Tuesday 27 September 2016

The dummy's guide to starting up your own tech-themed conference

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

'Networking is fun, productive and may be the best way to keep Ireland's growth soaring'
'Networking is fun, productive and may be the best way to keep Ireland's growth soaring'

Have you started your own tech-themed conference? If not, you're in a minority. Anecdotal evidence shows that 63pc of the Irish population is now hosting their own meet-up, seminar, business breakfast or pitching summit.

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The reason is that networking is fun, productive and may be the best way to keep Ireland's growth soaring.

But how do you start from cold and crack a mini-conference off before the end of year budgets are used up?

Who should you invite? What should you base it on? And how do you make sure you're using cool terminology, like 'ecosystem' and 'disruption', instead of fuddy-duddy terms like 'cluster' or 'hub'?

Let's start with the language.

Here's a sliding points scale of terms to be employed in any pitch, branding and support documentation.

Startup: 100 points

Disruption: 100

Ecosystem: 90

Lean startups: 80

Bootstrapping: 70

Mentoring: 60

Engagement: 50

Angel investors: 40

'Super': 35

Scale: 30

Innovation: 25

Founders: 20

Fintech: 15

IoT: 10

Wearables: 10

Entrepreneurship: 5

Hub: -5

Cluster: -10

Big data: -20

Smart: -30

Silicon: -40

Storytelling: -50

Next generation: -60

Growth-hacking: -70

High tech: -80

Cloud computing: -100

But there's more to hosting a pop-up tech event than just knowing your nomenclature. Here's a 15-point guide to some tried-and-trusted principles used all around us today.

1. Get a person from a bank to sit on a panel. People from banks rarely say anything useful at conferences. But they pay to get on panels. And that means you can say that your conference has a 'headline sponsor'.

2. Ditto for a 'special guest' from a financial consultancy.

3. Create a 'responsive' one-page website with massive letters and massive photos.

4. Fill any gaps in the schedule with the words 'networking session'.

5. Get press in advance by writing and pitching a 'white paper' on any topic that evokes any one of the point-scoring buzzwords above. (For example, try: 'How to create a disruptive startup ecosystem and boost engagement using mentoring.' Or: 'Scaling fintech innovation - five lessons for founders looking for angel investors'.) Don't worry about it being devoid of specific examples: some online outlet will run it for sure.

6. Keep the tone relentlessly, breathlessly upbeat. Use the words 'amazing', 'incredible' and 'future' a lot.

7. Call any stage panel event a 'fireside chat'.

8. Create a Twitter hashtag. And then print giant boards with the hashtag.

9. Co-opt a public sector element. If you can't get a minister to show up or 'endorse' your event, the following hierarchy can be tried, in this order: junior minister, senior Enterprise Ireland executive, head of county or city council, local enterprise board manager.

10. Add the words 'TED-style' before any scheduled speeches or keynote addresses.

11. Resist the temptation to run a campaign saying 'register now to win an iPhone 6S'.

12. Earn style points by knowing the names of various districts in San Francisco when seeking metaphorical effect. For example: "So we're a little more like the Mission district than Pacific Heights."

13. Use 'funky' name badge stickers instead of lanyards.

14. If you're struggling to attract any interest, create an awards scheme. People don't need to enter or be nominated: you can simply inform targeted attendees that they are this year's winner of your industry visionary/guru/leader/lifetime award. To maximise the effect, create longer 'shortlists' of other targeted attendees and publish them in advance. At least 20pc will tweet their surprise and delight at being considered.

15. Get your event on an 'ecosystem map'.

Now get started...

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