May 30, 2018
I recently got back from my first MicroConf (my first conference, really). It was an exciting, inspiring, stressful, tiring, incredible experience. I learned a lot and will definitely be purchasing a ticket to next year’s MicroConf.
The following are the key things I learned at MicroConf and what I’ll do differently next time around.
The people at MicroConf are wonderful. Meeting them is what you should be most excited about and focused on. Not exploring Las Vegas. Not even the talks. It’s the people. Initiate conversations; join conversations (kindly); do whatever you have to do to talk to these people. Aim for depth rather than breadth. And make sure to follow up afterwards.
startup business is hard. It can be very lonely. Bootstrapping that long, slow, SaaS ramp of death is an exhausting slog; it can be easy to imagine that your struggles are unique and that there’s no point in trying to meet people.
That is a mistake. The people at MicroConf are going through (and have been through) what you’re going through. Talk to them about your struggles. Open up and be honest. You’ll be met with kindness and real advice from those who have been there. At the very least, you’ll be heard, and that matters more than people think.
People are making money doing all sorts of things - it’s inspiring! It’s so easy to become jaded and think there’s only one way of building a company, one type of business that can be successful, one type of personality that can make things happen.
That’s all wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people running interesting (profitable) businesses I would almost certainly have dismissed outright if I came up with the idea myself.
The talks and advice I received at MicroConf weren’t groundbreaking or fashionable. But that’s the point - these are people with real businesses who have found that it’s often the “boring” strategies and tactics that move the needle.
This was certainly refreshing to hear amidst all of the “tricks”, “hacks”, and “hot” new marketing channels appearing almost daily. One of the most common pieces of advice touted, at MicroConf and in the circles I frequent online, is raising prices.
Every business is different, but at the very least, it’s worth modelling the impact that higher prices could have on your business, and regularly testing your assumptions about pricing. Stephanie Hurlburt had a great Twitter thread on this.
It’s tiring and can be uncomfortable - but just do it. Everyone is so welcoming, and I always came out of a conversation with new ideas, knowledge about an interesting business and, at the very least, a friendly face to look to for the rest of the conference.
I was invited to a dinner before the conference began by Tony, from Intentional Spark, along with 9 others. Not only did he facilitate introductions and gave everyone a chance to make a few friends before the conference started, he even picked up the dinner bill!
In the MicroConf Slack channel, I saw people organizing dinners, drinks, breakfasts, shows, hikes, informal chats in the lobby, etc. They were both specific (B2B sales, B2C, mobile apps, channel-specific) and general (interest or availability-based). People were happy to show up and as the organizer, you gain credibility and visibility throughout the rest of the conference.
Make a list of people you want to meet beforehand - and know what you want to ask them! You can do this for the people you already follow and are familiar with, but you can do this with others, too.
For example, I was invited to Tony’s dinner because my introduction in the Slack group piqued his interest. I was direct-messaged by one attendee because of my bio; we ended up having several great chats over a couple of days.
Your days can be filled with random encounters and conversations - and that’s great. But I would suggest intentionally reaching out to people you’re particularly interested in and organizing a chat. I’ll do much more of this next year.
My co-founder, Maria, also happens to be my girlfriend. This arrangement has unique struggles and benefits, one of the former we found to be that we used each other as a crutch during the social events. We stayed together far too much at the evening events and had fewer conversations as a result. We both feel that we missed a lot of opportunities to meet people.
Next year, we’ll both purchase full tickets (Maria only had a ticket for the evening events this year) and we’ll try to go our own ways during the conference. This isn’t to say that we’ll try to not see each other; rather, that we’ll try to avoid leaning on the other so we can meet more people.
Maria and I arrived in Las Vegas two days before the conference and left a couple of days after the conference ended. We had planned to explore the city and spend time together, but we met so many interesting people that our touring plans fizzled out. We’re happy they did - we just met more people and had a great time doing so.
Try not to arrive just as the conference begins and leave just as it ends. Take some time, relax, and explore the city with other attendees who also arrived early. Or wind down with other attendees after the conference ends in a low-stress way.
Lastly, (this one’s important): buy a ticket. Just do it. If you’re concerned about the price, buy it and tell yourself you’ll get a refund. Then don’t.
That’s what I did - I purchased my ticket in November, knowing I had until the end of January to ask for a refund. I told myself I’d probably get a refund, while in the back of my mind I knew I really wanted to go. A bit of mental trickery can go a long way :)