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Conference Attendance 101: How Founders Can Maximize Their Time and Impact

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Q1 has officially wrapped, and with that, the first inning of the 2024 conference season. The year starts strong with several industry events ranging from Vegas’ annual Consumer Electronics Show (better known as CES), and J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, to the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” in New York. As a tech startup founder looking to justify a $3,800 conference ticket (times three or four) plus travel, accommodation, and meals, you may be asking yourself, “Does it make sense for me to attend these conferences?” or “Which conference is going to have the biggest impact?”

Our take? If you know how to do it right, every conference has value.

BAM encourages our partners to attend as many high-value conferences as possible for two reasons. First is the opportunity to meet with attending media, who are keen on in-person conversations to learn more about the trends being discussed. These in-person meetings are also valuable for relationship building, as media often reach out post-conference for additional stories. Secondly, for founders to learn about new trends and connect with peers in the industry that may help generate new business ideas and opportunities. 

Below are four strategies we’ve learned from attending industry conferences, with a focus on ViVE 2024 in Los Angeles, and best practices for founders who are looking to maximize their time at industry events.

Set conference KPIs and share them with your team 

As a founder, you likely have an achiever personality and are driven by results. Challenge yourself with KPIs for each conference day and share them with your team for accountability. These KPIs will help you prioritize your time each day, making sure every session you attend, vendor you meet with, etc., ties back to the concrete goals you set before going into the event. For example, BAM set KPIs for ViVE, which included media meetups to nurture our current relationships with the likes of Fierce Healthcare, Axios, and more, bringing media to our partners’ booths to learn more, and having coffee dates with potential partners. By setting these KPIs, we were able to have a more actionable role at the conference. 

For founders, sample KPIs can include:

  • Meet with three new business prospects
  • Attend at least four sessions; one on the topic of AI and present a business case for implementing AI into your solution
  • Host two meetings with investors at your booth; goal of having one convert to a Zoom call following

By giving yourself KPIs, you understand what needs to be accomplished and can make sure to stay focused and maximize your time while away from your desk.

Make connections beforehand, and aim to leave with three to four new names 

While we all enjoy the comfort of knowing colleagues at an event, spending your days catching up with your current network won’t create the kind of ROI we’re all hoping for. Instead, schedule a couple of hours each day at the conference to ‘work the floor’ and meet new people. 

Here are a couple of tips for stepping out of your comfort zone and making the introductions easier.

1. Utilize the conference app and do your research ahead of time: Nowadays, most conferences have a mobile app consisting of the agenda, sponsors, and attendee list for networking. Be sure to review the networking portion of the app ahead of the conference and mark down a few people you would like to connect with. If the app allows, add them to your network, shoot them a message, or invite them to a session you’re planning to attend. Having early touchpoints makes it easier to connect live on the conference floor.

2. Attend sessions with a purpose: Review the agenda ahead of time and know who is speaking when. Are there investors moderating that you’re interested in connecting with? Is there a potential partner on a panel you’re hoping to meet? Understanding who will be speaking and on what topic helps you prioritize your time on important sessions and what you want to accomplish. Prep questions ahead of time that you can ask live in a Q&A or if you have time to pull a panelist after the session. Prepping your questions in advance also helps eliminate small talk, which is the last thing a speaker wants to hear after an hour-long keynote.

In addition to the above, conferences like ViVE have networking lounges attendees can utilize for one-on-one meetings. Leveraging the ViVE app, we were able to schedule meetings at the lounge and kept an eye out for additional connections in between meetings/sessions.

Ditch the device and focus on meaningful conversations

You’re the founder of a startup, you’re busy — we get it. Emails are waiting for you, Slacks are pinging in the background, and you have an investor waiting on partnership updates. You are not the only one, but you are at a conference to have in-person interactions. Don’t let your cell phone, laptop, Apple Watch, etc. stop you from making them.

While we don’t recommend disconnecting completely, we recommend putting your device away when waiting for a session to begin, walking to another session, or grabbing a bite to eat and a coffee. Why? This is when the magic happens. Hallway chats are when people tend to be more curious and open to  with those around them. Strike up a conversation with an attendee around you, asking them things such as:

  • “What are you looking forward to in this session?”
  • “What was the most exciting takeaway for you?”
  • “What were your thoughts on XYZ; do you think it’s as promising as people say?” 

Sparking conversation as you’re waiting for a session is especially impactful. At ViVE, for example, artificial intelligence was all the rage, but the attendees we talked to had their own thoughts about its impact. You’d be surprised, a lot of these side conversations lead to more takeaways and longer, more fulfilling relationships than attending every large keynote at an event.

Just because the day is over, doesn't mean the work is

Two days later, the event ends and you’re on your plane ride home. While it might feel great to disconnect and take a break from conference mayhem, there are a couple of things you must accomplish first to ensure your week wasn’t a waste.

  • Recap what you learned, not only for your own benefit but to demonstrate the ROI to the remainder of your team. This is the perfect opportunity to check yourself against your KPIs and brainstorm what worked, what didn’t work, and where you want to improve next time.
  • Connect with your new friends! Send the LinkedIn request, text, email — whatever you’re preferred method of connection is. Let them know you enjoyed meeting, follow up on a conversation you were having, and schedule time to chat again. This is where relationship building/nurturing becomes a priority. 
  • Debrief with your public relations team. What exciting takeaways did you learn? What do you have to say about a session or conversation you had? Syncing with your public relations team ASAP enables them to capture your insights and leverage them for earned and owned opportunities (did someone say blog post!?).


In February, BAM’s health tech practice headed to ViVE and used the above tactics. Setting our own KPIs, we had a game plan going into the conference and were able to maximize our time meeting like-minded professionals and founders like yourself. Between attending partner’s panels, keynote conversations on artificial intelligence and digital health, and our many coffee dates, we walked away with several impactful connections.


Headed to an industry conference soon? Try the above and let us know what you think!


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