With over 130,000 attendees expected for 2018's edition of San Diego Comic Con starting on Thursday, and 180,000 for CES 2018 (which took place in January), it's easy to be overwhelmed. And that doesn't even account for the people who show up without an official ticket to these events. By some reports, there are at least 25 percent more people in a town surrounding any given event than are actually registered.
This leaves entrepreneurs looking to get noticed with an amazing opportunity: real people, gathered in one place who are in a clearly defined demographic. You can generate awareness, validate your product, build leads--all with a fairly receptive and captive audience.
This strategy has worked well to launch companies like Twitter and Foursquare. A nap pod marketing activation by mattress company Casper at SXSW brought a boost to the compant when it were able to fill in for sold-out hotel rooms after multiple flight cancellations left Austin unprepared.
While a budget helps, you can definitely stand out without breaking the bank. As a veteran of mega-events, here are my top five tips on how to navigate:
1. Define your outcome.
While the big players have resources to track multiple goals, you should probably have one thing that you're going after. Some good things to think about are whether you want people to buy a product, become aware of something, or engage with you or your company.
2. Hatch a plan.
When you're walking around CES and suddenly see a flash-mob of Elvis impersonators choreographed and singing about Google Fiber, recognize that there was some major planning that went into it. Likewise, take some time to figure out what would work best for you.
If your budget is small (or non-existent), find out where people are and get yourself noticed by them. At Comic-Con you can offer a distraction to the people who are waiting in the never-ending lines, for example.
3. Be social.
Unlike smaller events where there may only be one or two people using a hashtag, there are tons of people who use social media as their means of communication. Additionally, because of the popularity of these events, people who are not there will also follow on social media to see what's going on.
To capitalize on this, post as much as you can, using the event hashtags, and make sure you engage with the top content you see.
4. Be prepared.
As a bonus, here are my general tips to survive conferences like ComicCon:
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking.
- Carry a cell phone charger cable.
- Have plenty of business cards, stickers or flyers.
- Bring something to write with.
- Remember to eat and drink.
- Have fun!
5. Be flexible.
No matter how prepared you are, these conferences can be overwhelming. Whatever schedule you planned ahead of time, be ready to drop it as soon as your boots hit the ground.