Making the most of Web Summit 2016

Making the most of Web Summit 2016

Anna Scally is a Partner in KPMG and shares her advice on making the most of this year’s event.

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Partner, Head of Technology & Media, Fintech Lead

KPMG in Ireland

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The Web Summit remains one of the largest and most important networking opportunities for Irish and global entrepreneurs and technology innovators. With over 50,000 delegates attending this year's event in Lisbon, visitors have access to the equivalent of 21 conferences with one ticket. Keynote speakers across the four-day event include John Chambers, the Executive Chairman of Cisco Systems and the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt among many other high profile names. With a non-stop mix of demonstrations, speaker sessions and social events, it promises to be an unforgettable few days in the Portuguese capital.

Anna Scally is a Partner in KPMG and shares her advice on making the most of this year's event.

The Web Summit may have departed to Portuguese shores but it remains an extremely important and influential place for Irish entrepreneurs and business people, creating lots of networking opportunities in an exciting and multinational environment. Irish speakers will be among the international voices at various stages and the Irish representation among the thousands of delegates is expected to remain highly visible. However, it is crucial to know how to make the most of this opportunity to meet as many people as possible in the most effective manner.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Making the most of Web Summit requires preparation and planning. Make sure your phone is fully charged and that you are wearing comfortable but appropriate footwear. Having attended numerous Web Summits, here are my top tips for making the most of the experience.

1. Know your goal for attending

Arrive with a clear objective in mind for what you want to achieve and who you want to meet. The Web Summit has thousands of delegates so naturally if you decide to take people as they come, you may end up missing an opportunity to connect with someone meaningful. Know what your goals are and what you want to achieve for your company. Whether this is raising finance, expanding into new markets, gaining insights on the next big thing or discovering the latest innovations in a particular area, having goals in mind will help you make the right choices for you in terms of networking.

2. Plan and Prioritise

The attendance list is not a secret document so make an effort to peruse who is attending and mark off those who you would most like to meet and where you would like to meet them. This is the networking equivalent of doing your homework - it prepares you for the real life event. The Web Summit is famous for being huge and all encompassing. This is one of its key selling points. As a result, it is virtually impossible to attend every conference and social event. Therefore, it is crucially important to study the programme beforehand, decide what your priorities are and plan your path for the week. This will allow you to gain the greatest benefit out of the events that you attend as you will not be worried about moving on to the next session or the next meeting.

Overloading your schedule can often lead to missed opportunities for little benefit. Pick which events to attend based on what you feel you would most like to achieve.

Social events are a central part of the Web Summit experience and it is important that you attend the correct events in order to meet with your key people. Don't forget to bring business cards. These are a must for networking and allow you to follow up with new contacts by email, LinkedIn, or phone.

3. Network as effectively as you can

Chances are that this is not your first time at the rodeo!  Still, events of this scale can be daunting. So smile and don't be afraid to shake a lot of hands. This is not a time to be shy. If you are feeling overwhelmed, the chances are the people around you are feeling the same way. You are all experiencing the same things and this provides an excellent conversation starter. Make sure you constantly have ample energy, food and refreshments. Networking at an event such as this is a long game.

In advance of attending, let your existing friends and contacts know where you are going by updating your social media accounts. This will allow you to coordinate with people as well as engage with those who may have attended previously. The shared experience of others can be invaluable in terms of making the most of the Web Summit. Also make use of social media such as Twitter during the event, in order to extend your reach as far as possible. Follow what's happening on social media and be aware of what's happening that day. This is the "Web" Summit, after all.

4. Tips for networking

There are some easy tips to making networking as effective as possible.

Firstly, it always helps to have a wingman. Approaching people on your own can be daunting. Having someone with you when making initial introductions makes the whole process easier and less awkward.

Don't be afraid to show your personality when engaging with someone new. You will have lots of similar conversations but showing your personality will ensure that you are memorable and will also help you to remember the people you meet. This helps to make your conversations more meaningful.

Think about what you can offer them. Networking does not work if it is a one-way process. The best way to engage with someone that you want to talk to is to be in a position to offer them something in return. This ensures that the conversation is more of an equal transaction and that both parties in the conversation will be interested in continuing the discussion.

5. Pace yourself

In a way, the Web Summit is a marathon, not a sprint. It can be an exhausting few days so it is important to eat and sleep well. In addition, it is important to stop and soak up the atmosphere and the venue. Remember, you are at one of the top tech events in the world. Don't miss out on the opportunity to fully take in the sights and sounds around you. The Web Summit is a fantastic event and you won't forget it.  

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