Web Summit Conference Survival Guide: 20+ Tips And Hacks

Web Summit is one of the most important tech events in the world, drawing over 70,000 people to Lisbon every year. Here you can meet thousands of CEOs and investors, start partnerships, raise brand recognition, drive sales, and network like nowhere else in the world. Our team has participated in Web Summit twice already and we’re looking forward to going this year, too. So how do you prepare for an event like that?

I’ve asked my teammates all the burning Web Summit questions you might have and collected the best Web Summit survival tips to make your time at the conference productive, fun, and easy. Here are the best Web Summit conference tips and hacks for 2019.

Outline:

  1. How to apply for a booth
  2. How to choose the team members
  3. What conference swag to bring
  4. How to dress
  5. How to prepare a demo
  6. How to attract people to your booth
  7. How to pitch
  8. How to find investors
  9. Where to network
  10. What to expect from Night Summit
  11. What to expect after Web Summit
  12. How to work with collected leads
  13. Speakers to see in 2019
  14. Extra tips you don’t want to forget
  15. Web Summit preparations timeline

1. How to apply for a booth at Web Summit

To apply for a booth at Web Summit, go to the Apply for ALPHA tab on their website, leave your email address, and wait for the Web Summit representative to get in touch with you and schedule a call to deem your eligibility for the ALPHA programme.

If you are accepted into the ALPHA programme, you will be asked to confirm the tickets and fill in your Web Summit Startup Profile.

Maryna Nalyvaiko, Marketing Specialist & Events Manager

“If you are a new startup, Alpha is the best option for you. Prepare some info about your product and what you expect from the conference before the call.”

2. How to choose the team members for Web Summit

Your team should consist of at least 2-3 people. This way, your team members will be able to back each other up in tricky situations. Your team should meet certain criteria:

  • Know the product in painstaking detail
  • Be willing and eager to talk (easy-going, charismatic, memorable extroverts are the best option)
  • Able to answer slightly more complex technical questions (it’s a good idea to send the CTO or PM)
  • Good English and flexible storytelling skills
  • At least one salesperson who will continue working with collected leads after the conference

Usually, your Customer Care and Sales teams will best fit this description – they know all the ins and outs of your product and know what concerns they need to address to convince the customer. 

Oleksii Kratko, Founder and CEO at Snov.io

“There’s a point in selecting those who will be the ones communicating with the prospects afterwards: following up after the event, scheduling calls, meeting them, etc. So as a rule, I try to send those team members who will be responsible for customer success and/or business development.”

3. Conference swag to bring 

All the company swag you bring to the conference will help you bring people to your booth and stay in their minds for later. However, there’s a question of costs, effectiveness, and transportation ease.

At last year’s Web Summit we’ve seen everything from cups to chapstick, to coffee and power banks. From our experience, cute and bright stickers are the most sought-after items. People usually leave them at the common flyers table in each pavilion and most of those eventually find their way onto our office laptops, so they’ll always be in front of people as a constant reminder about your company. Plus, they are cheap to make and easy to transport.

The numerous stickers we’ve collected and Web Summit’s own merch
The numerous stickers we’ve collected and Web Summit’s own merch

Things that will stay with the participants for months to come – notebooks, tote bags, stickers, cups, will help people keep your company in mind when looking for future solutions. This is how our outbound marketing manager Valeria connected and worked with a number of companies we met at Web Summit last year on content collaborations.

Unless you are a major company, we wouldn’t recommend bringing anything too expensive or heavy – it may not pay off and will be a pain to transport. And don’t bring candy – we learned that the hard way.

Oleksii Kratko, Founder and CEO at Snov.io

“It seems fewer and fewer businesses bring merchandise to the events. Though it matters. I still have a drinking bottle I got 2 years ago at a conference. 2 years, and I am still in touch with the company that gave me the branded bottle. Can I say their merch worked? Definitely.”

4. How to dress for Web Summit

Shoes. Focus on that. Bring your most comfortable pair, because your feet will be on fire by the end of day 1. As for the outfit, you can go two ways: business casual or over-the-top. 

If your goal is to draw the eye – feel free to put on the wildest clothes you can find. You won’t feel out of place – there’s always going to be someone who’s dressed brighter than you (last year’s Coffee Astronaut, mannequin bride and groom, and men in lime green tailored suits come to mind). A flashy outfit helps get the attention of attendants, journalists, and cameras. 

That said, you don’t have to worry too much about your outfit: most attendees opt for a business casual look with simple pants/jeans or a skirt, a (corporate) t-shirt, and a blazer. If you’re participating in a pitch competition, a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves will do just fine. As long as you are comfortable, you’ll find it easy to work from morning till Night Summit.

Daria Shevchenko, CMO at Snov.io

“First of all, I think your look should be memorable. I remember a journalist from Forbes who approached us at Collision conference last year, and he had the most amazing shoes I’ve ever seen – light blue cowboy boots with spikes and rhinestones – and he’s the only person from the event I remember to this day.”

5. How to prepare a demo

A demo is very important. Make it short, exciting, and informative. Having a laptop with your app/service/product presentation is a must. In fact, get 2 laptops: there will be a queue, anyway. 

This will help you present your product in the most comprehensive manner, especially if it is complex or you know it can have a strong visual impact. You’ll find it useful when your booth gets overcrowded or on day 3, when you just don’t have that much energy left. 

It’s important to remember that throughout the conference, you will hear dozens if not hundreds of pitches. A nice demo is a great way to stand out. That said, don’t expect one scenario to fit all attendees. Your demo will always go off script because the people who stop by your booth will all have different pains points and needs – note those and change your demo accordingly. 

Don’t rely on the conference-provided WiFi. Make sure you have something to show even if WiFi acts up – it’s a big conference, things happen. As an example, we’ll probably use our latest video explaining the drip campaigns this year for situations like these.

Maksym Tulenko, Snov.io Customer Success Manager

“Read the people stopping by your booth. From their very first words, you should decide how to present your product – in a funny or serious tone, which numbers and features the person wants to see, and how you can help them. Train your empathy and work on improving your communication skills by speaking to people – family, friends, colleagues, and even random people in the street – you need to learn how to feel free when you meet new people at Web Summit.”

6. How to attract people to your booth

Concentrate on the booth itself – make it stand out. How can a booth stand out among thousands of others? Here’s how:

  • Make sure the tagline you’ve sent for your exhibition board is clear and catchy enough to grab attention in under 2 seconds.
  • Networking with your neighbors will help create friendships that might help you get referred to in the future.
  • When attendees see a lot of people around your booth, they get extremely curious. So do everything you can to always have 2-3 people there at all times.
  • Any visual material on the desk helps.
  • Use flashy outfits.
  • Attract conference-swag hunters by displaying your merch on the booth.
  • Visit the booths of companies fitting your buyer persona, pitch your product and invite them to stop by your booth.

Attracting people to your booth might require pre-event work – contact and join local communities, find people who match your ideal customer profile on Web Summit app, and ask for a meeting at or after the conference. Once the people pay attention, it’s time to present your pitch.

Snov.io booth at Web Summit last year
Snov.io booth at Web Summit last year

7. How to pitch at the booth

A thorough booth pitch preparation grants 50% of success in communication with potential clients. Every member of your team should be able to answer the following questions: 

  • What is your product all about?
  • How are you different from your competitors?
  • What’s your pricing and why is it so low/high?
  • What are the features and how do they work?
  • How can I benefit from using your product?

You should also be prepared for uncomfortable questions, like those about your weaknesses or bigger competitors. You can prepare by knowing your own strength and weaknesses, as well as researching the weaknesses of your competitors through reviews and on forums.

The secret to conference booth pitching is to establish a meaningful connection first. Ask the attendee – “How was your way to the conference? Where do you stay? Why did you come here? What business are you in?”, etc. Not only will this help you modify your booth pitch for a better chance to convert, but it will also show the other person you are there to talk about them and how you can help solve their problems.

In our attempt to find the secret to the perfect pitch last year, we asked Web Summit attendees, investors, and speakers about it:

Valeria Borshch, Outbound Marketing Manager at Snov.io

“At conferences, I never come up to people who look scared or unhappy to see me by their booth. You should be approachable – make eye contact, smile, ask a simple “Hi, how are you?” and BOOM. You have their attention. Don’t hesitate to speak first if you see someone silently hovering by your booth – most people just need a little push – and don’t be afraid to hear a No. There’s more then enough leads among 70k+ attendees.”

8. How to find investors at Web Summit

Investors are everywhere at Web Summit. They’re usually easy to spot in special investor areas or even just by looking at the lanyards. However, we recommend taking care of that beforehand and contacting them way before Web Summit. If you are looking for funding from specific VCs, create pitch decks just for them. Don’t create them just for anyone – the funds will only invest in the niche they specialize in. Memorize the names and faces of the representatives of the funds, and book meetings 1-3 months ahead. 

Don’t have time for that? The investors might find you themselves and come by your booth – after all, they come to Web Summit to work, too. Make sure you have any relevant data and numbers ready. If finding an investor is your sole mission for Web Summit, it can help to include the project stats that can attract them in your project description on the board. After all, numbers attract them more than words. Don’t forget to follow up afterward.

Want to know what investors are looking for? We’ve interviewed Diego Berrio, an investor and BrightSky Ventures founder, at last year’s Web Summit and asked him how to attract an investor, the red flags VCs look out for, and how to pitch your idea to an investor the right way.

Oleksii Kratko, Founder and CEO at Snov.io

“Show investors that you have traction, not in words but in numbers. Share actual data: “We service XXX users” or “We’ve made YYY sales last month”. Put that data on Angel.co, Crunchbase etc. This matters to investors a lot. Always try to contact directly on Facebook or LinkedIn, and schedule a meeting.”

9. Where to network

Silly question. At Web Summit you can network anywhere. Take any opportunity: when you eat, when you sit down to rest, when you go out for a smoke, even when you’re lying down in the chill zone. The whole Web Summit conference is networking heaven, but somehow unintentional connections away from the booth stay with you the most because of their informality. 

Don’t like the conventional conference atmosphere? Night Summit is for you. It’s an informal meeting over drinks and possibly the best place to find new friends, clients, and partners. 

Maksym Tulenko, Snov.io Customer Success Manager

“Best place to network? Wherever you want. Your booth, food court… There’s only one place you should avoid – the bathrooms. Learned that the hard way 😩.”

10. What to expect from Night Summit

Even if you don’t want to network, Night Summit is a great way to unwind after a hard day. With Night Summit you will discover Lisbon’s LX Factory, Pink Street, and other amazing parts of the city.

Night Summit on Lisbon’s Pink Street Source: @CollisionHQ on Twitter
Night Summit on Lisbon’s Pink Street
Source: @CollisionHQ on Twitter

However, if your networking switch is always on, Night Summit is the best place to understand your leads: in a neutral atmosphere and after a few drinks, you can ask your leads whatever you need to make the sale and they will eagerly tell you what’s on their mind. A little devious? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.

Oleksii Kratko, Founder and CEO at Snov.io

“My Web Summit tips include being always active and network at any opportunity. So yes, you should absolutely go to the Night Summit. You can get funded there, I know a guy who did. You’ll definitely get at least a few sales afterward.”

11. What to expect after Web Summit

Going to Web Summit (and any other tech conference) will produce results for months after the conference.

First of all, it will help you grow your brand recognition. Web Summit is expected to draw around 80,000 people this year, and it’s your opportunity to make yourself known to them. Our own team was surprised to meet dozens of attendees who have already heard about Snov.io, and this meeting has only made this connection stronger.

Besides, it’s a chance to establish new connections in your field. Leads, friends, partners, investors – every opportunity your business can have is represented within these pavilions. 

The conference will also motivate you and your team. After an event like this, your outlook changes – it empowers and motivates you. Why? Because you get real-life feedback from your users and clients. And trust us, even one such happy client is worth a thousand of online reviews and comments. These words are worth every penny and second spent on preparation. 

But most importantly, attending Web Summit can lead to an increase in sales. Snov.io team prepares a special discount code for all Web Summit attendees, and we are still in touch with clients from Web Summit 2017. Your sales team’s real job starts after the summit (we’ll cover that in the next point).

Web Summit is no walk in the park but all that preparation, pitches, sleepless nights, and days spent on your feet is a kind of team-building adventure for your team. And there’s nowhere else you can get that experience.

12. How to work with collected leads

When done right, collecting leads at Web Summit can lead to a significant rise in sales and a couple of dedicated users who will buy and recommend your product/service for years to come. Here’s how Snov.io works with leads collected at Web Summit and other conferences.

Collecting leads
The after-conference work actually starts at the booth. Our team collects business cards of the people stopping by the booth and asking about the product. At this stage, it’s important to sort the leads into those genuinely interested and neutral.

Our Customer Success Manager Maksym has a specific system in place that makes after-conference work easier: once you’ve exchanged cards with the lead, write down the thing that you’ve remembered from the conversation the most and initials of the person who collected the card. This helps match the card to the person in the future and gives you a specific detail you can later mention in your follow-up email to make the lead remember you too.

How our Customer Success Manager Maksym tracks leads’ cards collected at conferences
How our Customer Success Manager Maksym tracks leads’ cards collected at conferences

Organizing the leads
After the conference, organize all collected leads in your CRM or a Google sheet, separating hot leads (list 1) from the rest (list 2). This might take a while, considering the amount of manual work that goes into it and the number of cards (for example, last year we collected 200+ cards).

Following-up after the conference
After you return from the conference, prepare a follow-up campaign. You can use our post-conference follow-up campaign template and launch an email drip campaign. Please note, only launch this campaign for list 2 (neutral leads). Your hot leads will require a more personal approach.

Snov.io Customer Success Manager Maksym launching a follow-up drip campaign for conference leads
Snov.io Customer Success Manager Maksym launching a follow-up drip campaign for conference leads

Craft emails for your hot leads individually, using a friendly tone and conversation points you have written down on their cards. These follow-ups can be sent the same day or about a week after the conference when your leads return home (depending on the points you’ve discussed).

When leads don’t reply
It’s a good idea to also find your hot leads on LinkedIn to open another communication channel if your emails go unopened. It’s a common practice for our sales team to follow up on such leads 6+ times. For all the other leads who have not opened or replied to our post-conference follow-up, we launch another email campaign about 1 month after the conference. In it, we remind them about who we are, what we do, and how we can help them.

Schedule demos
Hot leads might be interested in an individual or team demo. We usually schedule around half a dozen of those after each conference. This helps us show the leads that our service can meet their needs and explain how to use it for maximum results.

If a demo is scheduled by one of the other leads, it’s important that you first ask more about their company and what they need from your product so you can build your presentation on that. Mentioning successful customer cases from the same industry as the lead can help them realize your solution is the best option and you will convert faster.

13. Must-see Web Summit 2019 speakers

One of the best places to see industry leaders discuss questions relevant to your field is Web Summit speaker stages. This year will bring together hundreds of speakers from the world’s top companies, so make sure you craft out an hour or two to see them.

7 November 2018; Ben Silbermann, Pinterest, and Lauren Goode, Wired, on Centre Stage during day two of Web Summit 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Web Summit via Sportsfile

You can find the full speaker list here, and here is our choice of the best Web Summit 2019 speakers you should try and see:

From freemium to premium 
Speakers
:
Jager McConnell (CEO, Crunchbase)
Ted Krantz (CEO, App Annie)
Don Clark (Technology Contributor, The New York Times)

“How can companies convert free users to paid subscribers? The CEOs of Crunchbase and App Annie will answer this huge question as they discuss different ways to successfully move through this often difficult conversion funnel.”
SaaS Monster, Tuesday, Nov 5, 12:10 – 12:30

Marketing in 2020
Speakers:
Fernando Machado (CMO, Burger King)
Gail Heimann (President, Weber Shandwick)
Katia Bassi (CMO, Automobili Lamborghini)

“Globally acclaimed and award-winning marketers reveal definitive trends and stories from the frontlines of marketing in a time of unprecedented disruption.”
Centre Stage, Wednesday, Nov 6, 12:15 – 12:35

How to win brands and influence people
Speakers:
Charl Bassil (CMO, Absolut Vodka)
Ben Jeffries (CEO, Influencer)
Caspar Lee (YouTube star)

“Brands are turning to influencers in droves. It seems like the sky’s the limit for this burgeoning market. What to see how these master marketers work their magic?”
PandaConf,  Thursday, Nov 7, 15:10 – 15:35

The future of SEO
Speaker: Sarah Bird (CEO, Moz)

“Sarah Bird, the CEO of Moz, discusses the future of SEO.”
SaaS Monster, Wednesday, Nov 6, 14:35 – 14:55

Rethinking the marketing and sales funnel
Speakers:
Armand Thiberge (Founder & co-CEO, Sendinblue)
Jason VandeBoom (Founder & CEO, ActiveCampaign)
Sarah Bird (CEO, Moz)
Bill Magnuson (Co-founder & CEO, Braze)

“The traditional marketing funnel — starting wide at the top and narrowing down to purchase — has become seriously outdated. It no longer reflects the way customers shop and interact with brands in the digital age. Here’s how to adapt.”
PandaConf, Wednesday, Nov 6, 15:50 – 16:15

Retention as the new conversion
Speaker: Des Traynor (Co-founder, Intercom)

“The old world of SaaS marketing is one replete with hacks, tips, tricks, and techniques all designed to get a user to signup and hopefully convert. But when most modern revenue is through subscription, what is a conversion today? After all, we don’t buy software these days, we subscribe to it. This talk covers the new techniques that modern-day product owners and marketers will need for the new world of customer relationships.”
SaaS Monster, Tuesday, Nov 5, 11:10 – 11:30

How The New York Times applies its storytelling techniques to brands
Speaker: Graham McDonnell (International Creative Director, The New York Times)

“The New York Times is the most innovative storyteller in the world, famous for turning complex subjects into digestible narratives with its unique brand of storytelling. As Creative Director of their in-house brand studio, Graham will take you through some of the greatest success stories in recent years and some of the design and storytelling methods they utilize to bring these stories to life.”
ContentMakers, Wednesday, Nov 6, 12:50 – 13:10

Welcome to the future of mobile robots
Speaker: Marc Raibert (Founder & CEO, Boston Dynamics)

“A pioneering company at the cutting edge of robotics showcases its vision for the future of robotic technology that interacts with the world.
Centre Stage, Thursday, Nov 7, 14:00 – 14:20

AI and decision intelligence
Speaker
: Cassie Kozyrkov (Chief Decision Scientist, Google)

“In this Keynote, Google’s Chief Decision Scientist will discuss where next for decision intelligence.”
Auto/Tech & TalkRobot, Tuesday, Nov 5, 12:00 – 12:20

How to come up with an original idea
Speaker: Rankin (Photographer & co-founder, RANKIN)

“In business, there’s always a hunger for novel ways to solve a problem, tell a story, or hook a customer – but how can you keep your ideas fresh? Our panel are experts at original, creative thinking across their fields and will share the formula for being inventive.”
Startup University, Wednesday, Nov 6, 13:30 – 13:50

Sustainable fashion: A moment, or a movement?
Speakers
:
Jack Constantine (Chief Technology Officer, Lush)
Mark Russell (Managing Editor, British Vogue)
Katrin Ley (Managing Director, Fashion for Good)
Simon Beckerman (Founder, Depop)

“Sure, we all love a tote bag, and sustainable sneakers have become celebrity must-haves. However, fashion remains one of the most wasteful industries in the world. How can brands use tech to move beyond the sustainability “moment”, and make a real difference?”
Modum, Thursday, Nov 7, 14:50 – 15:10

Adapting crypto for the real world
Speakers:
Kris Marszalek (Co-founder & CEO, Crypto.com)
Anne Gaviola (Economics & Money Editor, VICE Canada)
Leemon Baird (Co-founder & Chief Scientist, Hedera Hashgraph)

“The rapid mountain climb of crypto’s value has reestablished trust in its longevity. However, the current atmosphere still remains – adapt or die. In this conversation, we ask four experts: how can real-world adaptations benefit cryptocurrency?”
MoneyConf, Thursday, Nov 7, 15:20 – 15:45

Is it too late to save the world?
Speakers:
Christiana Figueres (Founding Partner, Global Optimism)
Kate Brandt (Chief Sustainability Officer, Google)
Cheng Lei (Anchor, CCTV-News)

“With America pulling out of the Paris climate accord and climate scientists issuing increasingly pessimistic forecasts about the climate crisis, we ask whether it is now too late to change course. If we can avoid a catastrophe, how are we going to do it?”
Centre Stage, Wednesday, Nov 6, 14:45 – 15:10

Valeria Borshch, Outbound Marketing Manager at Snov.io

“My entire work is connected to Google, optimization, and website improvement, so the speakers I chose above can share some truly relevant and valuable insights. I’d also love to see Andy Mooney, CEO at Fender (Nov 7, 15.10-15.30 at MusicNotes). But that’s simply my personal passion – I love Fender guitars. I’d also love to hear Melanie Perkins, the co-founder & CEO of Canva (Nov 7, 10.50-11.10 at Centre Stage). We at Snov.io love Canva. A real must-have tool for any marketer. Hopefully, one day we’ll be able to cooperate with them.”

Oleksii Kratko, Founder and CEO at Snov.io

“Is Nathan Latka there? [Laughs] Honestly, I do not follow anyone from big companies represented on the list, just because I can’t copy and apply their advice to my company. I’d like to see someone from an SMB [edit. note: small-medium business] who has shown good traction in the last year.”

Check out the full Web Summit talks schedule for complete timetable.

14. Extra tips you don’t want to forget

Every year there’s something we forget about. Hey, we’re all human. So we asked our team members what things you should never forget to take care of beforehand.

Daria Shevchenko, CMO at Snov.io:
“I’ve got a long list of Web Summit tips. And I follow these before every conference:

  • Plane tickets. The apartment is important, yes, but take care of plane tickets even before that. The longer you wait, the more expensive they get.
  • Get enough sleep. Do not party in the city at night, get enough sleep to be productive the next day. Consider taking some melatonin for jet lag.
  • Research big leads. Leads appreciate it when you talk to them already knowing who they are, what they do, and what they need. Research ahead to convert better.
  • Take care of allergies. If you are allergic to anything, bring antihistamines with you.
  • Your feet will hurt, so bring some anesthetic gel with ibuprofen in case it gets bad.”

Oleksii Kratko, Founder and CEO at Snov.io:
“Book apartments beforehand. OH BOY, I NEED TO DO IT NOW!”

Valeria Borshch, Outbound Marketing Manager at Snov.io:
“Book an apartment as close to the venue as possible, so that you don’t have to rely on overcrowded transport or overpriced Uber.”

Dana Rudenko, Chief Editor at Snovio Labs:
“Don’t rely on the QR scanner in the official Web Summit app. It glitches way too often and you don’t want to be left empty-handed after a great conversation with a potential client or investor. So prepare some good old business cards to give away when technology fails. From my personal experience, it’s much easier to match a face to a contact when it’s on a card. As for self-care, stay hydrated and bring snacks.”

15. Web Summit preparations timeline

Here’s our handy timeline for Web Summit conference prep. Save it, print it out, and share it with the team to make sure you don’t forget anything in your preparation for Web Summit.

See you this year

Web Summit 2019 is going to be bigger and better than ever, and we’re excited to be attending this year too. Visit our Snov.io booth B308 on Day 1, Tuesday, November 5 and say hi!


Hope you find these tips useful. Think we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments!

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