Florian Spathelf is founder of Meine Spielzeug Kiste, recent winner of the TwiST Berlin round. After his victory on home soil, his prize was to jet to San Francisco to attend Jason Calcanis’ Launch Conference – a gathering of over 190 startups, all vying for attentions of investors and just attention in general.
So how to rock the trade show floor? How to make sure that all eyes are on your product over any others? Top tip – don’t underestimate the power of chocolate…
#1: Be a hustler
You know those people on a trade fair standing at their booth, looking at you like a backpacker who tries to hitchhike in his dirty jeans?
You don´t stop by because, one: their product seems to be unsexy and boring and two: you don’t want to interrupt them, staring at the crowd passing by, right?
I have the feeling that many exhibitors think of their booth as their castle in which they are king, instead of a little mansion where they invite only their best guests. Instead of sitting behind the walls of your castle, hustle around, talk to people and make them want to see more of your product – at your booth.
People are shy, so stretch out and draw them to where the party is.
#2: Ask for negative feedback
What do most people tell a stranger if they either don’t get his idea right or just think “Oh, what a bad idea, that’s gonna suck!”? Exactly – they say: “Wow, that’s a … good idea. Good luck, keep rocking!” in order not to embarrass anyone. Once the company is driven to the wall, the same people say “I knew it was going to fail.”
Instead of seeking validation of your business model, ask for negative feedback. “Why do you think, this will go wrong?” You´ll be impressed by the interesting insights and suggestions you will get. But make sure, hearing a bunch of people saying why you suck doesn’t bring you down. And be aware of potential investors. The last thing they want to hear are the words “fail” or “burned money” out of your mouth.
#3: Always have German chocolate on board
Where do most people hang around at Christmas fairs or festivals? That’s right – at food stalls and bars. Those places often seem to be the only ones being profitable. If you provide visitors with some sweets or drinks which are somehow related to your product, it’s much easier to get them to your booth. And once they get busy eating, they get busy listening too. After a short intro, continue with #2.
#4: Go for a cause
Did you build a website which allows people to find temporary roommates or do you revolutionise the way people travel and make travel a social thing again?
Same company, different story. But you either attract mid-skilled employees and partners who might “give it a try” and just want another job to make their living. Or you find visionaries, great thinkers and executives or investors who are willing to go the extra mile in order to achieve the common goal of your company.
I found out, that what inspires people the most about the purpose of your company is, if you draw the big picture of your vision then go a bit into; details, stats and company figures (maybe even certain processes which are important), go the full circle and back to the big picture again.
#5: Make friends – you don’t always have to pitch
As an entrepreneur, you are used to pitching your business case everywhere. Every contact is a potential investor, partner or employee. Even if you meet new people or your family after a long time, you pitch.
But good pitches doesn’t always make new friends, neither can they be something special in an environment where everybody does it. And imagine an event where everybody is just pitching. What a noise and waste of time.
I try to forget about my pitch sometimes and just ask other people about their experiences, their wishes or just things which are not related to business. It´s hard enough to establish and keep friendships as an entrepreneur so you don´t want to only have people on your friendslist who like your business model or your product, but also know you as a person. Do business, close deals but most importantly – make friends.