How to Present at an Industry Conference
1/27/2020 10:08:00 AM
The Consumer Technology Association’s annual conference, or CES, is the world's largest technology conference. CES 2020 took place in Las Vegas in the second week of January. And my company, Drexel University-based startup VyB Technologies LLC, was selected to present at CES’s Eureka Park alongside 1200-plus innovative startups from 43 countries around the world. VyB is a mobile app (that you can download today) that’s like Yelp, but also real-time and social like Instagram. VyB wants to help businesses around the world get feedback from customers in real time and use data to personalize experiences.
CES has a long-lasting history of impressing spectators with all the new and shiny things the world has to offer (including VyB!). For presenters, CES is a wonderful opportunity that can potentially open a lot of doors.
If you ever find yourself in the position to present your idea at a conference like this, here’s a play-by-play on how myself and my team prepared for the big day and what we took away from the experience.
October 2019: T-minus three months before CES
When we found out VyB was accepted to CES 2020, it was some of the most exciting news we heard all year! Instantly, we knew that there would be a lot of work, and we started to make a checklist to prepare. Some common logistical items we got out of the way ASAP were travel and lodging. Sometimes it can be beneficial to handle these things quickly because it can help you avoid unforeseen obstacles later on, as well as help you focus on what’s really important — your presentation!
December 2019: T-minus one month before CES
We wanted to make the most of this opportunity, so we scoured CES’s website to find keynote spears, potential investors to meet with and other leads that would benefit our business. This way, we were able to reserve individuals for at least a quick meeting or invite them to our booth before they got overbooked.
Once we were able to get research out of the way, the next item to tackle was our booth experience. VyB was given a fairly large booth, and we wanted to find ways to make it a welcoming experience for attendees. Working as a team, we created the posters that would cover our booth, the design and the activities that attendees would engage in once they entered our booth. We decided to gamify the experience by asking folks to play pong in our booth for the opportunity to win a T-shirt or a water bottle.
January 2020: T-minus five days before CES
With less than a week to go, the team was busy creating a very detailed agenda for each day. Even though we had a booth, it made the most sense to find the main attractions at these conferences and set aside some time to explore them.
When flying with a budget airline, you may be charged for each piece of baggage you take, so make sure you arrange for presentation supplies to get to your destination in advance. We decided to ship all our equipment prior to getting there, so we could receive it at our AirBnB destination upon arrival.
Another piece of advice is to stay as organized as possible. Our process was to create robust spreadsheets where we could enter information as a team every night. We would sit down together and enter the information we received from leads around the world, as well as discuss what went right or wrong on that day. We often changed our daily execution plan at these team meetings, as we had better learned how to analyze all possible options and keep moving forward.
After CES 2020
Attending a conference can be incredibly draining. After the event, you simply want to defer from speaking with another human being for a while. However, if you play your cards right, you can set yourself up for success. At the end of the conference, it is important to keep track of your entire budget and financials so you can evaluate whether this experience had the return on investment that you were expecting. In our case, because of the leads we generated — as well as some press, exposure and traction, not to mention the team bonding opportunity — we were content.
Because it is easy to forget what happens during conferences, certainly one of the most important things you could do is have a strong follow-up. We made sure to organize information on everyone we met so that it would be easy to reach out once the conference was done. Try to make contact within a week, as most people may have already forgotten your brief interaction at the conference by then.
Key Takeaways when Presenting at an Industry Conference
All the hard work has paid off! The conference is behind you, and now it’s time to look forward. After attending more than 10 major conferences, this was the first time we at VyB presented at a conference of this scale. It was quite a rewarding experience, and we learned quite a bit along the way. To recap:
- Book your travel/lodging early. Things can get very expensive at major conferences.
- Make sure to read the conference website meticulously to make sure you have all the information to set you up for success.
- Send meeting requests at least a few weeks in advance. Everyone wants to get a chance to chat with speakers and highlighted individuals.
- If you are taking a lot of supplies for the conference, make sure to ship them in advance.
- During the conference, stay organized. You need to input all the information you collected daily. Don't wait until the end, because there is a 100-percent chance you will already be drained from the conference.
- Self-care is key. Try your best to drink tons of water/fluids, get enough sleep, and keep track of all the hands you might shake during the event.
- Don’t forget to have fun. Smile. Show your energy!
Best of luck with your next conference experience!
Adit Gupta graduated from Drexel in 2019 with a BA in software engineering.and currently is a computer science PhD student in the College of Computing & Informatics. Gupta founded VyB Technologies LLC. during his junior year and has been growing it day-by-day since then with a team of fellow Drexel students and alums.