Preparing for My First Conference

This post is about my software product Hyperion. You can read more about it here.

I was invited by THHI, the organization we built software for in 2019, to give a joint presentation at the Florida Coalition for the Homeless Conference. I started the business to learn and grow – so I would have gone regardless – but I also knew that it would be a great opportunity to introduce Hyperion to potential customers.

I could also exhibit at the conference, but it would be expensive. I hadn’t made up my mind whether or not to exhibit when I met with one of my possible customers and he gave me some context: at this conference, three or four presentations happen simultaneously, and so I couldn’t rely on all my potential customers being at my presentation. What’s more, the ones that did attend would need a way to find me after the talk, and so he recommended becoming an exhibitor. I agreed.

I hadn’t ever attended a conference or a tradeshow, so I bought and read a book called Trade Show in a Day and approached the handful of people I knew with conference/trade show experience, asking for advice. I learned a lot. I didn’t know you had to worry about getting electricity for the booth, a table cloth for the table, or extension cords. I just assumed you could show up and it would all be easy. Why would they make it so hard on the exhibitors? I think part of the problem is that it’s a complex marketplace with attendees, exhibitors, conference-throwers, and the hotels where the conferences are held. We didn’t have free electricity or wifi, but I think that was at the discretion of the hotel, and not actually up to the good people at the Florida Coalition for the Homeless.

I bought a 34” x 81” banner with Hyperion’s logo and tagline for about $130, some business cards, and a small table sign to hold the business cards.

I met with THHI to go over our talk. The topic was their success hiring us in 2019 – not Hyperion (the new product). What’s more, the conference had a neutrality policy for the presenters, so it wasn’t totally clear whether I could even mention that I had a product during the talk. Good thing I had a booth.

I hired my friend to attend the conference with me. I knew that – at a minimum – I would need someone to man the booth while I was giving the presentation, but she also had a lot of tradeshow experience that I knew would come in handy.

I brought my laptop and a monitor to demo the admin dashboard, and she brought an extra phone to demo the volunteer site.

I bought an ad in the conference brochure for a couple hundred bucks. It was another several hundred for the booth (which came with a ticket), a few hundred for another ticket, a few hundred more for little expenses for the conference (e.g. an extension cord, candy to encourage people to visit the booth), and another few hundred for the marketing material. Once you add lodging for both of us for three days (an Airbnb with two bedrooms, much cheaper than the conference hotel) and paying my friend for her time, it ended up being about $2500 for the conference. With my pricing, a single customer paying for a single year would make me my money back.

While discussing the conference with THHI, we looked at the conference website. It had a list of the talks for that year. That’s when we saw it: a talk titled, “Digital PIT Collection: Tackling Homelessness One Data Point At A Time.” It wasn’t our presentation.

Was there seriously another company creating PIT count software in Florida? Sort of, but I would only learn the full story at the conference.

comments powered by Disqus