Yesterday, I was very fortunate to experience a fascinating conference. I was one of the attendees at the latest OurCrowd meeting. I would strongly suggest that anyone interested in investing in technology companies (that are generally earlier on in their development) should take a serious look at this site (https://www.ourcrowd.com/). Let me be clear that I do not in any way or form receive a commission or any other benefit from others becoming involved with this company. I simply think that it is an excellent opportunity, run by an excellent group of people.
I actually want to focus on the entire conference experience, independent of the topic or location of the conference. My personal way of experiencing a conference, has changed with the availability of certain social online tools. I strongly believe that sharing information from conferences can be an excellent way to start productive interactions with other people interested in the same general topic. Put another way, using such social tools can dramatically enhance networking. And I’ve seen that many times, the key to making a dream idea come true is related to the people you are in contact with.
Yesterday, I sat towards the back but near to one of the big screens on which the stage and slides were being projected. Information about the speakers and agenda was clearly viewable on these big screens. All I had with me was my Nexus 5 phone and a free account that I had set up on Twitter. I opened the Twitter app on my phone and began to record short notes about the immediate activity in the room. You can see the entire list of my comments by going to the Twitter site and searching on “@ourcrowd @nahkov”. You will also see a number of photos from the event.
Obviously, the best way to experience such a conference is to be there. But, with just a few people who are regularly sending notes/comments to Twitter over the course of the day, other individuals have the opportunity to learn about the key points that were made, and the companies that were discussed. Companies that were discussed yesterday included major IPO successes like Re-Walk. It was clear to me that despite the difficulties and the many years that it can take to get a start up off the ground, there is something in the air here in Israel, that is making it much more of a reality for many more people.
I would like to mention two technical points that may be of use to readers who regularly attend conferences. Firstly, I recently acquired an external battery with USB plugs in and out. With this device, I was able to carry two full charges for my portable phone, or one charge for my phone and most of the charge for my tablet. My brother-in-law made an excellent comment recently, when he said that the push to the thinnest possible phone, ultimately limits battery charge. He argued, and I agreed with him, that he would tolerate a phone that was much thicker but that could hold a charge for two solid days of work, if not more.
In the meantime, an external charger is generally not a large device and can fit easily in a pocket or purse. It is amazing how hard it can be to find an outlet at a conference. But with such an external charger, you can continue to participate in the conference, while your phone charges.
I mentioned bringing a tablet to conferences. Phones these days, especially those with 5″ screens and more, provide a marvelous interface. But sometimes, it is just much easier to work on a larger sized tablet. You can still have all of the same functionality and apps that you have on your phone. But it becomes much easier to move photos around, and even type. These days, you can purchase a quality 7 inch or 8 inch tablet from a recognized and reliable company, at an affordable price. There are $100 tablets around, and even those that cost less than this. Such tablets would probably be sufficient for most tasks. But we still are not at the point of having a fully powered tablet for $100.
I learned a great deal yesterday, and I made a number of contacts. These days, I scan every business card I get and save it in the program Evernote. It truly amazes me how in this day and age, you can have immediate access to all of your notes, contacts, images, presentations and more. Properly equipped, you can even earn the title of “Road Warrior” as used by many magazines and online sites, like that of PC Magazine. A Road Warrior is someone who has the tech to travel and capture all of the necessary information in his or her surroundings, no matter where they may be. These days, it is much cheaper to become a solid Road Warrior. In terms of a conference, being properly equipped allows you to sit back, listen and learn, and still save and share all of the key information that is being presented to you.
Last point: a number of years ago, creating a brand for yourself most often required the skills of specific professionals. Such branding allowed potential contacts and customers to easily find you and learn about you, and appreciate how your offerings are unique. Needless to say, branding was expensive. But today, you can do a lot of it on your own.
I would by no means argue that my skill set is equivalent to a trained and experienced PR representative. But I managed to create a nice set of business cards and a good-looking website. I used an online tool called Wix. It took me a few hours to put my website together, but in the end I was very pleased with the result. Wix is a very impressive development tool, and if you need a website, I would recommend it.
Admittedly, this was a very technical blog post about how to attend a conference. I hope that my experiences will be of use to you. Anyone trying to create an online persona as a face to their start up, should make maximal use of all of the tools I mentioned. this approach will keep costs down but still provide you with a professional look. Twitter gives you the ability to become a source of information and knowledge to others. Once people know that you are a reliable and valuable source, this will open doors to other opportunities.
Keep learning, keep attending conferences, and thanks for listening.