Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ten Tips To Doing Finovate Like A Pro

I just returned from my second Finovate event in New York City and I realized that, despite being warned, I was totally unprepared for what was going to transpire when I went to my first event last Spring in San Francisco. As a result, I didn't experience the full benefit of the event.

For Finovate Fall, however, I was much more prepared for the onslaught of great ideas, interactions and multi-sensory experiences that are legend at Finovate.

While the next U.S. event is more than 6 months away (there are upcoming events in Asia and London), I thought I would share my survival tips for anyone lucky enough to attend Finovate.

  1. Arrive Early: Unlike other conferences where the attendees are divided into several rooms for breakout sessions, the entirety of Finovate takes place in one big hall. Even if the crowd is divided into different viewing venues (which occurred at FinovateFall), it pays to be early, since the best viewing locations (and close accessibility to outlets) go fast. While Finovate goes out of its way to ensure the free Wifi and electricity access is widely available, it's impossible to support 600, 1,100 or 1,400 people equally.
  2. Get Connected: If you have an iOS or Android device, download the free Finovate app to better understand the event, learn about the companies doing demos, rate the presentations and to capture your notes during the program. I have yet to see a mobile event app that is so well developed. Also, sign-up for FinovateConnect so that you can set up meetings or simply communicate with other attendees.
  3. Develop a Game Plan: To optimize your experience, download the program guide and keep abreast of updates and demo descriptions on the site beginning weeks before the event. Determine which innovations appeal to you and decide who you want to meet with before arriving. As with anything in life, if you have a plan, everything goes smoother.
  4. Come Well Rested: The demos always start on time and they come at you at a pace that's hard to get used to. With dual podiums, a new demo comes at you non-stop every seven minutes until a break (usually after 7-8 presentations). With global presentations, some accents may be difficult to understand and some presenters try to give a 30 minute demo in 7 minutes . . . so it helps to stay alert.
  5. Network: While Finovate is known as an innovation demo event, it may even be a better financial service innovation networking event. Not only do you have several 30-45 minute breaks between demo sets to mingle with other bankers, providers and media, there is a ramped up version of networking done after the show each day. My suggestion is to arrive the night before the event begins and stay the evening after the event because some of the best interaction occurs during the evening.
  6. Bring Your Devices: Bring your computer, tablet and phone to the event. Finovate provides adequate power sources throughout the hall as well as tables for the majority of the attendees. I found using my computer was best to follow the live blogging that is done as the show proceeds as well as the tweeting (see below). For me, multitasking was a way to keep up with the fast paced demos or catch something I may have missed.
  7. Get Engaged: Thanks to a wide array of tweeters at the Finovate events, #finovate quickly becomes a trending term worldwide during the show. Don't sit on the sidelines. Share your own live updates on Twitter using the #finovate hashtag. While there is some humor shared on Twitter, many people will share opinions on the innovation as well as links to other resources. You can also follow @Finovate before, after and during the event for updates year round.
  8. Dress Appropriately: It is impossible to have the right temperature for everyone's taste. It is good to realize that, despite the weather outside, Finovate organizers have a habit of keeping the temperatures meat locker cool during the event. Therefore, it makes sense to bring a sweater or jacket.
  9. Vote: It may seem trivial as an attendee, but voting for the top three innovations each day is the foundation for the very highly coveted 'Best of Show' awards. Finovate provides a nice incentive ($5 Starbucks gift card) for ballots each day, encouraging all attendees to vote. While some great innovations have less polished presentations and some great presentations are made for less noteworthy innovations, the votes are important.
  10. Stay Connected: Just because the event ends, it is important to continue to visit the site after the event. Links to all of the live blogging and media coverage of the event is provided as well as videos of all of the demos (a week or so after the event). In addition, the Finovate site provides updates on the status of all of the innovations over time.
There is one more tip for any credit union, banker, supplier to the financial services industry, trade media reporter or investor interested in fintech - attend a Finovate event live. It will never be boring, it will always be educational and it provides a unique venue for keeping up with the disruption (drinking game word) in the financial services industry. If you can't attend, it would be time well spent to set aside two days when the event is occurring and follow the event via Twitter, the live blogs, etc.

Are there any tips I may have missed? If so, share them below and I will include them in an updated guide to Finovate.

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