You are a bored salesperson who wants to work for a more innovative company than your current job.
You are a job seeker trying to find challenging work with a start-up or tech company.
You are a business owner who would like to gain free publicity about your company.
You are a hiring manager seeking new employees.
You are an entrepreneur trying to find ideas to create a new company.
Or, you are a patron of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library who took the wrong turn and found yourself listening to rapid-fire presentations. (Just kidding).
Seriously, if you fall in any one of the above categories, attending or speaking at the DC Tech Meetup may be your solution to your problems.
What is the DC Tech Meetup?
From the website –
“The DC Tech Meetup convenes technologists, entrepreneurs, investors, and the broader innovation community regularly to learn and share. Each month, 400+ innovators gather to see demos, launch products and meet their future co-founders, partners, and funders.”
It is also one of the largest Meetups in the D.C. area, listing more than 16,700 members, Founded in 2011, the meetings are usually held once a month or so at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library (convenient to the Gallery Place Metro). (Locations may change, so please check the D.C. Meetup page).
UPDATE: Starting in March 2017, DC Tech Meetup is now meeting at The Howard Theatre on 620 T Street Northwest, Washington, DC. It’s only a couple of months from the Shaw-Howard University Metro Station.
(I’ve been a member for three years and try to attend on a regular basis).
To date, there have been 53 Meetups.
While the agenda has changed over the years, the meetings normally have 6 to 10 companies that give about 5-minute demos, with a Q&A session after each presentation. Sometimes a sponsor will also speak or a special guest will give a short presentation. Each meeting also begins with “10 Things You Need to Know about #DCTech” (which I enjoy listening to).
The major theme of each Meetup varies. Recent examples include “Women in Tech,” “Tech Inclusion,” “Virtual & Augmented Reality,” and “College Demos.”
Why should you attend and how can you benefit?
Let’s break this down from the attendee and speaker point of view.
Whether you are new or a veteran to the D.C. start-up or tech scene, this Meetup is a great way to network. Don’t be shy. One of the best ways of networking at a large event like this is simply sitting next to someone, introduce yourself and shake hands. The last thing you want to do is sit by yourself staring at your Smartphone pretending that you’re too busy to speak to anyone. (Sorry, your secret is out). Really, no one is going to bite. This is a friendly crowd who share the same interests and passions you do. So why not talk?
Here are some tips on how to be a good attendee –
1). Come early. The seats do fill up quickly.
2). Walk up and introduce yourself to one or two of the organizers. Sure, they may be busy getting things set-up, but shaking hands and thanking them for organizing this event will only take a minute. It takes a lot of time and effort to organize these events, so I’m sure they appreciate you thanking them.
3). Sit near the front. You can see the demos better and you will have an easier time being selected if you have a question. (However, the organizers make a good effort of selecting people from the back of the room).
4). Bring business cards. You never know if you are going to meet someone who can help your career or offer you good advice.
5). Do your homework, especially if you are a job seeker. If you notice a company or two on the speaker list, check out their websites and LinkedIn profiles. Write down a couple of questions you may want to ask during the event. If the company appeals to you, try to meet with some of the employees at a local bar after the event (These days the after-hour event is usually at Brick & Mortar on 918 F Street NW). You can also meet the employees in the back of the room after the presentations are done.
6). Be prepared to give your own pitch. Yes, you can give your own pitch during Open Mic – but for only 20 seconds. So plan ahead for what you are going to say. The announcements include seeking work, available job openings, new websites or blogs to read, or upcoming meetings or events to attend.
7). Networking, like learning, should be a lifetime commitment. While attending a recent Tech Meetup, I met four students who were taking courses from General Assembly. Their instructor required them to attend one DC Tech Meetup to learn more about the tech community. Only one? Look, if you want to stay current or just meet new people, attending only one Meetup isn’t going to cut it. Sure, you may think you have a secure job and several connections. But then one day your company gets acquired, or your manager is fired, or you go through the classic department reorg, and then suddenly you’re out of the street. Don’t make attending networking events a one time deal. Make it a lifetime commitment. Because the next person you meet could be your lifeline to a new job or a better opportunity.
For more advice about networking at events, please check out these links –
“Meetup Tips That’ll Have you Networking like an Expert” by Cori Morris
1). Know the ground rules and follow them. For example, each presentation is no more than five (5) minutes long.
2). Dress to impress. Yes, I know that in the start-up and tech world, the casual or grunge look is commonplace, but when giving a presentation before your peers, you may want to dress more professionally. Maybe it’s me, but I tend to listen more acutely when someone is sharply dressed. In my mind, they are signaling that they want to be taken seriously. (BTW, occasionally investors do sit in the audience. You may have a great product or service, but if you looked like you just rolled out of bed, your presentation may fall on deaf ears).
If you don’t have the money to buy good threads, invest in T-shirts with your company’s name and logo. This will keep your company’s name upfront while speaking, and give an esprit de corps vibe about your company.
(For example, all the employees from TrackMaven wore their company T-shirts during the DC Tech Meetup #26: Hacks, Code and Creative. They all stood out from the rest of the crowd. At one point, they cheered their one of their employees while he was giving a demo).
3). Know your audience. Most people sitting in the audience have had a long day. Working 50 plus hours a week or fighting long commutes, they are tired but still willing to take time from their evenings to listen to you. So please, don’t be boring. It’s not about you, it’s about them. No one wants to hear war stories of you toiling away for hours in your parent’s basement, trying to acquire investors or avoiding bill collectors. The best demos I’ve seen are sprinkled with humor, offering lively visual presentations, and just enough information wanting people to learn more. The two most recent good examples of presentations that stick out in my mind were conducted by Carey Anne Nadeau with Open Data Nation and Kate Glantz with Heartful.ly. (They both spoke at the DC Tech Meetup #48: Women in Tech Edition).
So if you love what you are doing, make sure you share that passion with your audience.
4). If you are having difficulty coming up with a good short pitch or demo, try to answer the following questions –
Why did you start your company?
What pain points or problems are you trying to solve?
Who are your target customers?
What is your business model?
How does your service or product work?
Why should anyone care?
5). Be prepared to answer some tough questions. While everyone is civil at the Tech Meetup, I’ve heard some challenging questions in the past. Remember – your audience may include investors, or your next great employee waiting to be hired by you. If you don’t feel you can handle difficult questions, make sure you have a back-up on the stage to help you.
For example, I once attended a workshop where Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was speaking. (This was long before he ran for president). When faced with a difficult question, he asked one of his aides, who he called “his brains”, to step forward and answer it for him.
No one expects you to know all the answers. So having a little help on the stage doesn’t hurt.
6). Don’t hesitate to announce job openings at your company. Save that announcement at the end of your presentation, but it doesn’t hurt to let everyone know you are hiring. Remember – if someone is a regular attendee at the Tech Meetup, that’s a person who takes the industry seriously and maybe a good fit for your company.
7). If you are unsure how to give a good presentation, start by becoming a regular attendee of Tech Meetup. Believe me, after going to a few events, you will pick up pointers on what’s effective or what’s not when speaking. I’ve gone to enough Tech Meetups and start-up pitches in my career that I can predict within the first two (2) or three (3) minutes of a presentation which companies have a good idea and which ones need to go back to the drawing board.
8). Give away free samples or swag. If you have free samples or swag to give away, announce it at the end of your presentation. Invite people to stop by after the end of all the presentations to pick up what you have to offer. For example, GateKeeper gave away free their security lock on a first-come, first-serve basis after the DC Tech Meetup # 36: Demos, Demos, Demos. Or better yet, set up a small display table of your free samples, swag, or marketing literature. (However, make sure you get permission from the organizers before you do this. Display tables were set up during the DC Tech Meetup #43: Virtual & Augmented Reality Edition, but that may have been an exception to the rule).
Or, you may want to follow Pendo’s example. As a sponsor, besides giving a short presentation, the company also gave away free Georgetown cupcakes at the end of the DC Tech Meetup #48: Women in Tech Edition.
As a speaker, you are following in some big footsteps. Previous presenters have included Framebridge, Aquicore, Encore Alert (which was recently acquired by Meltwater), FiscalNote, Social Radar, Social Tables, and Quorum.
For more advice about speaking, please check out these links –
“7 Tips for Giving the Best Tech Talks at Meetups” by Katie Richard
“Why You Should Speak at Meetups and Conferences” by Michał Śliwoń
So what do you think? If you feel that attending or speaking at the DC Tech Meetup is worth your time, please go. You never know what you can learn or who you will meet that could help your career.
Note: If you like my post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.