Experience That Pays Off: Hosting and Attending Tech Events Large and Small
Marketing Associate, Georgia Tech Research Corporation
- Hosting an Association of University Technology Managers® (AUTM®) Partnering Forum focused on communications technologies across several industries
- Attending the AUTM Partnering Forum on Smart Power & Energy Storage—a small-scale event with a specific industry focus
- Attending TechConnect, a very large expo crossing all major lines of emerging IP, venture funding, technology transfer, and more
Following up on the success of these events for Georgia Tech, the authors compiled their thoughts to share some advice with our readers.
Hosting Industry Events
One thing that has become clear in our experience over the last few years is that, while much can be learned from attending industry events, getting others to attend an event you’re hosting comes with its own set of considerations and planning.
Plan Your Schedule—and Scope—Carefully
Marketing an event—even one that may seem very straightforward—almost always takes more preparation than you’d like. Depending on the size of the event, try for at least 6 months of planning time. For larger events, shoot for a year or more, if you can swing it. For events with a hard date, you may need to adjust your scope for the event if you don’t have as much time as you’d like. For example, you might need to have fewer speakers and a smaller number of targeted break-out sessions. If you have some flexibility with dates, factor in the time you need for the type of event you’re aiming for. This might include bringing a consultant on board to help with logistics. Bottom line: Make sure your scope fits your schedule rather than trying to bite off more than you can chew in a limited amount of time.
Get Your Messaging Act Together
You want prospective registrants to have a very clear idea of the focus of the event and how attending will benefit them. For the AUTM Partnering Forum hosted in Atlanta, Fuentek helped Georgia Tech develop consistent messaging for promoting the event across multiple communication channels.
Strategically Target Key Attendees
Consider your goals and target attendee size early on. An event for 3,000 is going to have much different goals than a targeted event for 50. For example, the attendees for smaller events will likely be much more closely tied to a specific niche industry or market need. The AUTM Partnering Forum hosted at Georgia Tech illustrated this. For this event, Fuentek helped identify key companies and universities with significant activity in the industry focus areas along with a strategy for contacting them early and often through a multi-channel approach. This included email, phone calls, industry advertisements, LinkedIn posts, and other social media.
Establish Legitimacy to Spur Registrations
Especially if the event is the first you’ve hosted, getting people to register will depend on… well, getting other people to register first. Target a few key partners or industry leaders whose names and reputations will lend legitimacy to the event. Appeal to them to sign up early and request permission to highlight them as attendees—or even offer to host them as a featured speaker.
Assemble a Diverse Panel of Experts
Also, invite experts from both startups and larger established companies to present on panels. These names not only add clout to your event, but also give attendees a variety of business professionals to speak with and who can lend nuanced perspectives.
Attending Industry Events
Attending a technology marketing event offers ample opportunities to showcase your IP to potential investors and licensees. Here are some of our favorite tips gathered from attending both large and small events.
Only Present Your Best Techs…
… or at least the best ones for the focus of the event you’re attending. Targeted IP is more likely to stand out. Our advice: Start narrowing down your portfolio 3 to 4 months out, and then prioritize the technologies. For AUTM’s Energy Partnering Forum, Fuentek helped Georgia Tech identify its most relevant and promising technologies and developed the appropriate marketing materials, including a one-page flyer showcasing this research portfolio.
Tell the Story Beyond the IP
Know in advance who else is going to the event and what technologies are likely to interest them. And be prepared to tell the full story of your organization—not just the available IP, but also the cutting-edge research, the scientists doing the work, unique facilities, startup activity, etc. This complete picture is much more compelling than a single patent and makes it more likely for potential licensees or research sponsors to envision a long-term partnership. This preparation paid off in a big way at TechConnect: Georgia Tech is now in meaningful, ongoing deal discussions with an IP investment bank and with an international technology firm. Both of them were interested in the whole package provided by the university, not just a single technology.
Know When You Can Go It Alone… and When You Need Backup
Don’t try to navigate a huge event on your own. Smaller events where the exhibit hall is closed while panels are in progress can sometimes be handled by one person. But a larger expo, where the exhibit hall is always open, calls for at least a duo or small group. Why? You never want to risk a potential partner stopping by an unattended booth. Plus, if you’re on your own, it’s easy to get too overwhelmed to have productive conversations with visitors to the booth. Sometimes it takes a small team to put your best foot forward.