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First time at SW? You must know these 5 things!

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by Aenslee Tanner, Past participant, Founder of Mention It

If you’re getting ready to participate in your first Startup Weekend event, you may be a little nervous…

I attended my first Startup Weekend two years ago in Wellington. Today I am still working on a variation of the concept we developed that weekend with one of my original teammates.

Its been quite a journey but it would never have happened if I hadn’t done these five things to get the most of my Startup Weekend experience.

Here are my five recommendations:

Prepare

Before the event, take time to read through the schedule and judging criteria so that you know what to expect.

Bring copies of both to the weekend so that you can refer to them and make sure that you’re staying on track.

Prepare your pitch.

At the event time will fly by so get clear on what you want to get out of the weekend ahead of time:

  • Is this a chance for you to network?
  • Work on an idea you’re passionate about?
  • Learn about starting a business?

Getting clear will help you stay focussed on what you want from the weekend.

If you’re new to the world of start-ups, you may also want to take time to do a bit of research to help you understand some of the jargon you will undoubtedly hear over the weekend (eg pivot, lean start-up, market validation, business model canvas).

Take care of yourself

Startup Weekends are full-on and will certainly test how you operate under pressure.

Be prepared to work all day and make sure you clear your schedule to minimise any additional stress from being pulled in too many directions.

Stay hydrated and fuelled throughout the event to keep your energy levels up – there is no time to crash and getting cranky because you’ve been so busy you’ve failed to eat or drink anything for the last six hours will not help your team perform at its best.

Take advantage of opportunities

Startup Weekend presents a plethora of unique opportunities so get the most out of the event by taking advantage of them.

For example, get up and pitch on the first night.  Whether to introduce yourself to the group, overcome a fear, or to share an idea you’re excited about, take advantage of the opportunity to put yourself out there.

While public speaking makes me nervous, in pitching my idea to the crowd, I ended up attracting a team of people interested in solving the type of problem that I was interested in.

Network

It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘doing’ during event but it will be over before you know it so don’t let the chance to make contact with others pass you by.

Get to know the other people in the room, not just your teammates.  You might find future friends, co-founders, mentors, and others who could prove to be valuable relationships in the future.

At a Startup Weekend, you are practically guaranteed to come across other driven, passionate, hard-working people – who else would give up a weekend to work their butts off for the chance to create something that they believe will make a difference?  People you want to know.

Be open, have fun, and don’t be afraid to pivot

Be open to the diversity of ideas from others, build on them, learn, experiment. Creativity doesn’t come from being closed.

Our team realised halfway through the weekend that with the size of the problem we were trying to tackle, we were not on track to successfully complete the event. We were exhausted from feeling like we were going around in circles and not getting anywhere.

Instead of giving up, we started joking around, playing off each other’s ideas to release some tension, until suddenly we reached a point where someone said “Wait!  That’s an interesting idea.  What if…?”

While we didn’t win, we were recognised for being able to finish the event after making such a large pivot, we learned heaps, and I’m still working with one of the original members of my Start-up Weekend team.

Use these last few days before SW to get ready for the weekend of your life!