How to Conference? Part 1 – Size Matters

We were just recently at Polar Bear Pitching in Oulu and TechChill in Riga and it occurred to us that not everyone has been to as many events as we have, and that we should share what we have learnt over the years.


When thinking about attending a conference or event, there are 3 approximate sizes.

* small (few hundreds), for example Polar Bear Pitching

* medium few thousand, for example TechChill

* large multi tens of thousands, for example Slush


There are many different reasons to go to an event but most of them end up being related to networking in some way.

At small events:

  • You should attempt be at the venue as much as possible, as this is the best way to meet the most people. Take the opportunity to talk to random people in coffee or lunch lines, join a different table at lunch.
  • This size can easily be done as a lone wolf, but you don’t really want to send more than 2 people as you will start to look clueless or desperate (the exception is if you are a major sponsor).
  • You will have time to do email & social media – there are just not enough interesting people at the event to schedule meetings with, and only a few talks will appeal, so find a place and take a break to keep caught up. You can also post notes to those still in the office.
  • A big reason for spending time at the event is so that the other attendees will be able to recognize you at the after party.

At medium sized events:

  • This is the most productive size in my opinion as it is big enough to get some big name speakers, but small enough that you are able to find and connect with them.
  • Attend *all* the parties but try not to drink too much, as there will be a number of people there who have nothing specific the next morning or just like staying up late.
  • At this size of event, you will need to start being better prepared, as there will likely be multiple tracks of talks, a bigger number of stands to visit, etc. This means it is not possible to do everything as one person.
  • If there are multiple people going, you will want to consider what is the “uniform” that you will wear (t-shirts & hoodies or something else), and will it be suitable for all of the after parties. It is better to have something similar on during the day and at the after party so it makes it easier for people to recognise you.
  • As there is more going on at this size, you should have some sort of planning session approximately one week before the event.

At large sized events:

  • Strangely when events get to this size, they are both the most and least efficient way to do things.
  • They are really productive because “everyone” is there so you can easily meet with people, and they can afford to get the top name speakers in.
  • However at the same time they are also the least productive because there is *SO* much going on, that you will always feel like you are in the wrong place.
  • To avoid this it is vital that you not only plan, but have some measure of what you will think of as a successful outcome.

In fact, these bigger events are so complex, that Arctic Startup tweaks and republishes the same advice for how to tackle Slush each year – Here

So in summary, there is no correct way to do this, just jump in and find out what is the best way for you to enjoy conferences.

And if you see someone in a Startup Sauna t-shirt or hoodie, come and say hi!


Head Coach

Startup Sauna

Mike Bradshaw