The Startup Friday is a regular startup conference that brings together investors, mentors, co-founders, entrepreneurs, and policy makers. It’s an initiative of the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE) and it’s quickly becoming one of the biggest startup events in Nigeria.

Over the course of four editions (February, March, April and July), 984 co-founders and 75 investors have attended, 30 startup pitches have been delivered, and N57m in direct and indirect investment has been put into startups that were at the events. This fifth edition of the startup Friday would be happening on the 23rd of September 2016.

Conferences like the startup Friday holds promises of lots of new information, networking, and problem solving. Conferences like this should be prepared for, whether you are a delegate, speaker or an attendee. Some people will have little or no problem getting along at a conference, party, new office or wherever they find themselves. Extroverts are usually the life of the party, they ask the most questions in class stupid or intelligent and get away with almost everything. But for some who spend most of their time alone or behind a screen, entering a crowded room can be a little intimidating.

If you fall in the latter category, it is best you prepare yourself before the day. Don’t wait until you are at the door before you prepare yourself. Especially if you are presenting or planning to pitch in. Some basic steps to help you prepare beforehand are:

Identify your goals:

What are you attending the conference for? Identify one or two goals you hope to achieve at the end of the day. Some goals in this case are:

  • Learn something new: what skill are you hoping to add to what you have or what insights can help you be improve what you do. 
  • Network: What type of people are you looking to meet at the conference e.g investors, co-founders, or government officials, and if you do meet them, what exactly you want to discuss.
  • Sales: are the people in attendance the TA for your products? How can you connect with them? And how best can you pitch the sales of your product.
  • To find a vendor: if so make sure there are more than one of them attending. Then find out which one offers the solution to what you need at the best price.

Network

One of the major reasons for conferences is to meet and greet with other attendees (they could have just sent a copy of their speech to your email). Distribute your card, join the conversation on social media with the hashtag and spark up conversations.

Be prepared for conversation

You know the theme of the conference you are going for, so read up on possible topics that might be raised. This will also help improve your chit chat. Other conversation starters are:

  •    How are you enjoying the conference?
  •    Who was your favourite speaker?
  •    Have you been to the conference before?
  •    Do you agree with what XYZ speaker said?

Once you have all of this before the event you are good to go. While at the event you need to also do some couple of things which are:

Be friendly

If you are nervous, remember nobody is a professional conference man. Look for others who came solo, make a confident introduction and kick off conversations.

Participate online

If they are live tweeting or posting real time pictures and video on social media platforms, join the conversation, comment, take pictures and tag the official conference handle and add the hashtag.

Eat

Common who doesn’t like food, even if its just small chops, people like to chit chat while waiting in-line for food or while eating. So do some eating and chat with people while you are at it.

Exchange Business cards

You really should not be attending conferences without your cards. Don’t forget to use them. Give some out and collect from people too. What better way to keep in touch without actually being in touch.

Create authentic relationships

If you are not comfortable meeting too many people at once then focus on really getting to know one or two people. This gives more value than just a stack of cards you might not need. So focus on the person you really want to work with (investor, founder, vendor, associate or whatever) and make the most of it.

Now that the conference is over when you leave don’t close the book on the conference. You can

Create content

Use that as an opportunity to write about your experience at the conference and share with your audience if it’s something they will be interested in.

Follow-up

Depending on what your goals were for attending the conference, its time to follow up on the leads you got from the event and see how they can be converted into customers or whatever you intend to convert them into.

Are you interested in attending the startup Friday? Register here. And don’t forget, this applies for any conference you might attend.