How to Enjoy Your Next Conference (Microconf Europe 2015 Recap)

Published September 09, 2015 by Jane Portman

So we’re all home now, digging through a terrifying inbox, sorting through pictures and memories of Barcelona. It was my 3rd MicroConf, and I loved it more than ever.

In this post I’ll give you a short recap of MicroConf Europe 2015 & share some takeaways how to actually enjoy your next conference.

Here are the detailed notes of all talks that Christoph Engelhardt put together with love & care. There you’ll also find a full list of recaps done by fellow attendees.

What was different this year: location & timing

Huge kudos go to Rob, Mike & Xander for making the conference as lucrative as possible this year. What was different from Prague?

Barcelona in the end of August is a much friendlier place to be than Prague in November. In Russia we call this the mellow season, or the velvet season, whatever translation makes the best sense to you. It’s still warm and comfortable to go to the beach, but not scalding hot.

Tapas, sangria, amazing seafood, paella & wine (everything in a budget, too) — what an amazing way to fuel a crowd of dedicated entrepreneurs!

What was different this year: my new status

Two months ago I quit consulting to go full throttle with products. I’m about to launch a book and I’ve already flipped that gold switch to products (at least in my mind). So I took all the advice much more personally. Even though many things were very familiar — they now sounded different because I was in the new shoes of a product person.

Plus, I gave a short attendee talk called The 1-Hour UI Audit (here are the slides). Compared to a full talk last year, this was a more pleasant experience. Attendee talks require less prep work, and they imply less expectations — and therefore, less stress. While you still get all the laurels as a speaker.

Insider facts seemed more stunning than ever

The founders here are always sharing their honest numbers and facts — this is the nature of MicroConf (one of the reasons this conference is so unique). This time we saw even more brutal honesty from the people on stage. The most thrilling talks were the ones that disclosed this kind of information.

Some awe-inspiring numbers were shared, and some secret stories were told. Long story short: there are some impressive successes in the founder world.

The Peldi Test

My new hero of the day was Peldi from Balsamiq. I had long wanted to meet the founder of the tool I use daily, but he’s also an outstanding speaker and a very kind, honest entrepreneur. He asked us not to go into details about his talk, but instead share how we feel about it. Well, Peldi, here’s how it makes me feel: it makes me feel honored to be a part of this amazing community!

We now have something that’s called the Peldi test. No matter what business you have, ask yourself these questions:

We saw similar thoughts in the talk by Patrick McKenzie. One of the key takeaways is love the audience you’re serving.

Productization & non-technical founders

This MicroConf gave me some hope, as I’m an aspiring non-technical founder myself. Most likely, my future lies somewhere in the realm of productized services — just look at this great talk by Brian Casel.

John Ndege also taught us how a non-technical founder can run a successful business. It was great to chat with John and a few other fellow attendees that successfully prove it with their own example.

And now…

Let me share some tips how you can enjoy your next conference.

Tip #1: Leave your pragmatic intents at home

At heart, we all have pragmatic intents when we decide to invest in a conference. Why not? We pay a few grand for the ticket itself, the flight & the accommodation (not to mention a few days of potentially billable time).

What do we have in mind? Get more consulting work, gain new email subscribers, promote your product. For your best experience, however, tuck all these intentions into the corner of your mind and forget about them.

Plenty of consulting work somehow related to my conferences, but I never, ever pitched my services to fellow attendees.

Your best results will be incredibly random, unpredictable, and certainly not immediate. Your top goal for today should be enjoying yourself! Everything else stems from there.

Tip #2: Don’t reach for the stars

Sure, we all want to be liked by Patrick McKenzie. But put yourself in his shoes. How does the “hallway track” look like for him? Is he actually capable of genuinely enjoying 200 conversations per day? (Patrick, sorry for calling your name, you just make a perfect example.)

It makes no sense to line up for the top celebrities! It’s not going to be a quality conversation anyways. Instead, find folks who you enjoy hanging out with, and have great time.

On this, check out the Third Tier theory by Chase Reeves (spoiler: there are actually no tiers). I also recommend listening to Episode 32 of the Fizzle Show. They cover that very theory and give some more great advice.

Tip #3: Prefer quality over quantity

You’ve been there: all faces blend into one blurry image after the first few hours. But you keep walking around and meeting new folks, because that’s what you “should” do.

Guess what, you don’t have to! Let it go, and enjoy a longer, relaxed conversation with a few close friends. This is where the true pleasure lies. This is where great insights happen!

It certainly takes some learning to experience things slowly and with pleasure. Good example: when you travel, don’t cram all possible sights in your short trip. Instead, choose one interesting thing per day. Spend the rest of the time just chilling, eating lazy meals, and enjoying yourself. For our family, it took a few years of trial & error to start traveling like that.

Same with the conferences. Let go of some opportunities to fully experience the others. I must admit, I even skipped the Monday night reception — I was just so deadly exhausted with communication. Isn’t that a huge positive stress for all of us?

However, this break allowed me to recharge and be fresh like a daisy for the Tuesday morning (I swear not everyone was feeling like that).

Tip #4: If you’re giving a talk

End off with a call to action. Doesn’t it contradict with my own tip #1 from above? Well, you don’t want to be super sneaky & actively pitch anything. But the rules are a bit different when you’re on stage. Getting ready for a talk is a huge time investment, so there’s nothing shameful about capturing that ephemeral attention to your work.

I made this mistake in June, when I gave a talk in NYC at the Conversion Road Trip by Unbounce. I was running short of time, so I ended my slides with “thank you, let’s get in touch, here’s my email address and my Twitter handle.”

Why not funnel the audience to some real CTA instead? Chances are, you have a free course to capture their interest while it’s hot.

This time in Barcelona, my goal was to validate the interest for the new book I’m writing, and drive sign-ups for the related free course, The 1-Hour UI Audit. I can say that my expectations were fully satisfied. I was so relieved to see the interest in the topic.

A few other hints for speakers:

The closing word

Thank you, Rob & Mike. Thank you, the speakers. Thank you, the awesome friends. Thank you, the entire big family. It was the top-of-the-world experience.

Now let’s dig into hard work!

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