of these people you will meet will just be a bunch of name cards stacked in the bottom of your drawers. You will likely not be able to gain any favors from these faceless name cards.
5. FOLLOW UP, ALWAYS
But the biggest key to start developing this relationship is to always follow up.
At NYUEF, you will be surrounded by so many entrepreneurs and advisors that can teach and help you in so many different ways.
Follow up with every single person you meet, and grab short 30-minutes coffee with them (no longer cause, to be honest, that's just a waste of time).
If they're busy and don't respond to your emails, hit them up with a second email two weeks after. Be persistent, cause at the end, it will pay off
BONUS: APPROACH THE ORGANIZERS AND ASK THEM FOR INTROS/ TIPS
They will most likely know who the best person in the conference is for you to talk to (according to what your goal is). They will most likely have met/ corresponded with these people and be able to give you the appropriate intros.
Also, it's A LOT OF WORK to put on live events especially ones as big as NYU Entrepreneurs Festival. Go to them, give them a non-creepy hug.
To learn more about the 2015 NYU Entrepreneurs Festival, please visit the website.