Established events have already put in the work. They got past the uphill grind of starting out and persevered to build a keystone industry event or company conference that people have come to expect. Events that have become a go-to for networking, thought leadership and discovery alike. Established events have built their audience, but that's not to say it's a safe audience. Not with new events popping up at seemingly every rotation of the moon.
Rather than perceive startup events as a threat, we believe established players should be looking to these new events on the block and learning from them in order to stay relevant, agile, and as risky as their event culture allows.
Here are four important lessons startup events can teach the existing players.
1. Get Back to Your Roots
Startups are inherently close to their mission. They have a strong sense of clarity around their purpose that resonates throughout their events and with attendees.
As events get to their second, third, tenth year, they can lose sight of what their purpose is. They try and make it more efficient when they should be taking a step back and trying to understand what they’re trying to do in first place.
Each and every year, at the start of your event planning season, it's always smart to build on the past, but it's always important to consider what's new and fresh and unexpected. To think back to your first time running the event and what the original vision was for it. Have you pivoted? That's okay. It's still a good thing to rethink your strategies based on your roots and put yourselves in the shoes of someone just starting out.
2. Never Stop Experimenting
Startup events are, by their very nature, starting from scratch, so they don’t have any expectations set around them (yet). The idea of starting from scratch is a scary proposition for most event marketers, but it may ultimately be the best way to keep your events relevant.
Don’t be afraid of change, and never stop fiddling and futzing. Throw it out and start over as if you’ve never done it. You might discover that your existing format is good but at least you’ve discovered, experimented and freshened it up.
3. Show Your Users That You Listened
At startup user conferences, because every attendee is an early adopter, advocate, and stakeholder, startup companies listen to them and seek their ideas and feedback. They are also adept at responding to the feedback in overt and meaningful ways.
As your events age and scale, never forget this key principle of user conferences: Listening and Doing are tied together. Make sure your user conference shows that your business actively does both for your users.
4. Spend Wisely
As conferences get more established, they get bigger budgets and often start spending them on big-name speakers and lavish parties. Resist the urge to blow the budget on flashy moments and instead prioritize networking, interaction, and opportunities for collaboration.
Startups also tend to skip the exotic locales and keep their events in their own backyards. This enables them to boost that conversational value by having their employees and product developers on-site, talking to attendees and prospects. And isn’t that what’s events are really all about?