how to win Columbus Startup Week

For the second consecutive year, Columbus will host Startup Week: five full days of programming to celebrate the city, its businesses, and its inhabitants. This is a big deal.

Frankly, life is often about who you know with what you know being secondary – at least in the immediate term. Columbus Startup Week is your chance to have access to some of the most active and influential members of the community as well as learn a TON from each one of them.

So what is Startup Week?

Startup Week is a five day celebration of your community. Join your community in a new type of conference that builds momentum and opportunity around entrepreneurship, led by entrepreneurs and hosted in the entrepreneurial spaces you love. Startup Week is a reflection of your hard work and your community’s unique entrepreneurial identity.

Officially, that is the description. Unofficially, Startup Week is five full days of programming with domain experts in a lot of different spaces. There are 9 different “Tracks” or themes, with several events around each theme during every day.

Are you in design, or want to learn more about design? You can attend the Design Track events. Or, you can mix and match events from any and all tracks. Each day includes 1-2 Keynote Speakers as well.

Tracks:

In total, we’re talking about 110+ events including panels, chats, networking, and food.

That’s a lot of events, and it can be a little overwhelming. Here are some tips to take advantage of this fantastic week of programming:

1. Review the schedule early and RSVP for events you are interested in.

Events will fill up. To ensure you have a spot in the room, I highly recommend looking at the schedule early and RSVPing for the events you are interested in attending. The scheduling tool, Sched, makes this pretty easy. You can sign in once (with Facebook or whatever) and click the circle on the main schedule page to place a check mark and ensure your RSVP.

In addition, by RSVPing to these events, you create your own personal schedule that you can refer to during the week – either on this calendar or by importing it to your preferred calendar. If you’re aware of what events are most important to you, you can plan ahead and be sure to get from place to place on time.

2. Get employer buy in

A lot of these events are during the day. In fact, the majority are. Selling this to your employer as the learning opportunity that it is, you should be able to get some leeway to attend events and meet folks that will help you perform at your job.

How many conferences relevant to your work are held in Columbus? This is a cheap (FREE) opportunity for learning and networking to help your business succeed. Do not be afraid to ask.

3. Bring your business card

Yes, business cards are icky and old school and nobody really likes them. That said, it’s still the quickest way to exchange contact information, no matter how many apps have failed. And we’ve all struggled with the proper way to explicitly ask another adult whom you just met for their phone number.

If you don’t want to carry them all around, download Evernote and leave photographs in there with some notes about how you met the person. Or, leave them in your Camera Roll. Either way, you will want to take notes and exchange contact information.

4. Embrace collision theory

Remember what I said about life being about who you know? The frequency of “collisions” (chance meetings or chance re-encounters) at Startup Week is very high. Whether you bring a friend or come alone, just wear a smile and be open to meeting the person sitting next to you. Trust me, people around here are very friendly and just as uncomfortable as you may be.

You will make new friends. You will make new acquaintances. It may not be immediately obvious that this person will play a role in your life, but maybe they re-enter your life 8 months later and that chance conversation was the catalyst. It’s certainly a better chance than sitting home and not meeting someone.

Hang out at Basecamp. Hang out at the Happy Hours. Be a friendly human.

5. Meet the speakers

This is one of the coolest parts. There are roughly 175 speakers listed on the Columbus Startup Week page, for ~110 events. They range from CEO to employee, but they are all fantastic resources with amazing insight. These events will be fairly intimate, the speakers will often ask if the audience have questions (ask them! prepare in advance!) and it’s an excellent opportunity to ‘introduce’ yourself.

Now, the temptation will be to flood to the stage after an event and corner the speaker. Maybe that will work. Maybe not. I would encourage you to have a plan for which speakers you’d like to meet, and if the after-event route doesn’t look promising, you will certainly see them at another point in the week. Approach them in a lower-pressure situation, mention something about their talk you liked, and start a dialogue. That will mean much more to the individual and help form a real connection.

6. Take notes

The content during each event is so strong. It becomes a little bit like going to the Louvre – everything you see is so rich with history and valuable that you begin to get a little jaded. Fight that urge, take notes, and refer to them later. These will come in handy when you run into the speakers at other events.

7. Engage on social media

Everyone is human. They will check their social media (Twitter) and see what people were saying during their talk. Share some quotes that spoke to you, tweet some follow up questions, etc. This goes for other folks engaging as well – you can meet people by engaging with them while they are also in the audience. However you are able to stand out and help people tie your name to your face, you get a leg up.

8. Follow up

This ties to several of the above points. You will meet a lot of people and receive their contact information directly. Follow up with that person, take the extra step. If it was someone who spoke that you did (or did not meet) personally or digitally, follow up with them. Set up a coffee. If you really connected or you really want to make an impression, send them a handwritten card. You can likely find their business address from their business card or Google.

Misc. other thoughts/asks

  • This week of events is a bear to put together. It took an army of 19 volunteer organizers + countless volunteers many months to put this together. If you see an organizer (denoted by shirt and/or nametag) please give them a thank you.
  • This event would not be possible without amazing community sponsors as well. Chase, JLL, Rev1 Ventures, Klarna, COTA, Geben Communication, the city of Columbus, Zoco Design, The Gillespie Law Group, LUMOS, and Martini Media Group also deserve a high five and a thank you.
  • I would love for you to come to our Startup Weekend Happy Hour on Thursday evening where we will discuss our event May 13-15: Smart City Edition. (RSVP on Facebook here or Sched here). You can learn more about the event itself here and get your ticket.
  • I’ll be around all week. Shoot me a message or tweet at me if you’d like to meet and/or chat!

Hey, can I have your email address? I will only send you more articles like this one.