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Conference attendance lessons from Steve Jobs

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by Matt Greene

One of the very first conferences I attended was in 1988 with my client Steve Jobs. We literally sat shoulder to shoulder at the Educom Conference in Washington D.C. where he publicly launched his new company (and product) called NeXT Computers.

Steve taught the world, and me, lots of important things and gave us lots of cool catch phrases along the way. My absolute favorite which resonates with me to this very day is…“We’re here to put a dent in the universe”.

On this planet specifically, one of the things he taught me personally, by example, was the value of choosing the right business conference to attend and how one should approach and optimize attendance at these important events.

I wanted to pass along some of Steve’s conference attendance wisdoms (gleaned from personal experience) and also share with you why for any entrepreneur or newconomy participant, Business Insiders’ upcoming Ignition 2014 conference is one of those conferences that will help foster the next Steve Jobs. If you’re fortunate enough to attend, let me share ways for you optimize your attendance and get the most from this wonderful event.

Top 5 Steve Tips when Attending Conferences
(updated to include contemporary resources)

#1. Know your audience. Make sure you get a conference attendee list and regardless of what you’re pitching, identify whom you would like to meet with at the conference (if only for a brief conversation) and connect with that person(s) prior to the event. LinkedIn is your #1 method to get this done.
These are some of the major Sponsors you’ll have access to during Ignition 2014 on DEC 1-3 and a great starting point for making new connections. And who knows? In this concentrated level-set environment of smart minds and smart companies, the odds of you finding a receptive audience is lots better than foraging for meetings on your own.

BTW, if attending Ignition 2014 is a little pricey for your budget, or if travel to NYC is just not possible, Business Insider often posts video highlights on Vimeo afterwards – and the august slate of speakers this year are certainly worth listening to. You can also connect directly with the Sponsors to see if you can jump-start an online connection, rather than in-person using LinkedIn.

#2. Nail your pitch in 30. Then nail it again. Get it down to 30 seconds or less. Whether you’re poking around for funding sources, strategic alliances, technology wizards, marketing partners, possible business partners or just a conversation with some of the speakers – come up with a 30 second soliloquy that engages, connects and provokes conversation. I can’t express enough how important this piece is. In fact, you would be wise to hire 3 different freelance copywriters at one of several great websites such as www.PeoplePerHour.com , or www.ODesk.com or www.Freelance.com for $100 all in – and let them create your 30-second pitch. You’ll see three different pitch approaches and perhaps you can cut & paste language from each freelancer that fits your style. All of these sites are FREE to register and you can start searching for your pitch copywriters immediately.

#3. Have a great Deck Handy. Using the same resources in #2, have a compelling un-wordy 50,000 foot presentation deck at the ready so that you can present on your tablet (or smartphone, if that’s all you have.) Once your presentation looks great, upload it to my favorite FREE presentation platform called www.SlideShark.com. SlideShark has many features that make it a fantastic presentation platform, and the one I find most useful is that it is platform agnostic. So if your designer creates your deck in Powerpoint on a PC but you’re presenting on an iPad – you will not experience any degradation in type font, or weirdly misaligned borders or encounter other glitches.
You can also email and give a live presentation over the web using SlideShark. Can’t say enough about how important this tool has been for me over the past 3 years.
#4. Practice, Practice, Practice. If you’re a natural presenter and already possess an outgoing personality, skip to #5, but if not…grab a spouse, friend, relative or even a complete stranger and start pitching BEFORE you arrive at the Ignition 2014 Conference. You should be well-versed in giving your pitch to the point where you’re having dreams about giving the pitch.

#5. Give and Ye Shall Receive. You would think that apps like Bump and other mobile contact share apps would be universally used at this point …but they’re not.
So make sure you bring mounds of business cards and make sure you ask people for theirs, in return. This act may be the most important and least costly methods of connecting and following-up with people you think might be worthwhile prospects.
Good luck, and hope to see you at Ignition 2014!

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