This blog provides a synopsis of my experience as an intern attending the Detroit Startup Week Conference that took place in Detroit, MI June 17 - 21, 2019. Its aim is to give a first-person account of the Detroit Startup Week conference and to inspire others to attend and engage with professional conferences in the future.
This past week was Detroit Startup Week in our lovely home base of Detroit. Detroit Startup Week is a 5-day celebration of entrepreneurship, that brought together 250 speakers with the common goal of growing Detroit as a city through the power of entrepreneurship and community love.
Each day there was at least one presentation every hour starting at 10:00 am all the way through 8:00 pm. This broad schedule allowed for easy personalization of what you wanted to see and what fit with your schedule. The conference focused each day around specific learning areas such as Mobility, Marketing, and Technology, Art & Design, Music, Female Founders and Food Entrepreneurship.
I appreciated this layout because I was able to come for an hour and take away a significant amount of information or stay for multiple hours and learn even more.
A necessity for this conference is a pen and notebook. Each speaker has something special to offer and provides an opportunity to learn and reflect. A good thing to practice is before each presentation jot down a few questions you may have surrounding the current topic and what you hope to take away from this hour.
You are also encouraged to take notes during the presentation on things that stand out to you personally or to your business. It is always interesting to attack a conference with a coworker because you both may take away very different things and ideas which can be extremely beneficial when conversing and reflecting after the presentation.
Throughout the presentation ask the speaker some of the questions you have written down, if comfortable. You may also approach the speaker after their talk and ask your questions then.
The best thing about conferences like Detroit Startup Week is that everyone is there with a common goal which makes connecting with each other so much easier and encouraged.
Try to talk to as many people as possible in order to grow your network, but keep in mind, “quality over quantity.” An easy conversation starter could be, “What did you think of that presentation?”, “What are you hoping to gain from this conference?”, “What presentation do I have to see?”.
For many people, the word “conference” does not spark a particular glow in their eyes. The stereotype of a business conference depicts a large room full of people looking at their phones with a speaker usually droning on for an extended amount of time. It can be hard to make that personal connection with the speaker or even the people around you.
Detroit Startup Week’s event did a great job in combating such preconceived notions by keeping presentations short and offering multiple options for each hour as to not overpopulate a room.
When you are a business owner, time is money. No one wants to waste money, but if you invest appropriately you could end up making more than you started with.
You are responsible for making the conference worth while. Know what you want to take away from people and/or presentations and go do it for yourself.
Write down good ideas, ask questions, and talk to people. I challenge you to not sit with your coworkers at a conference and talk to your neighbors. This way you meet as many people as possible which allows for a larger pool of advice, perspectives, and knowledge.
Sophia Lamphier is the Business & Marketing Intern for Excelerate America, the fun, smart service for small businesses. What are your best practices for attending conferences? Let Sophia know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.