Echelon Asia 2017 has come and gone, and e27 readers and basically every other member of the region’s community are all geared up to once again come together in upcoming events where we can exchange information, get together and learn more about the ecosystem.
But with events like startup grinds, pitching competitions, startup weekends, geeks on beaches and the like being held every now and then, is there still sense in attending when you somehow already know what’s going to happen?
In fact, apart from Echelon, Singapore itself is home to several startup conferences like TechinAsia, RISE, Startupgrind, Startup Bootcamp, and more. Then there are the TED and TEDx talks, and other such gatherings where experts or mentors speak. Is it possible to have conference fatigue?
I personally don’t think so. Or at least I think it’s something one can easily get over. Having attended several conferences, events, un-events and informal gatherings, I think there is merit to still attending even though you are already considered a veteran.
1. You gain new insights and perspectives
Keynotes, presentations, panel discussions — these are mainstays of conference material. However, you can surely gain more knowledge elsewhere, right? Even accessing courseware on Udemy or discussions on Quora can get your more information and knowledge than ever.
Beyond knowledge, the more important thing you gain from conferences are the insights and new perspectives you can learn from the speakers and other attendees. There are simply some things you cannot pick up on from an online course, forum discussion or virtual information exchange.
By listening to other people talk about their journeys, and their experiences, you learn new ways of doing things — you can easily apply these lessons when you return home or to your business.
It’s easy to learn from online courseware or even by reading up. But having a mentor or business coach within reach offers a way to enrich yourself. Author and investor Tai Lopez recommends attending conferences frequently. “Go to conferences and seminars once a month,” he advises. It is one way to “invest in your own brain.”
In fact Lopez lives by what he preaches. Apart from offering his insights and mentorship on entrepreneurship through his blog, social network and through webinars, he also provides one-on-one coaching opportunities on business growth to fellow entrepreneurs. “I’ve spent $10 million of my own money and 10 years of my life making mistakes before reaching success, and my goal is to help other entrepreneurs with good advice so they don’t have to make those mistakes,” he says.
2. You get to move outside of your comfort zone
We have all been there before. As a first-item conference attendee, you might get the jitters not knowing anyone, and not knowing what to do. You feel insecure seeing other people get along with each other as if they’ve known each other for a lifetime.
But once you start reaching out, you can make real connections with real people. Suddenly, people in your social network or mailing list are not just names, but people with faces, voices, and real lives.
This can be especially useful in a business setting wherein you can find potential business partners, clients, co-founders, investors or mentors at conferences.
And it does not have to be in a formal conference setting. Even informal gatherings like open mic or open bar sessions, beach-bound conferences, or casual pizza and beer, could be a good place to network and connect. You never know — your next big idea, product, or client might come from meeting people at such conferences, even on the fringes of the main event itself.
3. You get to meet the right kind of people
Your may have lofty goals in attending a conference — perhaps you want to meet investors, get funded, sell your product. It’s all part of the plan, and sometimes you just get to pull it off. Take for instance, this Thailand-based property startup, which raised bridge funding rounds at Echelon in 2015. There is also Advvy, an Australian startup that successfully met with 26 investors at Echelon in 2016.
Advvy’s CEO Chris Macaulay shares: “Try to get to know a few people at a deeper level. One of the best meetings we had, we spent only a short time talking about business and the rest talking families, interests, etc.”
It’s all about taking the courage to actually be out there and perhaps get to validate your ideas through meaningful connections and relationships. The good things will follow after, and it doesn’t necessarily mean getting a big funding round, but perhaps meeting the connectors and influencers who could get you far. “Still to this day we have regular calls with this person and they have become someone that I really respect and have learned a lot from,” Macaulay continues. “The fact that this person runs a multi-billion dollar hedge fund has very little to do with why we still keep in touch.”
4. You get to be part of the rush and excitement
Yes, there is such a thing as a conference “rush”. Attending a conference, no matter the topic, you get to meet like-minded people. There is such energy in being part of a bigger community. You will be sure to remember this “rush” as one of your main takeaways when you return to the daily grind of real life.
And even if you just relegate yourself to the sidelines, you can still be part of the excitement by being witness to potentially game-changing announcements, partnerships, launches, and the like. For instance, unforgettable events include being there when a fledgling startup announces its latest business, which later on turns out to be the next billon-dollar idea.
Sure, conferences do come with a cost, which means you have to pick which ones are the most viable to attend. You need to buy event tickets, book flights and hotels, spend some money on incidentals and get some downtime from your work. However, enriching yourself, making real connections, and having some renewed excitement about your business — these make it all worth the cost and effort.
The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here.
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